Meet Disco the Parakeet
How old are you?
I am about two and a half years old; I was born in May 2010. Usually I just tell people I am a “baby bird” – I think I’d like to be a baby bird at heart forever!
Where did your name come from?
It was my little human who named me! Her parents told her not to hurry, that getting to know my personality would take a little time, and that it was worth it to wait. Well, it became quickly obvious that I liked music – and a wide variety of it – and although I really love salsa and meringue music, that is an awfully long name (“My name is Salsa y Merengue; I’m a parakeet!”), so when she noted that I liked disco music, the choice become clear!
How did you come to live with your parents?
My humans wanted to adopt a bird (previous and subsequent pets have all been adopted), and wanted to use our very nice local facility; however, they only had larger birds at the time, and homes with children under 12 may not adopt larger birds due to concerns about biting, etc. My little human was only six at the time, so adopting a bird was not going to happen for them anytime soon, and they did not know of other reliable methods of adoption. With a little research, they found that there was a very well-respected “birds only” shop here in the area, and that they did not buy from “bird mills” and used very small breeders, and even did some of their own breeding. I was four months old at the time.
Do you live with any other feather or furry family members? How do you get along?
Originally it was me, the three humans, and an old black-and white domestic shorthair cat, Mickey. He was quite intrigued at first, of course – hey, he was a cat! – but after realizing I was not going to be lunch, he generally ignored me. I kinda miss the old fellow – he died a month before his 17th birthday this past summer. I still say “Bad kitty!” and I meow a lot, and think of him. Now I share my home with the same three humans, but also a miniature schnauzer – Freddie – and a guinea pig named Lulu. We all get along well enough, but the humans are very careful about Freddie, since his natural instinct is to go after small, quick-moving animals.
Have you ever tried to groom them?
I groom my humans, but not Freddie and Lulu, as we do not have physical contact. Maybe someday the guinea pig and I could have a play date, but with Freddie? No – I will admire him from afar, thank you!
Do you get to explore outside of your cage often?
Oh, yes, regularly – every day, usually multiple times per day! Even though I have a very large cage, I like to be out and about as much as possible. My humans have very strictly-enforced rules about my “out time” in order to safeguard my health (windows and doors locked, toilet lids down, nothing on the stove, dog comfortably but safely secured, etc.), but I get out a LOT! Some of my favorite things to do outside of the cage include flying, dropping mesh balls on the floor (and, when possible, my humans’ heads), and chasing paper airplanes. I like to sit on my humans’ shoulders and talk in their ears, too.
Do you have any special tricks that you perform?
Nope! I like to do somersaults, hang upside down, etc., you know, typical budgie play. My humans have not been interested in teaching me tricks, and I don’t think I have an interest in learning any. Talking is another thing, though.
How many hours does it take for you to learn new words?
It depends. I rarely learn new words, I learn new phrases. When I first came home to live with my humans, it took three weeks for me to learn my first phrase (“pretty bird,” which seems to be the law, LOL). However, a two- or three-word phrase now takes just a couple of days, sometimes even just a day to get the initial idea out. Longer phrases – like my “What seems to be the problem, officer…” phrase, which contains four phrases said as one longer phrase – might take a couple of weeks before I say it just right. While I am learning the phrases, the mish-mash that comes out is usually just as funny as the end result, or so my friends and family think. Not only do I learn multi-word phrases regularly, I usually am learning more than one phrase at a time. I also learn phrases on my own – as in, my humans have not tried to teach the phrase to me, but say it often enough that I pick it up on my own. I also laugh a lot because they laugh a lot. I really like to learn new things – I get very excited, and make noises as encouragement to get my humans to continue repeating the new phrase. It’s quite clear to my humans, too, that I prefer some phrases over others. Hey, I have preferences, right?!
How many phrases/words do you know?
Hm, close to 70 phrases now. I think that includes barking, snoring, meowing, and a little beat-boxing, too.
Anything else you would like to say to someone thinking of adopting a parakeet?
I think people need to understand that not every bird will talk, even if it is a species known for being a good mimic. Every bird is different! I happen to have a human who is a stay-at-home parent, so since she’s home with me during the day, she’s been able to spend a lot of time with me on top of the time my humans would normally spend with me (evenings and weekends).
You may want to include the fact that budgies/parakeets are considered excellent mimics, up there with Amazons, African Greys, and Quaker Parrots. The small price tag is not an indication of ability. (I mention this because my humans get the occasional “fake!” comment – they either don’t know that parakeets are good mimics, or think that a parakeet shouldn’t speak better than their African Grey.)
Along the lines of small price tags, a small price tag shouldn’t mean “Easy Throw-Away Starter Bird,” either – we need the same care, love, resources, and interaction that any pet needs, any larger, more expensive bird needs.
Budgies (parakeets) are easy to care for, tame easily and can even learn to say a few words! With some basic care your budgie will be a happy and lively companion for several years. Here is some basic information to help keep your bird healthy.
The first days home: Your bird has just been through a lot of stress today. It’s been separated from its flock, most likely had its wing feathers clipped, placed in a new cage and taken to an unfamiliar home. After making sure your bird has food and water, it is important to give it some quiet time to let it recover from its ordeal. Avoid spooking the bird and attempt to tame it. First, your bird needs a few days to get used to its new cage and its human family. Whenever possible, approach the cage slowly while talking to the bird with a soft voice. For the first two weeks, avoid physical contact with the bird and put your hands in the cage only to change water and food. Try to talk to the bird a few times a day, it will learn to recognize you.
Cage and equipment: The cage should be as large as you can afford. A cage of 18″x18″x18″ is a good size for a single budgie. It should have a few perches or swings. A few toys (2 or 3) should be provided. Budgies enjoy climbing ladders, playing with small plactic balls, bells or ropes. Clean cage and perches regularly. The cage should be placed ideally in a spot free of draft (avoid putting the cage in front of a window), where the bird can see his family. Dining rooms or family rooms are usually good locations. Most birds enjoy music but should not be too close to load speakers.
Food and water: Feed a good parakeet seed mix. Change food and water daily. Good hygiene and nutrition will go a long way in keeping your bird healthy. A vitamin supplement, either in the form of a vitamin-enriched seed mix or as a soluble formulation added to drinking water, is a good idea as seed are deficient is some nutrients. A cuttlebone should be provided as a source of calcium. Although green vegetables such as broccoli or spinach are good for birds, many budgies will take weeks to accept them, if ever. Give a millet spray as a treat.
Night time: Cover the cage in the evening to allow your bird to sleep. Budgies should have 10-12 hours of sleep. Birds lacking sleep tend to be cranky. A night light is a good idea to prevent night fright, which can be caused by unfamiliar noises at night.
Taming: If you want to tame your bird, keep it alone without other birds and do not provide a mirror. It’s important to have the wing feather clipped so the untame bird is easier to handle. Young budgies are a lot easier to tame than adult ones. After having the bird home for about a week, you can start offering millet spray as a treat. First, hold the sprays through the bars of the cage. When the bird is used to eat it that way, start putting your hand holding the millet inside the cage. Do a couple of sessions a day. Never chase or grab the bird. You have to let it build its confidence. After a few weeks your bird should be able to eat the millet while sitting on your hand inside the cage. At this point, you can start trying to take the bird out of the cage on your hand. At first, keep it short and replace the bird in the cage within a minute or two. Gradually increase the amount of time. Remember, birds have a short attention span and a few short sessions work better than a long one. With time, your bird will lose completely its fear of your hands and will want to come out of its cage to be with you. Birds can be moody, so it’s better to leave it alone if it does not want to come out of its cage. Don’t force the bird. Once your bird is tame, keep handling it regularly so it does not lose its tameness.
More Basic Care & What size cage
This is a great resource to compare cage sizes, click here .
Teaching your parakeet to talk:
(Taken from http://www.wikihow.com/Teach-Parakeets-to-Talk)
- Have more than one parakeet. Parakeets can develop their ability to speak by talking to other birds, so it’s a good idea for you to have two or three birds. If you can’t have that many birds, put a mirror in the cage. However, you must take out the mirror before you start teaching it how to talk. Unless you want your parakeet to bond with you.
- Make friends with your bird, also, make sure to spend time with him, speak to him, and to keep him comfy in your home. He/she is apart of your family, too. If you don’t want another bird, then put mirrors in the cage. They are attracted to shiny things.
- Speak clearly and slowly, with only one word at a time, repeating the word or phrase.
- Note that they are best with the consonants d,t,k,p, or b. A simple phrase like “Hi, how are you?” won’t help because it is hard for your bird to say it. It’s a good idea to teach the bird it’s name first,do this by saying it’s name over and over.
- Speak to your bird for a few minutes, and train him for about half an hour a day or your bird may get bored and could become less willing to learn.
- During lessons, be careful not to get it distracted.Do this by covering three sides of the bird’s cage with a cloth.
- Don’t move onto a second word or phrase until he can say it correctly about three times in a row.
- Be patient; once it has learned a few words or more, it will take less time to learn other words.
- Try and get him to name an object(Hand,Ball,etc.) an object’s color,or even your name! Again, it’s a good idea to get them to say there name first. Make him recognize his new family, teach him their names, and much more! To get your parakeet to say the name of an object, tell him what object it is, like a pen, and try to get him to repeat it three times correctly.
- Do not try force your parakeet to talk, many parakeets never learn to talk, but it’s fun to try!
- REWARD your parakeet if he/she says what you tell him to. Parakeets LOVE millet sprays.
- Whatever you do, don’t shake or pull the tail feathers of your parakeet. No matter how mad you get, no matter how naughty your budgie is, never do anything that could harm it. Doing so may kill your budgie or cause brain damage.
- After you teach him to speak, get him to say something like “What’s up, doc?” or something silly like that. It’s fun and you can put on a show!