Parakeets just might be the most popular pet bird in North America and even Europe. In fact, parakeets are the third most popular pet in the world, after dogs and cats. Parakeets and Australian budgerigar or “budgies” are interchangeable terms. First described by zoologists in 1891, parakeets have a long history of providing excellent levels of companionship to their human counterparts.
These little birds are colorful and cute and incredibly smart. They are quick to learn and pick up new information so they can be easily trained. Parakeets are loving animals and are largely known to form tight bonds with their “pet parents” but a downside to this can be that when their human has a change in their normal schedule and begins to spend less time at home, the parakeet can become lonely. Loneliness in birds can lead to self-destructive behavior such as plucking, not eating or taking care of themselves properly and they can even lose their bond with their favorite human. We all know that life happens and some things are unavoidable, so while you are trying to work things out to be able to spend more time with your birdy buddy, here are 10 simple things that you can do to help entertain your parakeet pal when you are not home.
10. GET YOUR FEATHERED FRIEND A (FAKE) FRIEND!
This may seem cruel to some but parakeets enjoy the company of other birds even if they’re not real. If your bird has a non-living companion, this doesn’t mean that your bird is not the smartest egg. There’s a 99.9% chance that your bird knows its toy buddy is just that but it’s still a buddy all the same! The same way that human children love teddy bears, dolls, and action figures, birds enjoy being entertained. You can plunk down money for an “As Seen On TV” animated bird or simply get a tiny parakeet puppet. You can play with the toy with your bird and leave the toy where your parakeet can always see it.
9. LEAVE THE RADIO OR TV ON
Something very simple and effective for many birds to help combat them loneliness is to leave the radio on for your feathered friend while you’re gone or just busy in another room. Alternatives are to leave the TV on if your bird is positioned near a TV. If you happen to have a tablet or old phone that you aren’t using anymore, why not give it to your birdy? You can download YouTube Kids and arrange playlists of nursery rhymes or find a YouTube video of birds singing. If you do choose this option, just make sure that you have autoplay turned off so that your bird doesn’t get overloaded with stimulation when they are ready to rest.
8. MIRROR, MIRROR, IN THE CAGE
Let’s just face it – we’re all a little bit vain, parakeets included! Putting a small bird-safe mirror in your parakeet’s cage can be an easy way to entertain him or her but do know that this is not a long-term solution to bird loneliness. Your bird will enjoy watching his or her facial movements mimicked by the twin bird in the mirror (or checking out his or her feathers if your bird is onto the game) but usually, they are not engrossed in this little trick for very long. Along with these other solutions, however, a mirror can be a great addition to your parakeet’s cage.
7. TOYS GALORE!
You can start your bird toy shop factory using items that you probably already have around the house such as muffin paper cups, popsicle sticks, paper towel cardboard tubes, newspaper, shredded paper (you can run colorful cardstock through a paper shredder for a fun accent) and thick pieces of cardboard. Items that you might want to consider purchasing are Chinese finger traps (that you don’t mind getting destroyed), colorful plastic straws, rolls of adding machine paper and pieces of bird-safe wood as well as ropes (toys for dogs) and plastic jingle balls (toys for cats). You can find tons of info for making toys from these materials online or just start getting creative on your own. Pay attention to the toys that your bird favors so that you’ll know what supplies to stock up on.
6. TEACH YOUR BUDDY EASY TRICKS
Okay, maybe you won’t be able to train your parakeet to skateboard like an X Games champion or bend it like Beckham but it is entirely possible to train your buddy to do some pretty impressive tricks. Birds are highly intelligent but, as with anything, when it comes to learning, it is important to remember that consistency is key. Start by establishing a secure bond by using positive reinforcement. Patience is of the utmost importance. Remember to reward your parakeet with healthy treats (tiny, homemade treats or small pieces of fruit and veggies that your bird loves work best). Rewarding your parakeet will help to increase his or her motivation. Never use negative reinforcement on your bird and don’t push past their limits. Start with five minutes of training a day and slowly work up but if your bird is showing signs of being “over it” – let class out for the day.
5. ESTABLISH A DAILY ROUTINE
Just the way that children can benefit greatly from a steady daily routine, animals can too. After all, your little birdy buddy is a family member, right? So establishing a daily routine that your parakeet can count on is a good way to ensure that they feel secure and happy even if you’re not there all of the time. You don’t have to be extremely rigid with the schedule but by making sure that meals are served at around the same time, play time happens at around the same time and your bird’s cage gets a good cleaning at least once a week (trash day or the day before trash is collected is a good idea) will help your parakeet feel stable and confident.
4. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ROTATION!
One simple way to make a big change in your little bird’s life is to rotate! Rotate everything in their tiny world. Change out their toys, the location of their treats and the location of their cage for a happier and less bored, less lonely bird buddy. Keep two to three shoeboxes with the rest of your bird supplies and evenly disperse your parakeet’s toys into the boxes. Every couple of weeks or month, make sure to remember to switch out the toys currently in your parakeet’s cage to the empty box and put the other box’s toys into the cage. Your parakeet will think you just went on a shopping spree and at the same time, be comforted with their old toys. While experts always recommend having bird cages in common areas of the home, try changing the cage’s location to the other corner of the room if you only have one common area. Change is good!
3. MAKE HEALTHY HOMEMADE TREATS!
Don’t worry about spending gobs of cash at the pet supply shop! You can make healthy – probably healthier – treats at home for your parakeet. Here is an easy recipe. Take 1/2 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 tablespoon of wheat germ, 1/4 cup of finely chopped raw almonds, 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup of raisins, 1/4 cup of chopped dried apricots, 1/4 cup of chopped dried figs and 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. Mix the dry ingredients together first, then fold in the peanut butter. Now form tiny ball-shaped treats and roll them in the fruit and seed mix. You can bake them for a couple of minutes or leave as is. You can find hundreds of recipes online just like this and modify them to your parakeet’s favorite foods.
2. GAIN A TV/COMPUTER BUDDY
The next time you sit down to indulge in some Netflix, turn TV time into bonding time with your feathered friend! Parakeets find joy in relaxing just like we do, so your little one will relish in having down time with you, just hanging around, either on you or near you on a sofa or chair. You don’t always have to put energy into bonding with your birdy pal. Many times, just being close to you is enough to maintain that special human/bird bond. Of course, contact as well as hearing your voice and/or laugh is a big bonus but it’s not always necessary. So sit back, relax and enjoy your bonding time!
1. WINDOW WATCHER
Just as you wouldn’t want to live life in a windowless cell, neither does your bird! You can show your bird the world (or at least, a part of it) by making a space for him or her near a window with a nice view. Just make sure that the window is closed or has a secure screen so your birdy buddy doesn’t fly away. You can simply move your bird’s stand near a window or, if you want to get fancy, you can install a perch by your bird’s favorite window. Parakeets are usually small enough that they can fit comfortably in plastic window boxes which are specially made for birds and have suction cups to stick to window glass. Before using a window box, please make sure that the suction cups are sturdy enough by testing them each time before placing your parakeet inside and never leave your bird unattended while in use.