Choosing A Budgie

As with any pet, you need to do your research before buying. The first investigations are more to do with you than the budgerigar itself. Why do you want the budgerigar? Who will look after it, clean it, and talk to it? Have you kept a pet budgerigar before? Do you have a suitable location for it, away from direct sunlight, draughts and steamy kitchens?

Once you’ve sorted this out, you can start thinking about the budgerigar itself. Read a good guide and, if you can, talk to other owners or breeders first, in person or in online forums. Build up a bit of expertise before choosing your budgerigar.

When making your choice, don’t be dazzled by colour. It’s all too easy to find one particular budgerigar more attractive than the others based on its plumage, but there are far more important things to base your choice on, including age, personality and gender. A budgerigar with the ‘perfect plumage’ who happens to be old, shy and female, isn’t going to be that extrovert, talkative, adaptable budgerigar you were hoping for.

choosing a budgie

If you’re buying from a breeder you may have to wait for the budgies to be old enough to live away from their parents. They are weaned and sufficiently independent between 8 and 10 weeks after hatching. A young budgerigar will have horizontal bar-markings across its entire head, including the crown (the forehead area). The frontal stripes disappear when the budgie moults for the first time, after three to four months. So, any budgerigar without these bars will be older than 12 weeks.

There are a number of things to look out for if you want to take home a budgie that will be both happy and healthy:

  • Check out the budgerigar previous home. Most breeders keep their budgerigars in good environments, but not all. If a breeder’s cages seem dirty, overcrowded, and lacking in sufficient food, water and toys, you would do well to shop elsewhere. The same rule applies to pet shops or any budgerigar you source online. A budgerigar that has a bad start in life may not thrive as well as a healthy, happy one.
  • Ask the seller questions. Whether they’re a breeder or a member of staff in a shop, the person selling you the budgerigar should know a lot about the budgerigar. If they don’t, how can you trust that their budgerigars have been well looked after? You could argue that there is a duty to ‘rescue’ budgerigars that have not been given the best start in life; but ill health in a budgerigar will commonly lead to its death. Furthermore, your purchase will help keep the dealer in business, and in the long term that’s not a good thing.
  • Ask for a written guarantee of health for your new budgerigar. Many places will offer this as a matter of course. It should enable you to return the budgerigar and get a refund should the vet discover any existing health problem in the young budgerigar.
  • Choose a budgerigar that looks healthy. Things to look out for include:
    • Sociable behaviour. Healthy young budgies will be noisy, playful and alert. A quiet budgerigar perched alone in a cage containing other budgerigars will be ailing. It might be harder to make a judgement if the budgerigar happens to be alone in a cage, (although this is seldom the case in shops and breeders’ aviaries), but you’ll still be able to tell a lethargic, ailing budgerigar from an alert, healthy one.
    • Beautiful plumage. There should be no missing or messy feathers, and the budgerigar should look sleek and shiny. Some breeders may clip primary feathers on the young budgies’ wings, so check if this is the case. It won’t do the budgerigar any harm, and the feathers will grow back, but to the untrained eye it may look ‘wrong’.
    • Quiet breathing. Budgies are musical chatterboxes, but the noise shouldn’t extend to their breathing. Listen to the budgie when it’s not vocalising – if there is a ‘wheeze’ or a ‘clicking’ sound, it might indicate respiratory problems, possibly air sac mite.
    • Clean nostrils and beak. The nostrils should be clear, with no mucous or dried matter clogging them or stuck to the beak. If any nasty stuff is present, it means the budgerigar has a respiratory problem, which is a common cause of death in budgies. It’s contagious too, so any budgerigar sharing the same space may be infected. (This condition is not to be confused with the swollen, scaly cere of a hen budgie with eggs - she’s supposed to look like that!)
    • A well-proportioned beak. If it’s crooked, rough looking or oversized, there are hidden health problems.
    • The right number of toes. There should be four on each foot, two pointing forwards and two pointing backwards (a formation known as zygodactyl, a feature common to all parrots, and the secret of their great dexterity). Watch the budgerigar perching and climbing – it should excel at these things, and any sign of clumsiness or awkwardness could indicate a deformity or problem. Also, if the legs in general look swollen or more scaly than other budgies you have seen, it might indicate disease.
    • A clean vent (the vent, or cloaca, is the area from which the budgerigar deposits its droppings). If it looks messy down below, it might be an indication of a health problem, or a poor diet which has weakened the budgerigar.