Many people put a lot of thought into buying a dog. They take into account its health, breed, appearance, and temperament. They want to know how much they have to groom it, how many walks it needs. These same people would not give a second thought to buying a random parakeet from a bin-of-budgies at the pet store.
Parakeets are generally sold for $20 each, their low price tag fool some people into thinking that they are a low-maintenance “starter pet”. However, these birds can live from 3-10 years and many live to be 15 years old. The record for oldest parakeet goes to a 26 year old bird. If you are buying a parakeet that will live as long as a dog or a cat, you should put more thought into selecting a bird that will match your personality.
Here are the things you need to check for when getting a new bird that you want to tame:
Some bird owners prefer velcro birds: parakeets that love cuddling and never leave their side. Some people like outgoing parakeets, who aren’t afraid of anything and will try to befriend everyone including the neighbor’s cat. Some people like independent parakeets, who can amuse themselves most of the day until their owner comes home. Like buying a dog, buying a parakeet is a long-term deal.
When possible, buy from a good breeder near you. Go to their facilities and check their practices and hygiene, and get to know the baby birds as they grow. Find out which ones have the personality that you like before you take it home. If there are no breeders near you, consider searching for a breeder that ships. This process is perfectly safe if you plan your bird’s journey properly. Click here to find out how.
If it is impossible for you to buy from a breeder and you absolutely must buy from a pet store, pick a mom-and-pop type pet store instead of a big chain store. Visit the store and stand quietly near the parakeet cage. Observe the birds to see how they interact with each other. See if any birds are dominant, if they pick fights with other parakeets, or they are active and jump around a lot compared to the other birds in the cage.
Place your hand right up against the cage bars or glass panel and see how the birds run away from your hand. They will most likely not be tame and all of them will run away from you. Sometimes though, you might discover that some of the birds are already hand-tame! If all the birds are not tame, observe with ones are the most fearless (the one that runs away last or the one that stays closest to your hand). If you can and aren’t afraid, put your hand inside the cage and keep it still to see what that parakeets will do.
Pick your parakeet accordingly to get off on the right foot with your new buddy!
Picking a younger parakeet gives you a better chance of the bird imprinting on you and therefore taming faster. Parakeets have an instinct to seek out new flock members after they wean (stop eating from their parents and eat by themselves). They will then reject the parents and attempt to go out into the world and make some new friends. If you get a parakeet around 8 weeks old, you will have an easy time taming your bird.
Older birds are not lost causes however, as always temperament is the first thing you should check for. Even an older parakeet can tame down easily if they are genetically predisposed to accept new things easily.
To find out your parakeet’s age, read this guide to how you can use feather markings to tell their age.
Should you pick a male or female bird? Both male budgies and female ones make equally good pets and both have an equal chance of talking. Most people think that only male budgies talk- like only male canaries sing, but this is not true. Male parakeets are more likely to have a big vocabulary however. Therefore, like age, sex is a quality you should choose secondary to temperament.
To find out if your parakeet is male or female read this picture guide to visually tell the sex your bird.
If you find a bird in the pet store that looks like it is fluffed up and not moving. It is probably sick. If you put your hand up to the cage and all the other birds run except the fluffy one, it is positive sign that the bird is sick. Parakeets, like other birds, do their best to conceal their illness by pretending to be healthy. A bird that gives off sickness signals in the wild would attract predators.
So if the bird is non-responsive and can’t muster the energy to run from your hand, it is very seriously sick. Unfortunately this is a common problem in pet stores, they don’t notice that the bird is sick and the other healthy birds continue to be housed with the sick bird. Do not buy from this cage if you observe a sick bird inside even if the bird you pick looks healthy.
Tail-bobbing that follows the rhythm of the parakeet’s breathing is a common symptom of a sick bird:
English vs American Budgies?
You may hear some birds called English Budgies or American Parakeets and some uninformed breeders will even insist that the english is called a “budgie” and the american is called a “parakeet”. Actually, the bird featured on this site is a “budgerigar” or “budgie” for short. They belong to a group of birds called “parakeets”, which are small, long-tailed parrots. These parrots have a tail length that is equal to the length of their actual body.
Both “American” mutation and “English” mutation parakeets are the same species! Even though they can look quite different, they have the same genetics and can interbreed with each other. All budgies are native to Australia and the terms American and English are only used to refer to the style of the mutation.
The American style is the wild-type parakeet, which is smaller, more active and more flighty (nervous). This can be good because these Americans are easy to motivate during training. Once you find their preferred reward, they will go to great lengths to do tricks for the reward. However, they can be harder to tame initially, because they can be very fearful of new things.
The English style budgie is a mutation that came from many, many attempts at breeding a better pet parakeet. These budgies are more “domesticated” in that they are less nervous, and more responsive to people. The downside is, these birds can sometimes be less motivated to do tricks, and will sometimes sit in the same place all day in their cage without interacting with anything. English budgies stand in a more upright pose than American parakeets, that stand more horizontally.
English budgies often look much fluffier than Americans and are two times the size of the wild-type birds. Here is an example of their size difference (the large one is English, the other two are Americans):
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