Raising a parakeet is more involved than most people realize. A parakeet is a social bird that thrives on extended daily interaction with you. Take the time to play and talk with him, and you may be surprised at the sounds and tricks he'll perform for you.
Purchase a cage that is approximately 18 inches wide by 18 inches deep by 24 inches high. The cage's bars should be no more than a half-inch apart.
Place a secure cup for food and a secure cup for water in the cage. Place several perches -- of different heights, materials and thickness -- a ladder and a swing so your parakeet can fly between them and get exercise. Add a mineral block and a cuttlebone for calcium.
Purchase several toys that will indulge birdie's innate curiosity and her natural instinct to chew. Toys will keep her busy when you're not there, and she will love to show off the tricks she learns playing with the toys. Parakeets like to ring bells, roll balls and look in mirrors -- though some may interact with the "other bird" in the mirror more than they do with you.
Line the bottom of the cage with newspaper or paper towels to catch droppings and pieces of food. Change the lining weekly, or more often if it becomes soiled. Wipe the cage bars with a damp cloth if they become soiled. Remove perches and scrape them clean every month. Once a year, clean all parts of the cage with unscented soap and water.
Place your birdie gently in his cage and give him time to explore its contents. Expect him to be cautious whenever you introduce a new toy, perch or food. Eventually his curious nature will get him exploring it all.
Food and Treats
Feed your parakeet pellets as the major part of his diet, supplemented by a seed mixture of canary seed, with other kinds of seed added for variety. Introduce pellets to your parakeet from the beginning, or he may not accept them later if he has been fed seed only.
Supplement your bird's diet with a variety of fresh veggies and fruit every day. He will appreciate different colors and textures to try. Lettuce, celery, grated carrots, apple slices and strawberries are usually met with enthusiasm.
Give treats, like millet and sweet fruit bars, only occasionally. They should not be a major part of your parakeet's diet.
Interact and Play
Play with birdie several times a day, every day, to establish a strong bond with her from the beginning. This is the first step toward taming and training her. Shake her toys and ring the bells, then watch her imitate the action. She will enjoy spending time with you, and soon you'll have established a trusting bond.
Put your hand inside his cage several times every day, resting it on his perches and playing with his toys, gradually moving your hand closer to him every day. He may flap his wings and fly around his cage at first, but he'll get used to your hand after awhile. He may nip at it but not really bite. When he remains calm with your hand in the cage, he's ready for more advanced training.
Teach your parakeet to step onto your finger by holding a perch against her abdomen and gently pushing in and up, saying "step up" as you do. She will likely protest at first but will eventually get the idea. Once she's comfortable with stepping onto the perch, substitute your finger for the perch.
Coax him out of his cage gradually, talking to him softly as he perches on your finger. Slowly move toward his cage door. He'll fly back to the safety of his perch at first. Be persistent. You'll get closer and closer to the door each time, and eventually you'll both be surprised that he's out of the cage.
Place him next to balls and other toys outside the cage so he has something to play with if he's interested. Have a short session of play with him, maybe rolling a roll toward him and see if he rolls it back. Lengthen the sessions each time. If he likes to walk around, follow him to be sure he doesn't eat or play with anything dangerous.
- Parakeets will imitate sounds, whistles and even tunes they hear often. Some may even say words. The key is repeating them over and over.
- Avoid giving your parakeet avocado, chocolate, fruit pits or seeds -- though strawberries are okay -- as these are toxic to them.
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.