Friday 10 February 2017

15. OSCAR!!

This post is going to cover why I wanted another budgie, why I wanted an English budgie, the differences between English budgies and pet budgies, and how Oscar came to join my flock. 

It's a little over due as I've now had Oscar for 4 months.
Welcome Oscar my beautiful big English boy!! 

Why did I choose a big bird?

If you didn’t already know this - budgies are addictive!! One was fun and interesting and new, then I felt guilty having one on his own. Two was a lot more entertaining, they got on reasonably well, acted silly together and they had each other for company when I was out, but on the flip side, Reggie stopped talking. Then I got the urge for another. I genuinely think this is because I am one of three kids so three to me is the magic number, two makes me uneasy and I always find homes with two kids a bit odd (yes I know it’s weird to think of my birdies as my kids but right now that’s what they are!) Also, I'm crap with hobbies, I move on quickly from one to another. Obviously I can't move on from my boys and cast them aside like my shelves of yarn, so I just get complacent. A new budgie did the trick, and recently a new cage has kept me occupied. What do I do in a few months when I need another change?? 

@thorthebudgie has the
greatest dome!

To make the addition of a third budgie a little less stressful for all involved I wanted an English budgie as they are supposed to be calmer and quieter than their pet counterparts. I had been following and admiring a budgie called Thor on Instagram for a long time. He’s a big cobalt yellow face with an incredible crown. My boys are little and the thought of having a big guy next to them was hilarious - imagine the photos of the three of them! It’s expected that the big birdies are slightly quieter and more docile so I didn’t think adding Oscar would be too troublesome. Obviously birds are all individuals and I could have gotten a really noisy one, but because he was from a show breeder this was less likely because they have these qualities bred into them for showing purposes. Thankfully I can say that I have found this generalisation to be correct and the addition of Oscar has not greatly increased the noise level in the house. He does enjoy having a little sing song but it is at a much quieter volume and the shrieking that the others do isn't copied – thank god! Anyway, more about Oscar will follow later.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd? 

So am I now happy and content with three? Yes I think so.......for now....... I won’t lie, I would LOVE to get another one to even them out a bit, and now that I have a great new big cage there is more than enough space for a fourth. I think getting a fourth would calm Reggie down a bit and take away his infatuation with Oscar, but then again it could cause even more issues! However, three was a push and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend would genuinely leave me if I got another. One day I really want to breed budgies (I’d love to be able to whilst Reggie is still of age) but my flock won’t be increasing again anytime soon. I would also very much like to rescue injured and disabled budgies in the future as there are many budgies with issues such as French moult that need special homes and I know that I would do a great job housing them, but this will all have to wait.

Different types of budgies:

I’ll talk more about Oscar and the boys later, but first let’s go back a little bit and look at English budgies and what they are all about. Where did they come from? Why are they so different? Are they a different species? Why are they called English? Where are his eyes, is he blind? Sooo many questions that I get asked by people who seem a little confused about the difference between Reggie, Buster and Oscar. 

The name:

English, Show or Exhibition budgies are all the same thing and you could use either name to describe Oscar.
Pet, Wild type, American or Australian budgies are all the same thing and you could use either name to describe Reggie and Buster. 

Why are there two types?

All budgies belong to the species Melopsittacus undulates, but due to aviculture (bird breeding) we now have a variety of colours, sizes and plumages - is plumages a word? Lol. From what I’ve read, it’s understood that English budgies originate from only about 120 birds that were taken from Australia and bred in captivity. Over time specific characteristics were selectively bred into the birds (bigger body, longer head feathers etc) and people started to show them at bird competitions. Exhibition budgies can be quite a controversial topic as many people don’t believe that the birds should be meddled with so much because often their health has been compromised – its comparable to what humans have done with dogs. It’s all quite scientific but it stems back to the small gene pool (120 birds) that was originally used. I suggest if this topic interests you to go and read more about it online, but just be aware that there is a lot of conflicting information, breeders and judges will justify what they are doing, and others will do anything to slate them.

What do I think? I think there is definitely a limit to what’s acceptable, Oscar is just within the realms of what I think is OK but I still notice the negatives of his size when compared to the little two. He’s big and clumsy and when they all take off he will be the one that crash lands or flies into a wall. I was stood in front of their cage recently and I actually had a gasp knocked out of me when Oscar flew into my back haha. He is also always growing pinnies (new feathers) and that cannot be fun for him – especially now that Reggie is over his new friend and doesn’t groom him (my birds must be the only ones who don’t groom each other, they’re useless! Get a second budgie they said, it will be great company and they can care for each other in ways that you can’t they said, hmmmmm, they were wrong!). He doesn’t have the biggest crown, and it’s not actually as big as I desired, but having now owned him for over 4 months I’m glad about that because I do think he sometimes struggles to see properly – out the side is fine but he’s basically wearing blinkers 24/7.

From my not very extensive research into budgie shows and breeding, it appears that the standards always seem to be shifting and so surely with the creation of sillier budgies the ethical line will keep moving in order to keep the show birds from crossing what is considered unhealthy and cruel? There’s no denying that English budgies have a shorter lifespan. Other problems are flight restrictions, partial blindness by their own feathers, painful pinnies almost constantly growing and they can have issues breeding with the feathers covering the vent etc etc.

What are the key differences between the big English budgies and the little pet budgies? (they’re the names I use)

The silly size difference. This was the day they first met - Reggie wont sit next to
Buster now without being an arse and shooing him off

Weight - English budgies are bigger, bigger bodies, bigger feathers, bigger feet. On Average a pet budgie will weigh 30-40 grams and an English will weigh 50-60 grams. Oscar weighs 53g (5 more than when I got him), Reggie weighs 33g and Buster weighs 36g at their last weigh in (January 2017).

Oscars big old fluffy head
Feathers – English budgies have more feathers. Reggie is such a neat little bird, but then you look at Oscar he’s so scruffy and bedraggled looking. You might question why people think that a better show bird is one that cannot see, but thats the strange world we live in. I just enjoy the extra blobs and the head that moves when they're happy.

Lifespan – I don’t know the exact figures, and it is obviously dependent on many factors, but a pet budgie can feasibly live to 15 years, whereas English budgies commonly don't live that long. When I picked up Oscar I asked what the life span of the birds where and he said 4 years! 4 years! Then he said that he had a bloke to took one of his birds and he lived to 9, so I relaxed a little. Oscar was coming to a well love indoor home with everything he could need, so I have a lot of faith that he will have a long life with me (unless he knocks himself out).

Behaviour – English budgies tend to be calmer and more docile than the little guys. That’s not to say that all English budgies are like that, or that they are all quiet, but I can definitely tell the difference with Oscar. Whilst Buster and Reggie zip about and shout, Oscar will quietly sing to himself sat on a branch. He’s a gentle soul and when he sings it’s very sweet and mellow. That said, this week I have heard him make the strangest croaky shout – I think he is copying Buster who is soooooo annoying! Oscar seems a lot more chilled out than the other two, he doesn't seem to be concerned with anything! Reggie and Buster worry and stress so much in comparison.

Poo - Oscars poo is massive compared to Reggie and Busters, and sloppier. haha. 

Getting Oscar!

Oscar wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I really wanted a baby English budgie who I could cuddle and tame to be close to like Reggie (they’re still not cuddly birds but they can be if you get them young and often enjoy scratches more than pet budgies do). I found only a few for sale in the months I spent looking, and there was a little grey who I really really wanted, but I turned him down because my partner really didn’t want me to get a third. I think the desire got to0 strong, and desperation set in, so when I saw a breeder with some young birds who looked big and stupid I drove north 2 hours and picked him up. I don’t regret Oscar at all, but honestly he isn’t what I wanted and after driving all that way I couldn’t leave empty handed.

The photo I was sent of Oscar

Oscar came from a breeder who bred show birds, so he had all the characteristics I was looking for - big, slightly scruffy and quiet. In the photo I got sent of him, he was a gorgeous purple colour and very handsome. I had been searching high and low for the perfect baby and there just weren’t any available that were babies from regular breeders, and show breeders don’t tend to sell babies as they like to wait to see what they have after the first moult before they get rid of surplus birds. I guess I did just give up and jump into it, but I had been searching a lot and had already turned down the little grey, so my impulsiveness felt right. 

When I arrived at the breeders I was taken out the back to an aviary where all these big birds were running about – my heart sank a little bit. They were in no way neglected, but they weren’t perched beautifully on perches, they seemed wilder than I wanted, and my little Oscar looked a mess scrambling about on the floor lol. I didn’t want to give up so the breeder got him out to see how he reacted to being handled. It got worse - lots of bites as he chomped down on the breeders hand whilst being held and then he flew off and hung onto the side of the cage looking royally pissed off. I tried several times to get him to step on to my finger but each time he flew away in a panic. 

Not going to lie, I was a little dejected, so we put him back and went to check the other aviary. Sadly the babies he had all had French moult (I will one day rescue some FM’s but I didn’t want one now) so it was the birds in the other aviary or nothing. We went back and got Oscar out again, and then got another one out who seemed even wilder than Oscar, so it really was Oscar or nothing. I was back and forth questioning whether to take him home or not, I was feeling really disappointed as I had clearly stated what I wanted from a bird and felt I had been mislead going all that way. I knew before I went that he was about 9 months old and I wasn’t afraid to put in the hard work to tame him, the challenge was actually quite appealing having had 2 hand tame birds before, I knew I would be able to tame him up. However I had explained that I wanted a pet bird to live with my tame pet boys, and these birds were not even remotely tame! 

Image result for happy face!
A pretty close representation of my
face in that moment
I was about to give up and say no but then he put his little foot on my finger!! He was still hanging onto the side of the cage like his life depended on it, but he touched me!!!! This was a major triumph - maybe he would be OK after all?!?! I then managed to slide my finger a little more and he half got on....then flew off again...... BUT I wasn’t about to give up, this was progress and I was going to roll with that! I don’t know how but I ended up with Oscar perched on my finger holding him up in front of my face telling him what a lovely boy he was and asking him if he wanted to come home with me. The breeder was in shock (not because I was being weird talking baby to him - bird people are all weird) because he really didn’t expect that to happen (again another reason why I felt mislead!) – cue smug smile :D So that was that, I chose Oscar, or did he choose me??

Stepping up like a pro when I got him home. 

On the way home I cried. Why?? Hadn't I got what I wanted?? Well yes I had, but I wondered if I had made a massive error doing something my boyfriend was against with a bird who only ticked a few of my requirements. I'd searched for months for that perfect bird and was it only because I had driven for 2 hours that I picked him? I'm pretty sure had the breeder been closer I would have said nope and walked away.That's not really why I cried though, I cried because I felt so terrible taking him from the life he knew, all his friends and family, and putting him in my spare room for the next month all on his own. He was 9 months old, that was a long time to forge strong bonds with other birds and now he'll never see them again, he couldn't even write to them :( What a cruel horrible thing to do!! Budgie friends reminded me that he was going to get a lot of attention from me and my boys, lots of nice food, a warm house, toys to play with etc etc and so I felt a little better....just a little.

Oscars quarantine cage - I tried hard to encourage him to
enjoy being out of it but he was happy to stay in it most of the 
time. I had to tie a shawl around the base of it because he 
decided he enjoyed flinging seeds everywhere - another reason 
I started doubting my decision to get him - more mess!
When we got home I put Oscar in his new cage and then had further panic. He didn’t want to perch! He jumped to the floor and ran about a bit and then sat in the corner – not that’s not right, you are home now you should be perching!! He didn’t eat or drink, and he looked in distress making little calls (was he calling for his friends - omg I'm so cruel!!) THIS IS ALL COMPLETELY NORMAL!! I should have read my own blog to remind myself this was all OK, perfectly normal new home behaviour. When he did get on the perches he looked so uncomfortable and clumsily maneuvered himself around flapping to keep his balance. 

Hunt the budgie - you can see his little head
peaking over the top

I started to get him tamed whilst he was in quarantine in our spare room. He panicked a little if I put my hand in the cage and I did what you are not meant to do – I chased him about the cage till he was on my finger. Don’t do that, it’s not the right thing to do! But anyway, we worked like that for a while. I let him out almost immediately (again don’t do that – do as I say not as I do lol) and I got to see how terrible he was at flying compared to Reggie and Buster. Wow he was like a helicopter! Crashing everywhere haha. I had to become a rescue party almost daily, usually because he was behind the spare bed. He couldn't injure himself getting there, he just couldn't get out. I also didn't want him to land where I couldn't see him as his poo's are HUGE!! He did slowly get better at flying and now he’s in the living room he has improved greatly as long as Reggie lets him land on his own terms. 

The perch of sin!

Something that really surprised/worried me was Oscars love of a specific perch. The bugger started humping it! This was not OK and not what I wanted - I really didn't want to introduce a hormonal boy to my flock to cause issues! Oscar humping = regret!!! I took the perch out and he hasn't humped anything since - phew! I'd love to know if anyone else has had the same problem with the same perch. I bought it from Petco on a trip to America, it's an edible perch so I wonder if it has some sexy smell that made him all frisky. I might put it back in the cage now to see what he does with it - this would probably break Reggie's silly heart to see him loved up haha. (evil laugh!)

I hoped this as a sign of behaviours
to come - I think he was just too
scared to tell me to go away lol

Oscar is now a reasonably tamed, handsome and polite lad, but he has never really to bonded with me - much like Buster. He has gotten used to me being around and handling him and since introducing him to the other two he has maintained a steady level of acceptance of me but we certainly are not friends. I wanted a tame loving show bird, and instead I have a silly independent oaf whose introduction has actually caused more issues than I anticipated. However, I do love him for who he is, and he takes a great photo! 

Next post: Reggie, Buster AND Oscar. 


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