Budgerigars live in mostly grassland areas. This means that their diet mostly comprises of seeds, shoots and other plant matter. They have access to a variety of grasses, including Mitchell grass, spinifex grasses, wild oats, canary grass and many others. These supply the budgerigar with greens and seeds of varying development from newly formed and unripe, through to fully ripe dry seeds like those we see in pet shops.
They have access to a range of trees that provide them with leaves, buds, fruit and bark to chew on. They will also take the occasional insect and budgerigars are known to eat the charcoal from burned trees, which is believed to help in times of illness.
As far as drinking goes, budgerigars access water wherever they can find it from natural sources such as ponds and puddles, to man-made sources such as cattle troughs. In times of extreme heat large flocks of budgerigars descend on water sources, sometimes piling upon each other to get to the water. This results in many drownings and the water supply being fouled.
In the wild a budgerigar would spend the majority of its day traveling and searching for food and water. This requires exercise, curiosity and intelligence. They would fly long distances, investigate potential plants and learn through experience what to look for and how to get it. This foraging behaviour keeps both their body and mind active and healthy and we can replicate some of those benefits for our pets.
Try to place perches as far apart as possible so they can get a bit of flight in between them. Also place their main food in a low flat dish on the base of the aviary. It needs to be placed away from their usual pooping spots to reduce the risk of spoiling. This way the budgie needs to fly down the ground to get their main meal. It means that instead of just fluttering from perch to perch they need to exert effort to fly down and back up again a few times a day. The shape of the aviary you choose will influence whether you can offer this benefit to your budgies.
These foraging behaviours keep them active and mentally stimulated for much longer than they would otherwise be. Budgies require physical and mental gymnastics and encourage social interactions. Encouraging foraging like this is one of the best things for the budgerigar’s well-being.
As discussed, budgerigars are nomadic by nature, they need to be able to fly a long way in search of food and water. This means they are very active little parrots with energy to burn and curiosity to match.
Try to supply your budgerigars with as large a living area as possible. This means the largest suitable cage you can afford, or a flight or aviary. The cage or aviary should be furnished with safe perches, feed and water bowls and a few carefully selected toys.
If you are able to provide them with safe foraging opportunities, they will need fewer toys to keep them entertained as they can engage in their natural behaviours to their hearts content.
Due to being designed for long distance travel, budgerigars in captivity will have lots of spare energy. If you can devise a feed system that encouraging foraging you will have provided for hours of physical and mental stimulation. From there they will need fewer toys to keep them entertained, but a few well-chosen ones can be a lot of fun. These must be safe for your budgie so when selecting them take care. Anything that the budgerigar can catch a foot, toenail or beak in should be avoided or only used under supervision.
Be aware that your budgerigar will at least taste, and at most try to chew to pieces, anything you give it. So, avoid anything coated with potentially poisonous substances. Many budgerigars have also died from chewing and ingesting fibres from rope toys, which cause blockages in their digestive tract. If you don’t think it would be good for a child to chew on, then do not give it to your budgerigar.
As budgerigars naturally live in flocks, they have a strong need for social activities. This means that unless you are home most of the time and are able to give your budgerigar regular time out of its cage with you, you would be better to get another budgerigar for companionship.
There are issues to be considered when choosing a friend for your budgerigar, so it is best to do some research before heading out to buy a new friend.
Making sure your budgerigar has a good varied diet, access to clean water and plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, is the best way to ensure it stays healthy.