A smallish bird with a long tapered tail and at a length of 7-inches, the parakeet is a beloved companion parrot. You may have come across them in pet stores or seen their different color mutations online. But if you want to own (or are new to owning) one, what do parakeets need?
A parakeet’s needs are similar to many Australian parrots. Parakeets will require an enclosure, water, food, playtime, veterinary care, empathy, and a safe and secure home.
Parakeets are still wild animals that you will be bringing into your space. So it would help if you prepared for the ups and downs that come with having a parakeet. What does a parakeet need? Let’s find out.
What Do Parakeets Need?
As a caretaker, you will be responsible for all your parakeet’s needs—everything from food, water, playtime, and safety. It is your role as a caretaker to provide these needs and sometimes wants to your parakeet. But what are these needs exactly?
- The Enclosure
Parakeets, like any other parrot species, prefer a giant cage. The bigger, the better, and they like it. If you do not have the funds for a bigger enclosure, it would be in your best interest to save up enough money to buy a giant cage.
Do not compromise and buy a small cage because it might lead to an unhappy parakeet. An unhappy parakeet is not a welcome sight for any bird owner.
Your parakeet will also expect you (as the caretaker) to routinely clean the cage. The cage must be kept clean at all times. Ornithologist Nikki Moustaki shares that caretakers should clean their parakeet’s enclosure daily.
As shared earlier, parakeets are wild animals, and they will poop according to their instinct. The poop will dry up, turn to a crust-like form, and finally dust. Your parakeet will inhale this dust which is unhealthy for their respiratory system.
Not only should you clean the cage itself but also the surrounding area. Parakeets have a sensitive respiratory system and are prone to airborne irritants like aerosol sprays, fumes, and smoke.
How Do You Clean Your Parakeet’s Cage?
Here’s a step-by-step method on how you can clean your parakeet’s cage.
- Pull out the grate at the bottom of the cage.
- Soak the grate in a solution of 10% bleach and water. (one part bleach to ten parts water)
- Rinse the grate thoroughly
- Return the grate to the cage after a while.
Where do you keep your parakeet while you’re cleaning its cage? If you have a smaller cage nearby, you can keep your parakeet in there.
Did you know that you can use baking soda to clean your parakeet’s enclosure? Baking soda isn’t toxic to birds, so you can use baking soda to clean the cage.
Furthermore, you can also use a vinegar solution to clean the cage. Ensure that you use one part vinegar to one part water. If you want (it’s completely optional), you can add lemon juice to give a fresh scent.
Water is life for most living beings, and parakeets are no exception. Ensure that you provide your parakeet with clean and fresh water at most twice a day. If you find that the water dish still has water (which you will find most of the time), pour it away and refill it with fresh water.
Food is another necessity for any living being. As human beings, you eat to live, and parakeets follow the same rule of thumb. According to the Association of Avian Veterinarians, parrots should eat pellets. Pellets contain the majority of the nutrients parrots need for a healthy diet.
Numerous vets do not recommend a seed-based diet because seeds primarily consist of proteins which aren’t enough for a parrot’s healthy diet. One of the leading health problems of parrots is diet-based.
However, you can still give your parakeet a seed-based diet if you mix it with fruits and vegetables. Which vegetables are suitable for your parakeet?
- Cooked beans
- Green beans
- All varieties of greens
- hot peppers (most parrot species love hot peppers)
- Cooked potato
What about fruits? Here are the main fruits you should add to your parakeet’s diet.
- All varieties of berries
- Grapes (keep the skin)
Disclaimer: Ensure that you wash all the fruits and vegetables before serving them to your parakeet. They may contain harmful bacteria that may negatively affect their health.
The Vitamin A Deficiency
One of the primary diet-based deficiencies that affect parrots is Vitamin A deficiency. You can find vitamin A in fruits and vegetables. However, you cannot find this nutrient in a seed-based diet.
A vitamin A deficiency causes the following symptoms:
- Nodular lesions of the pharynx, tongue, and palate
- Poor appetite
- Ruffled feathers
- Noisy breathing
- Discharge from nostrils
- Lesions around the beak
- Difficult in walking and balancing
- Some birds are prone to stop speaking.
- Rare cases of convulsions
There are treatments to help your parakeet out of the deficiency; however, it’s uncertain whether the parrot will make it out alive. The recovery process is also long and will require consistent veterinary assistance.
You might need to release the parakeet from the enclosure every day for a bit of playtime. However, if the enclosure is close to the size of an aviary, that will be unnecessary.
It would be in your best interest to ensure that playtime is safe for your parakeet. Another great tip is always to clean your parakeet’s toys to remove any harmful bacteria that can cause illnesses.
5. Veterinary Care
Avian veterinary care is a must-have for parrot species, and parakeets are no exception. Avian veterinarians specialize in birds and will help you and your parakeet stay healthy.
Thanks to the Association of Avian Veterinarians, you can find avian veterinarians. This organization allows you to find avian veterinarians in your local community. You can call their number or visit their website.
Once you’ve chosen an avian vet, your parakeet will require regular examinations. If you recently bought your parakeet, take it to the avian vet within three days for a check-up. It’s always a good idea to kick-start your relationship with the vet as soon as possible.
That way, they get to know your parakeet and essentially establish a healthy baseline.
Being a regular at an avian vet will also make it easier in emergencies. Some avian vets will have birds boarding in their offices; if you’re a regular, they won’t hesitate to bring you in during an emergency.
However, if you’re not regular, there may be concerns about whether your parakeet has diseases that could affect the boarding birds. Having an avian vet is great because they can give you diet and medical advice for the overall health of your parakeet.
Parrots may be wild animals, but they are individuals with minds and personalities of their own. By having a parakeet, you’re keeping them in a cage for most of their lives. It would help if you had some empathy for their situation.
They rely on you (their caretaker) for their every need. How best can you show empathy? Allow your parakeet on your shoulder outside of their enclosure from time to time. It should break the dull, monotonous routine.
Ensure that you’re in the comfort of your home while doing this. It has to be a safe environment for your parakeet.
7. A Safe And Secure Home
Last but not least is a safe and secure home for your parakeet. Not only does this refer to their enclosure but your home as a human. Parakeets aren’t a destructive parrot species, but they will get into mischievous situations. You can’t have your parakeet flying around in your house all the time; it’s not safe and will be messy.
Please keep reading to learn how you can prepare for your parakeet (especially the cage) before their arrival.
What Do I Need For My First Parakeet?
Preparation sets the stage for a happy parakeet. By having all the necessary ‘equipment’ at hand, you can ensure that your parakeet is happy and content.
- The Basic Cage
The minimum cage size for a parakeet is 24″ x 24″ x 24″—however, the bigger, the better. Parakeets may be small-sized birds, but they do prefer a bigger space. If you go to a pet store and find cages made for parakeets, ensure that they meet this size criteria before buying one.
Choose a cage that can fit in your living space and exceeds or falls within that cage size parameter. If you can get a larger enclosure, you must consider the bar sizes. A parakeet cage should have a bar size of 1/2″.
- Cage Material
It would be in your best material to get a metal cage over a wooden cage. Parakeets aren’t as destructive, but they will get to chopping up that wood-based cage in no time.
Cages made entirely or partially of acrylic are the ideal cages. They are expensive, but they are the safest cages. Unfortunately, most acrylic cages do not come with bars necessary for climbing.
- The Cage Door
Get a cage door that opens to the side and not a guillotine-styled door.
Perches are great accessories to add to your parakeet’s enclosure. You want differently sized perches made out of different materials. Parakeets are on their feet for most of the time, and perches help maintain the health of their feet.
There are wooden and plastic perches in the market. Plastic perches are popular because they’re easier to clean, but they’re not great for your parakeet. It would be best to invest in a wooden perch and clean it as often as possible to get rid of unwanted bacteria.
- Cups And Bowls
Some cages come with cups and bowls, that’s great, but it’s not enough. It would be in your best interest to invest in mess-free cups. Mess-free cups have a hood that keeps the seed in the cup and not on the floor. The mess-free cup is for food and not water.
Parakeets will sometimes get into their water bowl for a bath, so you need a separate water bowl. Stainless steel or ceramic make excellent materials for cups and bowls.
- Cage Covers
Some parakeets prefer to have their cages covered at night. Do not cover the cage entirely because your parakeet may want to look outside and inspect any unsuspecting noise.
Parakeets are known for their love for swings. They also love swings with toys attached to them.
Most birds enjoy taking a little bath, and you will find them bathing in their water bowl. You can stick to this, but it will mean cleaning the water bowl as often as possible. Or you could invest in a bit of bathtub moment that comes with a mirror.
Parakeets love looking at their reflection while they bathe. They also prefer to separate their water bowl from their bathwater.
- Bird Lamps (optional)
It would be best for caretakers who live in cold and dark areas to invest in a bird lamp. You can also get a standard lamp from your local hardware store and keep it a few feet away from your parakeet’s cage.
Parakeets love toys. Here are some toys you can get for your parakeet:
- A play gym
How Much Is A Parakeet?
Parakeets, like budgies, are inexpensive parrots. They can cost either $10-$35. They have low maintenance costs, and vet costs for parrots are the same across the board.
A Means To An End
Parakeets are beautiful birds and make excellent companion parrots. Taking care of your parakeet means a longer lifespan for them. It would also be best to keep chocolate away from them as it is incredibly toxic. Even if they want it, keep the M&Ms away.
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Nikki Moustaki, Parakeets For Dummies, (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2021) 125.