The budgie is a happy, curious bird who loves to play and interact with you. Keeping a budgie healthy is not that difficult if you give him attention, follow a few basic protocols every day, and know what to look for in behavior and appearance changes.
Start With His Cage
Choose a cage that's big enough so your budgie can get exercise. A cage for one budgie should be at least 18 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches. This will give him room to hop and fly from one toy to another, to a perch, to his ladder, to his swing and back again. Line the cage with absorbent paper towels and change them daily, since birds may like to scavenge for seeds along the cage bottom. Wipe the cage bars daily with water and a clean paper towel, and clean it more thoroughly every week. Place the cage out of drafts, such as around open windows and air-conditioning vents, but within the center of activity so a single bird doesn't feel neglected. If you don't have time to devote to your bird daily, you'll need two birds -- and a bigger cage to suit.
Plenty of Attention
Budgies in the wild live in large flocks, so even in captivity they need lots of interaction. If you only have one budgie, you're his playmate, and he needs to interact with you for at least an hour every day -- preferably several hours split across the day. You can also take his cage with you if you go to different rooms; otherwise he'll call out to you in frustration and fear. If you can't devote this kind of time to him, having two budgies gives them a "flock" to play with and preen. It's best to bring home the two together, however, rather than introducing a new bird to the other bird's cage.
Toys and Playtime
Have several different toys and rotate them to satisfy his curiosity -- consider a chain with a bell, a chew toy made of hanging wood pieces, and maybe a mirror with a perch so he can talk to "the other bird" in the mirror. Let him out of his cage every day for at least an hour of supervised playtime. Flying keeps his muscles in shape and helps prevent obesity, which is common in small, caged birds like budgies.
Vary His Diet
Budgies who eat a variety of healthy foods stay healthier and tend to live longer. Vets recommend alternating seeds and pellets specially made for budgies, with added vitamins and minerals. Give yours fresh fruits and veggies daily -- dark, leafy lettuces, celery, strawberries, apples, pears, kiwi -- but avoid avocados, chocolate, rhubarb, raw beans and peanuts, which can be toxic to birds. Discard all seeds and pits, and avoid the leaves and stems of plants too, which can be toxic even though the flesh is safe. Remove fresh foods after two hours so they don't spoil. Clean his dishes daily, and give him fresh water daily, or more often if he has deposited seeds or bathed in it as some budgies love to do. Attach a cuttlebone and a mineral block to his cage for added nutrition and beak health, even if it seems like he never uses them.
Watch for Hazards
Consider all household chemicals, and any surface they come in contact with, to be toxic to your budgie. Avoid spraying chemicals where droplets can travel to him. Pans treated with nonstick coatings give off fumes that are toxic to budgies and other birds. Remove your budgie from the room when cooking with these pans or avoid using them altogether. Before bringing your bird out to play, check the room for dangers like open doors or windows, hot surfaces, small items he could ingest, and hazardous things he might chew on, like electrical cords.
Signs of Illness
A healthy budgie is active and has bright eyes, a clear cere and shiny, preened feathers. A sick budgie may puff up his feathers and act listless. His eyes might be cloudy, his cere may be crusty or have a discharge, and his feathers can look unkempt because he's too sick to preen. A budgie who puffs up might be cold, so check for drafts first. If that's not it, or if he show any of the other signs of illness, take him to an avian vet right away. A budgie is a small bird who can deteriorate quickly once he becomes ill.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.