The mild-tempered Bourke's parakeets are small, peaceable birds best kept with one another or similar bird companions. These guys are considered "grass parakeets," not because of their psychedelic colors, but because grass seeds are their wild diet (though they actually live in woodland). They're considered less human-friendly than bigger parrots.
Set up your cage so doors close and lock securely and there aren't dangerous edges or escapable spaces. Be particularly aware of spaces between wire floors and sliding trays that small birds can squeeze through. The cage must be wider than tall, because bourkies are very active horizontal fliers and climbers. Ideally, it's 6 feet wide or larger, but definitely no smaller than 3 feet by 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet. Plastic-coated metal is safest -- bare metal may have treatments poisonous to birds. Set up in a place with relatively constant temperature, away from vents, heaters and windows.
Line the bottom tray with plain, flat newspaper -- the safest possible pet bedding. It's non-toxic, inhibits mold and bacterial growth, is unlikely to be eaten, and it's easy to see when it needs to be cleaned.
Secure your bird's water and food dishes. Don't place them under perches, or they'll get poop bombed. It's a good idea to keep Splashy's water away from his food, too. Be sure you can pull the dishes out easily for daily washing. Investing in more than one set will relieve stress on your busier days.
Arrange toys. Use your imagination. Lots of commercial toys are awesome, with brilliant colors, climbable pieces, shreddable add-ons and jingly-jangly parts, but don't overlook regular household items. Like a toddler on Christmas morning, your bourkie might be just as enthralled by an empty cereal carton as by the most expensive toy (and you can toss the carton when it gets soiled).
Change your bourkie's water every morning, and clean the dish religiously. If your bird is a messy guy, he may need more than one water cleaning during the day.
Feed a daily blend of parakeet seed mix, complete parrot diet pellets and fresh food. Leafy greens, whole-grain bread, fruit and crushed, hardboiled eggs (with shell) are great featherbaby food.
Seeds are controversial in the bird-keeping community, because overdosing on the wrong ones has caused fatal nutritional deficiencies in lots of pets. Bourke parakeets do mostly eat seeds in the wild, but they're grass seeds -- starchy like grains, not the oily seeds (such as sunflower) found in most packaged bird seed. Grass seeds (like millet) are your birdy's friends. Oil seeds (also known as "bird Twinkies") are his enemies -- so beware when choosing a mix. Some vets will always recommend a complete parrot or parakeet pelleted diet instead, because they are nutritionally complete (though not the most attractive or tasty).
Like you, your feathered friend will enjoy 2 or more daily meals. Smaller, more frequent meals mean less bacteria will be growing in the food. Cleanliness is vital when it comes to your pet's dishes.
Change the paper daily, and sanitize the tray with cleanser and paper towels. Ask your avian vet or experienced parrot enthusiasts for bird-safe cleanser recommendations.
Use the spray bottle to give your birdy weekly baths with lukewarm or slightly warm water -- most birds love this spa treatment.
Train and interact with your new friend daily. Parakeets are extremely social. This step isn't optional -- it's absolutely essential for a healthy, happy feathered friend. Always write your featherbaby into your busy schedule -- in ink!
While your company will do wonders for keeping your pet well-adjusted, the best company for your bourkie is other bourkies. These birds enjoy toys and training, but they enjoy each other even more.
- The jury is out on the form of calcium that's best for parakeets, but they do need lots of it. Options include cuttlebone pieces suspended in the cage, bird-formulated calcium supplements (always follow package directions -- don't just pour it in), and a diet of calcium-rich foods, including crushed eggshell and leafy greens.
- Scented candles, glass cleaner, Teflon-coated cookware, avocados, chocolate, coffee ... all these useful and yummy things (and many others) are poisonous to birds. Consult your avian vet or a Bourke parakeet club for advice on keeping your new friend happy and healthy.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.