The Budgerigar, more commonly known as the “budgie,” is one of the most popular small pets in the world. This is due to the fact that they are small, intelligent, come in a wide array of beautiful colors, and just downright adorable.
The budgie is one of the most affordable birds to buy and to own due to their small size, equally small appetites, and their fairly resilient nature. They are also among the safest pets for first-time pet owners and for children since they cannot easily break human skin with their tiny claws and beaks.
If you’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting a budgie, or having one stand on your finger, as they are fond of doing, then you know how loveable they can be.
However, these little birds are very high strung, and they can sometimes have trouble adjusting to a new environment. It’s normal for any new pet to go through an adjustment period as they learn to feel safe in their new home.
But, perhaps owing to their small and vulnerable nature, the budgie has been known to sometimes have long adjustment periods. Things can be even worse of you have other pets in the house.
There are a lot of things you should consider when bringing any new animal into your home. You should keep in mind that every budgie is an individual with his or her own personality and history.
It’s important that while you train your budgie that you will have to adjust to them just as much as they will have to adjust to you. If you treat training as a one-way street, you will probably end up with an unhappy budgie. Your goal should be to provide a stimulating, enjoyable, and loving environment for your budgie.
The Curious Case of Bartleby the Budgie
When we got our first budgie, we made every mistake in the book! For starters, we didn’t have enough toys for him to play with. We only had one kind of treat to teach and reward him with. To make matters worse, we have an orange tabby named Lemon who is quite sweet, but can be very curious.
Poor little Bartleby hid in the corner of his cage behind the beak stone or water dish all day. Eventually, we had to resolve to have Lemon stay with a friend of ours for a few days. Fortunately, we have some friends who have experience with these adorable little birds, so we were able to get Bartleby to calm to and slowly acclimate him to life in our home. Eventually, we were even able to reintroduce Lemon and bring the whole family back together safely.
Today, Bartleby enjoys the company of two other budgies named Plink and Gripster. Even Lemon has learned the rules and doesn’t rattle their cage anymore on the rare occasion that she makes it into the budgie room.
We’ll explain how we did it, and cover all of the prevailing wisdom when it comes to how we got our first budgie to feel at home.
Our First Budgie Training Steps
Not knowing much about these cute little birds, our first moves were positive but amateurish. While they did seem to help, and we recommend doing them, they are far from all that needs to be done to make your budgie feel safe and happy.
The first thing we had to do was get our orange tabby out of the room. Lemon didn’t like that and started complaining from the next room over. This terrified little Bartleby. The next day, we took Lemon to another home to let Bartleby settle in. We knew that we wanted Lemon to come back, so we placed life-sized printouts of pictures of Lemon in the same room with Bartleby’s cage. We hoped this would help him get used to being around her.
Our second big mistake was to not have at least two types of treats for Bartleby and use them to teach him to feel safe in specific spots.
He did acclimate eventually, however, but he did not do so fully until we began to follow the sage advice of our friend and budgie aficionado, Charlie.
Here’s what we learned.
How to Tame a Scared Budgie
The following tips are based on the best advice we could find from experienced budgie owners, bird experts, and our own experience. Keep in mind the fact that your budgie is a unique individual who will have her or his own wants and needs.
These steps are based on the scenario where your budgie is too frightened of you to let you get close. Other scenarios may require a more personalized approach.
Step 1: Building Budgie Trust
At this point, your goal is to slowly teach your budgie that you are safe, and eventually to associate food, fun, and comfort with your presence. This will take time, but you will achieve it if you proceed slowly and correctly.
Your first step is to find out what foods your budgie likes best. Experiment with common bird treats available at your local pet store. Ideally, you should offer a nutritious staple option and a treat option for training and for special occasions.
Begin by simply giving your budgie its favorite foods. For the first couple of days, perhaps longer, simply establish a regular feeding schedule with a regularly timed treat once or twice a day.
Step 2: Let Your Budgie Adjust
As your budgie acclimates to its favorite foods and to the environment, refrain from imposing direct contact on it. Let the bird see you from a distance but do not attempt to directly interact except as needed for feeding. During this time, you should be working to prove to the bird that you are not a threat. Present yourself as calm, move in slow and predictable ways. Do not move quickly near, or especially towards, the cage.
Using slow, predictable movements will be important when you need to clean the cage, rearrange it, or place food inside. During these activities, your budgie will be startled. Do not attempt to touch it. Simply let it have the experience of being afraid and then not being harmed.
Step 3: Be Close to Your Budgie
Slowly begin to do regular low key activities near your budgie’s cage. Place the cage in an area where it can stay for a long period of time near to where you perform regular activities. Let the budgie see you cook, clean, study, work on the computer, and watch TV. Don’t let loud, startling TV programs play near your budgie- that will slow the acclimation process.
Step 4: Be Near, Don’t Interfere
During this time, you might think of yourself as being like the Sun or the Moon to your budgie. You will move near and around the cage as necessary, trying to make your activities regular, non-threatening, and non-interactive.
Step 5: Build Up to Contact Slowly
As you spend a period of days behaving in this way, you may notice your budgie standing nearer to you in its cage. At this point, the bird is just beginning to become used to your presence. Do not take this as a signal to move in and interact with it. These birds are very curious and will begin to pay more attention to you as they lose their fear. When they begin to regularly move to the side of the cage near you, then you may move on to the next step.
Step 6: Offer Food By Hand
By this time, your budgie will have begun to associate you with food. Now, you may begin to offer food from your hand. If the bird does not want to get near your hand yet, try covering your hand with a small towel. You may do this at an earlier step if your budgie tries to attack your hand – in which case this process may take more than two weeks.
Step 7: Making Your Hand Your Budgie’s Favorite Perch
Take as much time as needed to allow the bird to get used to receiving food from your hand. Begin by only holding its staple meal items with your hand and allowing it time to decide if it wants to eat from your hand. In time, you may begin to present treats by hand as well. Patience is critical at this point.
By following these guidelines, your budgie will eventually learn that your hand is a safe place to stand. At that point, you can build up to letting it perch on your finger and letting it eat from your hand at the same time. Once you’ve gotten this far, it’s only a matter of time before you and your budgie will be quite close, interacting freely.
Finally, if you have a cat or other animals, your budgie will need its own room with a door that closes. Do not let other animals interact with your budgie unsupervised.