By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

On one side of the narrow alley of steps hangs a small and modest cage, while on the other is a veritable bird apartment house. Even the poorer people have their canaries and finches. In this corner of a street of small shops there are a serrurerie (locksmith), a coiffeur (hairdresser), and an epicerie (grocery).
Photo by Relang from Three Lions


By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

Forty nests under one thatched roof burden the branches of a tree at Maquassi in the Transvaal, South Africa. “Penthouse” colonies have been found containing as many as 200 pairs of birds. When a nesting site has been selected, all the feathered colonists join forces to build a common roof. Individual nests are constructed close together against the underside of the general covering. Each year, at breeding time, fresh nests are added upon the lower surface of the previous season’s “crop.” In many cases the mass eventually grows so huge and heavy that the supporting branches break under the load. A pair of pygmy falcons often takes up contemporaneous residence in one of the sociable weavers’ “sky cities.”
Photograph by Herbert Friedmann



By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

“Birds to sing. If not sing can will be to change other. Dealer at moderate price.” So reads a Chinese vender’s shingle on his “houseboat” moored to a wharf at Kowloon, on the mainland opposite Hong Kong. Like water beetles, flotillas of junks and sampans crowd the shores of Cathay’s rivers. They are floating homes for thousands of families who never sleep on land.
Photograph by Alfred T. Palmer

A Cockatiel For A Pet

The cockatiel is a perfect pet bird. A hand-raised youngster quickly becomes attached to its owner. The males very easily learn to whistle tunes and can even be taught to talk. Cockatiels are easy to breed in either cages or aviaries. They are a great choice for anyone that would like to go into business raising birds. There is always a ready market for tame babies. Originally from Australia, many thousands are reared worldwide as pets. Cockatiels are also exhibited as a show bird.

The cockatiel now occurs in five well established color varieties. Some of these mutations also cause changes in eye color. Many other color variants have been reported. Some of these are new mutations being established by pioneering breeders. Others are simply combinations of pre-existing varieties or are imaginative names used in sales pitches.

The normal cockatiel is slate grey, reminiscent of a common pigeon. This is the form that exists in the wilds of Australia. A yellow suffusion covers the entire bird. This yellow is especially prominent in the head and crest of the male bird. Youngsters and hens have horizontal bars going down the tail.

The pretty Lutino is the best known cockatiel mutation. The Lutino cockatiel is right behind the budgie as far as popularity is concerned. The Lutino cockatiel is a white bird with variable yellow coloring. The yellow is here the same as the suffusion in the normal, but in the normal much of the yellow is hidden by the grey pigmentation. Lutinos have red eyes. Though not as easy as in the Greys, the sex of the Lutinos can be told through the color. If you look closely, the bars can still be barely made out in the tails of the hens. The males also again have more yellow in the head.

Lutinos are sometimes described as Albinos. This is not a good practice, for the true Albino is a different variety.

In the Cinnamon the grey of a normal bird is replaced by a deep brown. The exact shade is variable. The color of the male is often darker than the hen’s in the Cinnamon.

The Pearl cockatiel has the outer edges of most of the feathers colored, the insides of the plumage being white. This produces a scalloped appearance. A poorly colored specimen might seem to be a normal bird with a few white feathers. The better birds show only a fine penciling of color on the border of each feather.

The Pearl color form is regularly only seen in adult hens. Males Pearls can be produced, but, as adults, they molt out into the normal Grey color. Sometimes they will keep a few white flecked or shaded feathers. Adult males masking Pearl may be discerned by examining the tail feathers at the quill. A small amount of yellow will be discovered in this area. Pearls are particularly attractive in the Cinnamon color variety.

Pied cockatiels are very popular. Here random patches of color are lost. No two pieds look exactly alike. Some have only a stray white feather or two, others are so light that they may be mistaken for Lutinos. Most fanciers prefer birds that are evenly mottled. Pieds can not be sexed by the color of the tail feathers. Surprisingly enough, male cockatiels that are both Pearl and Pied, don’t lose the Pearl markings as they mature.

The White Faced cockatiel, also known as the Charcoal, shows no yellow or orange coloring. The White Faced color is most interesting when combined with the Lutino. This blend gives us the true Albino, a pure white bird with red eyes.

Whatever the color, all cockatiels make great pets and require the same care. If you want a tame bird, get a baby that is being hand fed. If you can’t handle the bird at the time of the sale, don’t expect to be able to play with it at all. Even though all cockatiels are bred in captivity, if the birds are not worked with at an early age, they become independent and wild. No matter how much you try, a rough bird will resent being touched and will let you know it by biting. Only the males whistle and talk. Unfortunately, gender can’t be distinguished when cockatiels are babies. A hand fed female will be a tame pet.

Cockatiels are very easy to feed. A vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched seed or pellet mix is the backbone of the cockatiel diet. Health grit and cuttlebone or mineral block must always be available. Spray millet, egg sticks, honey sticks, and fruit sticks are great as treats. Small amounts of fresh greens, carrot, apple, scrambled egg, corn, or whole wheat bread can be given to round out the diet. Vitamins are mixed with the water to make sure that the nutrition is complete in every way.

If your cockatiel is taken out often for play and exercise the cage only has to be big enough for the bird to flap its wings. If the bird is kept in the cage all the time, a cage thirty-six inches by eighteen inches is the smallest that can be used. No matter what, the cage can never be too big. Make sure that your bird can’t stick its head out through the bars. If something scares the bird, it will jerk its head back and get stuck. In a panic, the bird will keep pulling until it breaks its neck or chokes itself to death. For this reason, large parakeet cages are better for cockatiels than small parrot cages.

The opposite holds true for toys. The cockatiel has a much stronger beak than a budgie. Plastic keet toys will quickly be destroyed. By swallowing the plastic, your cockatiel might harm itself. Use only hard vinyl, acrylic, wood, metal or lava rock toys for a cockatiel.

Temperature is not really important. Anything that is comfortable for you will be fine for your cockatiel. Do be sure that the bird is not kept in a draft. Remember, in the summer, a draft from a fan or an air?conditioner can make any bird very sick.

To be certain that the cockatiel is getting proper rest it is a good idea to cover the cage from dusk to dawn. Interrupting the sleep of any bird is a bad practice but especially harmful for cockatiels. These birds are subject to night frights and can gravely injure themselves by getting upset and panicking during the night. A cage cover and a small night light can be a great help in preventing this problem.



The cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus, or Quarrion, is a perfect avicultural subject. Originally from Australia, many thousands are reared commercially worldwide for the pet industry. The American Cockatiel Society has established a standard of excellence for the exhibition minded fancier.

The cockatiel now occurs in six well-established mutations. These factors, three sex-linked recessive and three autosomal recessive, all affect the coloration of the plumage. Some traits also change the eye color from black to red. Many other color variants are reported. Some of these new colors are definite mutations in the process of becoming established. Others are simply combinations of pre-existing varieties or are imaginitive names used in sales pitches.

The normal cockatiel is slate grey, reminiscent of a blue domestic pigeon. Some white extends from the wing butt down the outer edge of the wing. The cheeks have orange patches. A yellow suffusion covers the entire bird, more so in the males. The yellow suffusion is especially prominent in the head and crest of the cock. Adult hens have horizontal bars going down the tail.

The Lutino is the most widespread cockatiel mutation. In the United States Lutino cockatiels are right behind the Budgerigar as far as popularity is concerned. The Lutino is a white bird with variable yellow coloring. The yellow is the same suffusion of the normal, but in the normal bird much is hidden by the grey coloration. The eyes are red and the orange cheek patches are retained. Though not as obvious as with the normals, Lutinos may still be sexed by means of color. Though no melanin is present, the yellow in the tail of the hen still retains a barred pattern.

This abnormal coloring is caused by a total lack of melanin due to an inability to synthesize the enzyme tyrosinase. This factor is sex-linked recessive.

Particularly in Great Britain, heavily suffused Lutinos are sold, at a premium, as Primroses or Buttercups. An extreme few fanciers, through selective breeding, do possess strains that are consistently more brightly colored. This attractive appearance is derived from a slow accumulation of desirable modifiers. Genetically, these Primroses and Buttercups are, albeit superior, Lutinos. Unfortunately, the great majority of advertised Primroses and Buttercups are only fractionally more colorful. This small improvement might even be from ingenious lighting!

Lutinos were originally described in the United States as Albinos. This is no longer a good practice, for true Albinos are now being produced through multiple mutations.

The Cinnamon was the second sex-linked recessive mutation. Here the grey of the normal is turned to a deep brown. This melanin color is extremely variable. Cinnamon cockatiels have various shades of brown. Cocks are most often darker than the hens.

The term Isabelle is sometimes used in connection with this color. The cockatiel color is not similar to the Isabelle found in either the canary or the domestic pigeon. It is almost always preferable to use the same name if an analogous color occurs in the budgerigar. With this in mind, it is better to use Cinnamon.

The Pearl, sometimes called Lacewing, is the final well- established sex-linked color. The color of this variety is very similar to the lacing seen in the Oriental Frill breed of domestic pigeon. In the cockatiel the outer edges of the feathers of the head, back, mantle and sometimes chest are colored. This produces a scalloped effect. This scalloping is variable. A poorly colored specimen might seem to be a normal grey with a few pale feathers. The better birds show only a fine pencilling on the edge of every feather.

The Pearl is regularly only seen in hens. Cock Pearls molt out to the normal color with, rarely, a few white flecked or laced feathers. These adult males masking Pearl may sometimes be discerned by examining the tail feather at the quill. A small amount of yellow will be noted in this area.

We may speculate upon the change of color of the adult Pearl males. This plumage may be under hormonal control. An alternate explanation is that homozygous pearls appear normal. Certain autosomal factors drop out in this manner in the budgerigar. It is impossible to obtain a two factor hen Pearl. Being a sex linked trait the hens are necessarily homozygous.

Young hens could be treated with male hormones to experimentally determine if this is the cause of the transformation. If hormones produce no change in the lacing, then genetic control may be inferred.

The Pied is th ony popular autosomal recessive trait. The melanin is deleted in random patches. Pieds cannot be sexed according to the barring in the tail. Carriers of Pied sometimes show white or yellow flecking on the back of the neck.

Most people consider the lighter Pieds to be more attractive. These heavy Pieds sell at higher prices. A few strains of heavy Pieds exist. Most often this trait is of variable penetrance. A pair of heavy Pieds may fail to produce any heavy Pieds. The reverse is also true.

The Fallow is a red eyed brown cockatiel. This trait is also an autosomal recessive. As in the Cinnamon, the shade of brown is variable. Fallows are most often lighter than Cinnamons. Again as in the Cinnamon, cocks are on the average darker than hens. Some Fallows are two toned. Thomson (82) reports that the head and body are golden yellow and the wings are tan.

The White Faced mutation is the most recent autosomal recessive mutation to become well-established. This factor deletes the yellow suffusion and orange cheek patches. This yields a charcoal colored white faced cockatiel. Some writers have indeed given the name of Charcoal to this variety. Cooper (81) states that some call them Blues. Even though this follows the rule of using budgerigar terminology, this name is best avoided. The feathers of the cockatiel possess no refractive layer so no sky blue, as in the budgerigar or blue jay, is ever displayed.

The White Faced is most interesting in combination with the Lutino. A White Faced Lutino is a true albino. Here we get a pure white red eyed bird. True albinos are in very short supply.

Through combinations and crossing over many blends of colors may be achieved. Some of these combinations, i.e. Pied- Cinnamons, Pied-Pearls, Lutino-White face, Cinnamon-Pearl look exactly as would be expected. Others are not so elementary. In genetics the whole does not always equal the sum of the parts!

Smith (82) reports a Marbled cockatiel. Here we observe a silver grey bird with the mantle feathers scalloped by lighter grey. This bird is almost certainly a Cinnamon-Ino, a combination of the Cinnamon and Lutino derived from crossing over. This combination is called a Red Eyed Lacewing in the budgerigar. Roper(82) notes that Lutino-Pearls are being sold as Golden Laced. This last combination is particularly interesting for Thomson (82) notes that some Marbled cockatiels molt out normal. This would be as expected for any males that were heterozygous for Pearl.

Three different Silver or dilute mutations have been reported. All are very poorly understood. Smith (82) describes a very pale sex linked recessive Silver. Eye color is not given. Thomson (82) reports on a variable shaded Silver with red eyes. This variety is noted for poor eyesight and are autosomal recessives. Birds manifesting this trait may be either Silver or Brown. Cole (81) notes that a Black Eyed Silver mutation exists. This mutation is of extremely variable penetrance. Some of these Black Eyed Silvers cannot be distinguished from normal greys. Others could be taken for black eyed clears. All intermediate shades also occur. This factor is presumed dominant.

Smith (82) states that he has received rumours of Green cockatiels but had not seen any evidence.

Cole, T.G., 1981, “Dilute or Blackeyed Silver Cockatiel”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XV, no. 10, p. 272

Cooper, N.D., 1981, “The Whitefaced Cockatiel”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XV, no. 10, Oct., pp. 252-253

Roper, M.D., 1982, “Fanciful Names of Cockatiel Mutations”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XVI, no. 11, Nov., p.346

Smith, G.A., “Some Ringneck (Psistaculla frameri) and Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) Mutations”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XVI, no. 7, July, pp. 214-217

Thomson, 1982, “Cockatiel Mutations”, The Watchbird, vol. IX, no.

Choosing A New Puppy!


With Christmas only a few short weeks away, parents are racking their brains for gift ideas. Everyone wants to make this holiday season especially memorable. While shopping, it is easy to be tempted by the cages of cute puppies. The image of one of these lively little balls of fur, red ribbon around the neck, under the Christmas tree, will quickly come to mind. The next scene will be one of the kids running joyfully, as the puppy scampers to meet them. What could be a better holiday gift?

Now is the time to wake up. That lively little puppy will require a considerable investment in time and energy on your part. You, the parent, must be ready to care for the new pet. Don’t fool yourself that your kids will do the work. You know how kids are, one day they are prepared to spend the rest of their lives training a dog to be the next canine star of stage and screen. The next day, puppy forgotten in the yard, your children will be staring at the newest-latest video game. You must be ready to spend the time training the new puppy.

A very young puppy might require up to five meals a day. You can’t just leave out a dish of food. Puppies should quickly get into the habit of having regular meals. Remember, what goes in one end will come out the other! If the pup eats on and off, whenever the mood strikes him or her, the pup will also defecate with no discipline. Someone must be home during the day to make sure that the little guy eats and is taken out on a schedule. The most important time to get the dog out is first thing in the morning. This means that you must jump out of bed, quickly get dressed, and take the puppy out. If you stop to put on the coffee, you will probably be too late. Dogs are creatures of habit – you decide if you want to start the puppy on the right track or not.

A young dog, six to eight months old, only needs to be fed twice a day. With proper use of a crate, dogs are extremely easy to train at this age. Crate training will be discussed at greater length in future articles.

Silvia Valles’s, Tabatha, A Two Years Old Poodle Mix, Rescued From A Shelter When She Was Only Eight Weeks Old.
If you are still set on getting a puppy, why not wait until a few weeks after Christmas? Right after the holidays, the animal shelters are deluged with puppies from people who purchased without thinking. The friendly little soul, that wanted only to love and be loved, now sits forlorn, with nothing better than a lonely death for a prospect. If you earnestly want to have a dog for a companion for the next fifteen to twenty years, will two or three weeks make that much of a difference? Animals may be adopted from shelters for a nominal donation. In the shopping frenzy of the holidays, before Christmas be prepared to pay up to eight hundred dollars for a puppy!
Would you ever believe what a used car salesman tells you? If you insist on buying a puppy, remember the salesperson is just that. His or her job is to talk you into buying that puppy. One local pet shop pays its clerks minimum wage, plus a sliding scale of commissions on livestock sales. If the salesperson manages to sell the puppy at the asking price, they receive ONE THIRD of the sales price as a commission. The management sets a lowest price for every animal – at this price no commission is paid. You see it is in the sales-help’s best interest to tell you anything to get you to spend your money. The customer is always told that the puppy is housebroken. A young puppy is never housebroken. Again, the customer is told that the puppy has had all its shots. The puppy probably will need another set of shots in a few weeks Most of these holiday workers are college kids. They probably will never be working in that store again. They might never be in the state again! They certainly are not concerned about any problems you might have with your new pet in the weeks and months to come.

When purchasing a puppy in the Garden State, the store is obliged by law to inform you of the State of New Jersey regulations covering dog sales. The law gives the pet buyer specific guarantees and legal remedies, if the puppy is ill – either afflicted with a genetic disorder or infected with a disease. If the puppy has health problems, the law requires that you be offered a refund or an exchange. The store quite possibly might offer other guarantees. Be sure to get them in writing. Find out what the laws of your state are before buying.

Immediately after you pay for your puppy, take your new friend to a local animal hospital for an examination. Bring the health documentation from the store with you. This will tell the veterinarian what shots are needed. Ignore it when the store tells you to save your money, since the pup was checked over by their vet. Their vet is quite possibly biased in favor of the store. Your local practitioner will be impartial and thus in a better position to give a true picture of the puppy’s health.

If the veterinarian tells you to return the puppy, do it! Don’t make the mistake of feeling sorry for the baby. It is the store’s responsibility to nurse a sick puppy back to health, not yours.

If you want to get a puppy from a private breeder, all well and good. Check out the breeders knowledge of dogs and motivations. Many so-called private breeders, simply out to make a fast dollar, breed poor quality dogs. If you buy a sick dog from a private breeder, it may be more difficult to receive any compensation.

A dog can be one of the best friends you ever have. But, as in any relationship, you only take out what you are prepared to put in.



You both need it! Lack of activity is a fact of modern life for humans and canines. Nature designed us both for constant activity. Even today, primitive peoples – and primitive dogs like wolves – are constantly on the move. The search for food and shelter works their bodies nearly every waking moment. Those unable to endure simply perish.

Success has replaced the strain with stress. We no longer toil long hours tilling the soil by hand. Dinner now waits in the microwave. Our companion dogs no longer spend the day running down wild animals for food magically appears in the bowl. Life was hard, but simple for our ancestors. All could be answered with one of a pair of solutions: fight or flight. Uninhibited effort was always the answer. Early man could, literally, run away from his problems. This is obvious with the threat or fear of attack, but even starvation was generally avoided through migration.

The solutions to contemporary problems are not so simple. Both people and dogs are constantly subjected to a bombardment of noise, pollution, and lack of space. This bundle of trouble is stress – problems that society forces us to bear. Figuratively we are not allowed to run away from our problems. Luckily, literally running and other forms of exercise can give us a release from the prison of the world. We escape from listlessness and distraction to the energy and concentration that we can achieve.

The lack of physical effort lets our bodies, both canine and human, grow soft and weak. Poor condition leaves us unable to handle the the demands of life. An overwhelming number of afflictions for both people and dogs may be prevented by proper diet and exercise. Adult onset diabetes, heart disease, strokes, back ailments, and osteoporosis are often not just bad breaks. These and many other ailments can often be averted by regular exercise.

Exercise leads to longer life. Increased strength, endurance and flexibility directly give us the the ability to better deal with modern times. The effort invested in exercise pays dividends. Research has proven that, within limits, we get back two hours in increased life span for every hour spent working out. As mentioned, as always, there is an end to a good thing — nobody has managed immortality through exercise! Not only the quantity but also the quality of life is improved. Physical discipline provides many psychological rewards. Most experience a heightened sense of well being during training. This has been described as the “runners’ high.” Other athletes report similar sensations. An exercise regime promotes a positive attitude towards life in general. Of course, physical activity provides weight control and muscle tone. An improved appearance never hurt anybody’s feelings!

Exercise helps both people and dogs to lose weight in a number of ways. An enormous number of calories are burned while working out. Exercise engenders a faster metabolism so that fat is being burnt up even during rest. Also, muscle tissue uses more calories than fat tissue. Since muscle grows with exercise, the loss of fat is compounded yet again.

Today few dogs have even the benefit of a yard for running. Most are indoors all the time. Crate training is a reliable method of housebreaking and instilling good habits. This training method works by restricting the dog’s freedom. This is not cruel as long as the dog is given the opportunity for strenuous exercise. To see a dog, particularly a breed developed for some demanding task, cooped up in what amounts to solitary confinement, is very sad. Pets kept in small apartments are hardly better off.

Many dog owners complain about their pet’s behavioral problems. Dog trainers and `pet therapists’ do a booming business correcting bad habits like constant barking and destructive chewing. Some people make the mistake of thinking that the dog is misbehaving to get even for being left alone. Dogs are not capable of this sort of thinking. The true root of the problem is the dog’s boredom resulting from lack of exercise. Canine metabolism is geared for field work, pulling sleds, or some other vigorous task. All this pent up energy demands an outlet. It is up to the responsible dog caregiver to channel this energy constructively through exercise.

The majority of dogs are overweight. Though much of the problem is due to poor quality food, pure inactivity certainly does not help. Changing your dog over to a balanced diet and giving him an opportunity for regular exercise, will add years to his life span. You will be further rewarded with lower bills from the veterinarian, since your pet will be much healthier. The show dog gets special benefits from exercise. A well-muscled specimen always has an edge in the show ring. This is especially important with breeds that were originally developed for work or sport.

We humans have been given our own versions of crates. They are called offices, cars, and subways! Though few people resort to chewing up the furniture, the pressures of modern life do exact a penalty. Lack of energy, headaches, eating disorders and an inability to rationally deal with small vexations are the human reactions to being deprived of physical activity. Just as with our dog friends, physical conditioning results in a better mental condition. The new athlete will be joyously surprised to discover that many problems that are generally accepted as part and parcel of aging are simply symptoms of an out of shape body. These problems include lack of energy in the afternoon and poor sleeping habits. If you are being reminded of yourself, read on!

Unless you make a concrete, conscious resolution to exercise, muscles and bones grow weaker and breath shorter with each passing day. A generation ago, when most people were engaged in hard labor, rest was required from work. Now, with power tools and heavy machinery, even construction workers often have to work out after work.

Exercising with your dog is a great time saver. A whole host of chores get taken care of while the dog and you are having fun. Instead of just moping about while the dog is taken out, you can be exercising, the dog can be exercising and obedience training can be accomplished all at the same time. Remember, YOUR attention is required! The dog will also be enjoying quality time with you. As dogs are social creatures, you time and attention is as much a need as food and water.

A half-hour a day is plenty of time for a good work out. This should be at least three times a week. It will not hurt to skip a day in case of bad weather, a tight schedule, or some slight illness. Three days a week is OK, but it is the minimum for any health benefits. Every day, if it can be managed, is best.

Having a good training partner really helps to make exercise part of your daily routine. Seeing your dog, tail wagging with excitement and expectation, will encourage you to get your running shoes on and to get out the door. As dogs are creatures of habit, your buddy will work hard to help you keep good resolutions. My own German Shepherd is better than any alarm clock. Every day at five A.M. he wakes me up for his morning run.

Having your dog by your side will make the work out more interesting. If your dog is one of the larger breeds, having him with you makes sense in today’s troubled world. Running is most enjoyable in quiet areas, so many people run early in the morning or in the evening. Secluded trails in parks and woodlands are also popular with runners. Unfortunately, human garbage takes advantage of the lack of witnesses to victimize joggers, especially women. Women runners have been raped and robbed. In the company of a solid dog, you enjoy a large degree of protection. As criminals seek out weakness, a dog is a powerful deterrent.

Exercising with your dog is the natural thing to do. Dogs and people both met as hunters competing against the great cats at least fifty thousand years ago. We both soon learned that we work together better as a team. Humans possess superior sight and intelligence. Dogs have a better sense of smell and the endurance to flush and run down game. Dogs and people have been developing together all this time. As human society has changed, the breeds of dogs have changed. Continuing to serve, dogs became body guards and companions, instead of hunters. Your dog will look forward to his daily romp with you. He will see this as his chance to be useful to humanity, as his ancestors have done for so many thousands of years.

The best reason for exercising with your dog is that you both are going to LOVE it. If you are working out without your dog now, you’re missing half of the FUN!


The only good way to start is not by exercising your body but by exercising your brain. Just jumping into a rigorous routine is a certain prescription for disappointment, if not tragedy. Objectively and realistically view your personal situation. Those glory days on the high school football team might have been a while back – more so than you may care to admit! How have you spent the intervening years? Are you aware of any health problems?

At this point it is the time to go to your physician for a complete check up. Ask her advice concerning your condition and potential for training. Suffering from an affliction does not necessary preclude physical activity. Each year hear transplant recipient successfully run in marathon races. Anybody with a severe ailment will have to exercise very carefully. They will require careful monitoring by themselves or by an exercise or health care professional. Even if you can’t indulge in some forms of exercise, other types of activity might be fine. For example, somebody with a chronic knee problem might be crippled by running, but enjoy bicycling.

Now take a look at your dog. A breed like a Pekingese or Dachsund has a very limited capacity for exertion. The short legs, long spines, and poorly developed hips simply don’t allow for much exercise. These little guys will love to take a brisk walk with you, but be prepared to carry them most of the way on a long hike. The toy breeds have great spirit, but caregivers must be realistic and considerate of their pet’s limitations.

The hounds, spaniels, terriers, collies, retrievers, pit bulls, and sled breeds have tremendous stamina. This should come as no surprise, since, in the fairly recent past, for the grandparents of these dogs rest, not exercise, was the rare commodity. The hard life of the people simply did not permit the luxury of catering to pets. Dogs had to help the entire family to eke out a living. The Akita is also noted for physical prowess. The sight hounds, like the Greyhound and the Afghan Hound, were born to run

. Special mention must be made of the German Shepherd and the Rotterweiler breeds. Healthy examples will out run all but the most physically fit humans. Unfortunately, these breeds are notoriously prone to hip dysplasia. There are varying degrees of this chronic condition. The milder forms will actually be helped by exercise. More severe cases will only be able to tolerate a mild routine. The worst cases will not be able to stand any prolonged activity. Your dog’s veterinarian will tell you what to expect

. Any kind of dog with a pushed in face, the Bulldog, Boxer, and Mastiffs, for example, have a reduced ability to breathe. This is particularly true in hot weather. If your buddy is a member of one of these breeds, schedule your work outs for the cool time of the morning. Keep your dog in air-conditioning the rest of the day.

The coat of the dog is also a consideration. Dogs with extremely sparse coats will not tolerate cold or bright sun very well. The thicker the fur, the less the dog will want to exert himself under conditions of heat and humidity. Consult your groomer or veterinarian before shaving a long- haired dog during the summer. The skin of these shaggy guys is often very delicate. A baldy will leave them unable to deal with the sun, insect bites, fungal infections, and mite infestations. Your poor dog could wind up looking like the canine equivalent of Job!

The giants like the Great Dane and Saint Bernard have an extremely long period of growth. These dogs are not completely mature until they are at least eighteen months old. Forcing them to work too hard before then can actually permanently damage bones and joints. Even as adults these jumbos, because of their weight, have a limited ability for vigorous activity. They are also troubled by heat and humidity. The great bulk gets hot quickly, but takes a long time to cool down.

No dog should be subjected to a really demanding training routine until growth is completed. For most dogs, this is between nine and twelve months, and at least eighteen months for the giants, as noted above. This does not mean that your puppy should not be allowed to enjoy himself – just use good judgement.

Remember always when working out with a dog of any age or breed that the most important thing in your dog’s life is being with you and pleasing you. You must be the on to decide what is enough exercise for your own dog. You can injure him by forcing over-exertion. If your dog wants to stop, slow down, or turn back, LET HIM DO SO! This does not apply to a dog that is just learning to exercise. A `newby’ dog will be nervous just because he is involved in a new and little-understood activity. For the rookie pup, just be firm, but loving, in directing him into physical activity. But, if your dog regularly accompanies you and one day simply stops in the middle of the road, assume that your dog has suffered some sort of an injury, like a muscle pull. Also, check for a cut foot pad.

Before any dog starts exercising, a visit to the veterinarian is in order for an examination. Do be sure that your pet is checked for heart worms. These little monsters can make any effort impossible for your pet. You certainly need to be certain that all vaccinations are up to date. Since more time will be spent outside, a rabies shot is of the utmost importance.

Keep your dog leashed at all times. Unless you can be sure that your dog will unhesitatingly obey any command, you are gambling with his life by letting him run free. Another dog, or even a cat, rabbit, or squirrel could send your dog off, never to be seen again, or to be buried after being struck by a car.

The dog struck and instantly killed by an vehicle can be the lucky one. Many lost pets die horrible deaths in laboratories. Other lost pets starve or die of exposure. Some form packs and try to hunt, becoming dangerous pests.

Someone I know in Pennsylvania, at least once a week has to spend an hour shooting abandoned dogs. The feral dogs attack and kill the deer in his fields. At sunset he climbs on top of his barn and eliminates the pack with a high-powered rifle. No joy is taken in this task. The irresponsible dog owners are the ones to be berated.

One lost Beagle so loved people that it avoided the pack and came right to the farmer’s door. He put out food and water for the little guy. The Beagle disappeared. A week later it returned, head packed with porcupine spines. Dogs find porcupines irresistible, with painful result. The Beagle had to be euthanized.

Yes, your dog will want to run free, but your dog has no ability to reason. Hopefully, you are capable of logical thought, so you must do the thinking for your dog. Also, unless you are on private property, it is almost inevitably illegal to allow a dog off leash.

If your community requires dogs to be licensed, be sure that the tags are up to date and firmly attached to your dog’s collar. For both you comfort and the dog’s, you will want the dog to have at least mastered the heel command. Don’t expect any real progress with obedience training, until the dog is at least four months old, if not six. There are exceptions, but expecting strict attention from a young puppy is a lot like trying to force a young, human child to be a concert pianist. Disappointment, frustration, and resentment will be the most likely result, all around, in both cases. Let the puppy just get used to the idea of a regular leather or nylon collar. Be satisfied with the little guy tagging along in your general direction.

At around five months, after your dog is used to walking with you, fit him with an obedience collar. The obedience collar can be either the chain loop or the pinch kind. Though the pinch, also called prong, looks like an instrument of torture from the Dark Ages, it is actually not cruel at all. Try putting one of these collars on your forearm and delivering a tug. You will feel a distinct pinch, but the skin will not be torn or disfigured. Obedience training is much easier with the pinch collar.

Your dog, in all things, strictly follows the rule of “Lead!, Follow!, or Get out of the way!” It is your job to let him know who is boss. That is the function of the obedience collars. The dog will be at your left side. The handle of the leash will be in your right hand. Your left hand will be taking up the slack of the leash. As you are walking, when the dog pulls forward, if you are using the pinch collar, lightly, yet firmly tug with your left hand. At the same time in a firm tone of voice say, “Heel!” Repeat this every time the dog lurches forward. With the pinch collar you must never try to forcefully drag the dog. Exert just enough pressure for the dog to feel the pinch. As he walks right at your side, praise him. Tell him what a good boy he is. Very quickly the dog will be exactly matching your stride. In a week or two your dog will be perfectly trained to walk at your heel. You will then be able to walk slowly or quickly. In any event the dog will not be putting any pressure on his neck, the leash, or your arms. It will then take no effort or strain to take the dog out for a walk.

If you are using the regular chain loop choke collar, the technique is slightly different. Again the dog is at your left side. You are holding the handle of the leash in your right hand. Your left hand is taking up the slack of the leash. In this case when the dog tries to pull you, give a strong jerk with your left hand, actually jerking the dog back into line. If the dog is large it may be necessary, with the choke collar, to simultaneously take a step backwards with your right leg. Since your hips are your center of gravity, in this way the slightest person can handle the burliest dog. What you are doing is applying the force of the weight of your entire body to the dog’s neck. Again, repeat the command, “Heel!”, every time the dog tries to pull you.

In either case the dog will quickly associate “Heel!” with the reprimand. Soon only the command will be needed, not the physical reproach.

Your dog should be neutered. The only exception is an outstanding specimen. There is no other good reason to allow a dog to remain sexually active. The unneutered bitch will stain your carpets and attract hordes of stray males. The whole male dog is often constantly suffering from sexual frustration. Children and furniture will become the objects of desire. Neutered dogs are much happier, for their lives are complete. And for those that say that `fixed’ dogs are fat, lazy, and no good as a watch dog, come on over and try to go a few rounds with my neutered male German Shepherd! He lives (with me) in one of the worst areas of Jersey City. Rocky is notorious among the aspiring young hoods as, “One BAD dog!”

As always strive to be a good neighbor. If someone in a public place is upset by your dog, no matter how irrational their fear is, the truth is that the person has more of a right to be there than your dog. Do them and yourself a favor, just go someplace else. When running on a track, run counter-clockwise on the innermost track, so that the other runners are not forced to deal with your dog. Carry some plastic bags with you so that you can clean up if your dog is forced to relieve himself. Don’t ruin it for yourself and everybody else.

Cartoons to the contrary, wild animals are just that. They have no need or desire to socialize with you or your dog. If you spot any animal acting playful or drunk, get your dog away as soon as possible. You are probably witnessing a poor creature in the last, and highly contagious, stages of rabies. At the age of eight I was bitten by a rabid bat that I had collected. I required dozens of injections over a two week period. Since I was allergic to the serum, my parents were told by the doctors that I would be dead in a few weeks. Lucky for me, my Polish-Jewish-Irish-American Indian constitution was too tough for rabies! The purpose of this little story is to impress on you that rabies is for real and it is no fun an it can very easily be very permanent. It is a serious matter. Take it seriously.

Keeping your dog on a leash will minimize the chance of any sort of problem with animals. Keep in mind, with real estate development chewing up the landscape, raccoon and opossums may be encountered anywhere.


Just as a sports car needs premium gas to operate, your dog needs premium food to handle those extra miles. Ask your pet shop professional, groomer, or veterinarian about the good dog foods that are available. Scientific research has produced foods that are highly digestible and provide balanced nutrition. These foods might seem more expensive, but they are actually cheaper in the long run. Your dog will be eating a lot less for the better foods are more concentrated. As the months progress, a dog that is eating properly will have a much better appearance. Your pets coat will glow after a few weeks on a proper diet.

Special performance foods are available for the dog that spends the day hunting, pulling sleds, or that live outdoors in cold climates. These extra calorie foods are not needed for most active dogs.

Custom rain slicks and coats are designed for the athletic dog. This canine gear is treated with GORE TEX. This space age material will keep you dog warm and dry. It is a good idea to get a rain coat with a lining. This way you can adjust it according to the temeprature.

Excellent expandable-retractable leashes are a lot of fun and give your dog room to kick up his heels. A wide variety of toys are available for your dog to play fetch with you.

If your dog still wants to exercise after you are dog-tired, consider an outdoor trolley. This neat item lets your dog run up to one hundred feet.

If the pads of the dog’s feet get torn or irritated, look into a set of rubber boots. The boots will give the dog’s feet a chance to heal, but will still allow your friend to continue romping with you.


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Unfortunately, due to time constraints, it’s just not possible for us to email personal replies to pet care questions. If you have any reason to believe that an animal in your care is sick, the only advice that PETCRAFT can offer is to consult a veterinarian immediately.

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The Budgerigar (Keet) FAQ

Please post as comments all suggestions, material for the FAQ, criticisms, etc.

NOTE: I’ve already planned a section on genetics. I really need a qualified party (Champion breeder and/or judge) to author a section on exhibiting and judging.

Version: 10/12/2014
© 2014 Anthony Olszewski

Are Keets the same as Budgies? What’s an English Parakeet? Somebody at the bird club said that my birds are Budgerigars, not Parakeets. Are they correct?
How many different colors of Keets are there? Are Albinos and Lutinos blind?
What is a Show Parakeet?
Can Keets be crossed with other birds? Are their other species of Budgies?
What is a basic Budgie diet?
Some expensive brands of bird seed claim to be vitamin enriched. Are they worth the extra money?
Grubs and moths are growing in the bird seed. How can this be prevented?
Are pellets necessary?
The pet shop has a whole aisle full of seed bells, biscuit, fruit sticks, etc? Are these any good?
Should Keets get people food?
What does grit do?
What is cuttlebone? My bird just shreds the cuttlebone. Is there anything else that I can use?
Do Keets need special water?
What kind of cage is required?
Should I let the bird out of the cage for exercise?
What is used to cover the bottom of the cage?
What sort of cage is used to breed Keets? What is a nest box?
Do Keets breed better as a flock in a large walk-in cage (a flight)?
How do I tell the difference between male and female Keets?
What is the natural Keet breeding season?
How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?
What is banding?
Are any special foods required for nesting and rearing the young?
What should I do if the father abuses his young?
How can I tell the age of a Keet?
How long do Keets live?
What is the best temperature for these birds?
How do I give a Keet a bath?
Does the quality and quantity of light make a difference?
Can Keets be tamed and trained to talk like the large parrots?
Does my bird need a toy?
My bird’s beak is starting to grow crooked. Somebody tells me that it is mites. What do I do about it?
Can my family or my other pets catch any diseases from Keets?
What is French Molt?
What is egg binding?
1. Are Keets the same as Budgies? What’s an English Parakeet? Somebody at the bird club said that my birds are Budgerigars, not Parakeets. Are they correct?
Let’s start with terminology. The Keet, American Parakeet, Shell Parakeet, English Parakeet, Budgie, and Budgerigar, are all the same species The scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus. Bird experts prefer that these birds not be called parakeets, for there are a large number of other parakeets found in Australia, South America, and the Indian Sub-Continent. “Parakeet” is simply a common term for a small parrot-type bird with a long tail. In the United States, the term “Budgie” is thought to refer only to the English exhibition or show Keet. In Great Britain, “Budgie” is used to refer to any Keet. “Budgerigar” is an attempt at a transliteration of an Australian Aborigine phrase. When asked by a European explorer the name of the little birds that lived in huge flocks, the reply sounded like “Budgerigar” to Western ears. It really means something like, “tasty snack”! It was easy to hunt the birds by throwing a boomerang into the flock.

2. How many different colors of Keets are there? Are Albinos and Lutinos blind?
Budgerigars come in a wide range of colors. The Light Green is the natural, wild color. In captivity, where predators are not a concern, color has no bearing on health or disposition. It’s a myth that the Albinos and Lutinos (all white and all yellow, both with red eyes) are blind or suffer from extremely diminished vision. I’ve kept both in walk in walk-in cages with lots of other Keets. Some of the other popular colors are Blue, and the several forms of Pied (splashed-colored). There is also a Crested mutation of the feathers of the head. These birds seem to possess the same Beatle hair-do as the Gloster Canary, though the genetics are completely different.

3. What is a Show Parakeet?
The Show Parakeet is nearly twice the size of the more common, wild type bird. Quite a bit of this apparent bulk is really due to just bigger feathers. The head, even in proportion, is much larger in the exhibition birds. The difference is completely due to selection by Fanciers, just as in dogs, pigeons, or any other domestic animal. Raising Budgerigars for show is especially popular in the United States, Germany, and, of course, England. The British so dominate this sport that the show birds are very often all called “English Budgerigars”, no matter where they are!

4. Can Keets be crossed with other birds? Are their other species of Budgies?
There are no known hybrids of the Budgie. It is the only (monotypic) member of its genus.

5. What is a basic Budgie diet?
Keets all require the same care, whether pets, breeders, or show stock. Budgerigars are basically seed eaters. The basic diet consists of Millet Seed and Canary Seed. Spray Millet is a greatly loved treat. You can give the birds as much as you care to buy; spray millet is expensive. Hulled oats (groats) are another favorite, though, because of the high fat content, should be fed sparingly.

6. Some expensive brands of bird seed claim to be vitamin enriched. Are they worth the extra money?
Various “treat” and protein supplement foods are commercially available. These items are important when the birds are breeding. To truly enrich seed in vitamins, it must be soaked in an oil. Vitamin powder coatings are a waste, for the vitamins all fall off when the bird hulls the seed kernel. Be particularly skeptical of “colored seeds.” Many of these simply contain food dye! You can vitamin-fortify the seed yourself by mixing one teaspoon of wheat germ oil and one teaspoon of cod liver oil with ten pounds of seed. Let it soak over night. . For fewer birds, adjust the amount accordingly. Since an average parakeet eats roughly one-third of an ounce of food a day, eight pounds will last one bird a year. (A healthy Keet normally consumes an amount of food equal to one-quarter of its own body weight In a cold environment, very likely more will be required.) A batch of oil enriched seed should be completely used in less than a week or refrigerated.
The fat soluble Vitamins, those found in Cod liver oil and wheat germ oil, can be toxic in high levels. Don’t be tempted to increase the dosage. Too much of these supplements will give you very dead birds, not very healthy ones.

7. Grubs and moths are growing in the bird seed. How can this be prevented?
Refrigerating bird seed will also prevent or control seed moths. The moths and their caterpillars cause the birds no harm. The insects are definitely unsightly. In large numbers, the bugs ruin the seed.

8. Are pellets necessary?
Pellets, though an interesting item in the diet of the larger parrots, are really of very limited use in Budgie nutrition. You can try them out, if you wish. If your Keets don’t like the processed food, it’s not as if they are dropping out of High School, or using drugs! There’s lots of things to be concerned about in life; Keets disliking pellets ain’t one of them.

9. The pet shop has a whole aisle full of seed bells, biscuit, fruit sticks, etc? Are these any good?
Seed bells, seed sticks, fruit sticks, egg biscuits, et cetera are all fine as treats. All this stuff is a little pricey and is not required for good health. Keets do appreciate these treats.

10. Should Keets get people food?
Small amounts of cooked chicken egg, apple, pear, cantaloupe, leafy greens, whole wheat bread, and corn bread are very good for Budgies. Really, anything that you eat yourself, with the exceptions of chocolate and avocado, can be offered to Keets. A different fresh food should be fed every day.

11. What does grit do?
After raising thousands of Parakeets, talking to hundreds of breeders, and reading hundreds of books and magazines my opinion is that Mineral grit must always be available. Grit provides calcium, salt, iodine, trace minerals and, in the bird’s crop, grinds the seed to ensure proper digestion. Some say that only Poultry need grit. Others think that grit is the cause of impacted crops. I think that this is like calling bridges the cause of suicides, because some poor soul jumps off one! Every seed eating bird that I ever cared for was allowed access to grit.

12. What is cuttlebone? My bird just shreds the cuttlebone. Is there anything else that I can use?
A cuttlebone should be placed in every cage. Cuttlebone is the internal skeletal structure of the cuttlefish, a relative of the squid. If the birds just waste the cuttlebone, use one of the harder mineral blocks instead.

13. Do Keets need special water?
Change the water every day. Whatever water you drink, tap or spring, will be fine for a Keet. Vitamins can be placed in the water. Exactly follow the printed directions. All dishes should be washed as often as necessary.

14. What kind of cage is required?
If your getting one or two birds as pets, most any cage that you like will be OK. A minimum is 12″ by 10″ by 10″ for one or two Budgies. The bigger the cage, the happier your guys will be and the more fun that you will have watching them play. DO NOT get a wicker or bamboo cage. The Keets will quickly chew their way out.

15. Should I let the bird out of the cage for exercise?
The cage is your bird’s home. Unless the Keet is tame, don’t let it out of its cage. Mirrors, windows, fans, open flames, cats, dogs, and open doors are all death traps to a free flying Budgie.

16. What is used to cover the bottom of the cage?
Special paper sold in pet shops can be used on the cage bottom. Corn cob bedding must be changed frequently, for it can quickly become moldy. Newspaper really works very well. A large scale operation can just scrape the droppings from the uncovered metal pans.

17. What sort of cage is used to breed Keets? What is a nest box?
If you wish to breed Keets, get a special breeding cage and nest box. The breeding cage has a little trap door so that the nest box can be attached to the cage.
In the wild, Budgies nest in holes in trees. In captivity, these birds use nest boxes, generally constructed of wood. Unless you own a lumber yard, you are better off buying the nest box.

Keets don’t build a nest like Canaries, Finches, Robins, or Pigeons.

Breeding cages can be constructed out of one inch by one half inch welded wire mesh, bent and fastened with “J” clips.

I liked to use a cage 24″ by 18″ square, with the nest box on the front. One pair of birds was kept per cage. The birds lived their whole lives in the cage. No flights were used. Breeding was started/stopped by installing/removing the nest box. I found it very stressful to the Keets to move them in and out of the flights. The security of a “home” cage resulted in much better breeding results.

Half-inch by half-inch “baluster” board makes the best perch material. If you’ve got to use dowel wood, run a hacks saw down it, as the smooth wood is very uncomfortable to the bird’s feet. Perches can be cleaned with a solution of pine oil and bleach in very hot water. This is good for the nest boxes, too. Dry in the sun.

Pine shavings are very good inside the nest box. It’s said that cedar shavings are poisonous, but I’ve never observed any bad effects on either the breeding pair or chicks.

18. Do Keets breed better as a flock in a large walk-in cage (a flight)?
Budgerigars can be bred as flocks in flights. The only good reason to do this is to save labor. Feed will be wasted. Less young per pair will be produced. In a flight make sure that the number of males and females is exactly equal. Extra males are a waste. Un-paired hens will raid the nests of the breeding birds. Use twenty-five percent extra nest boxes, for the Keet hens always squabble over nests.
These are social birds. A single pair will very rarely breed. Four pairs, in the same room, are the minimum for successful breeding. There are many exceptions to this rule, but if you really want to raise Keets, start off with a number of pairs.

19. How do I tell the difference between male and female Keets?
With Budgerigars, the males are playful, foolish and care-free while the hens tend to be serious, grumpy and moody – just like in people! (This is meant to be amusing, but there IS a definite difference in the disposition of the male and female budgerigars.) You can distinguish the males, for the cere, that fleshy area over the beak, around the nostrils is bright blue in the boys. If it’s ANY other color, the bird is a hen. In the light colored Keets, particularly Albinos and Lutinos, the Ceres in both cocks and hens are pink. When you have a breeding pair, you may never witness any interaction between the two birds. The male will do acrobatics about the cage. The hen will sit in one spot and grumble and nag to herself. This is normal for Ma and Pa Keet!

20. What is the natural Keet breeding season?
Budgerigars do not have a regular breeding or molting season. In their Australian outback native haunts, they commence breeding whenever the rains bring about a growth of vegetation. In captivity, Keets will breed best in the Spring and early Summer. If the nests boxes are then removed, they will go into a heavy molt. Keeping the birds on a seasonal schedule is a good idea. This allows the Fancier the ability to plan ahead. Being in a regular cycle gives the bird’s system a good pace at which to work.

21. How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?
The eggs hatch in eighteen days from the time the hen starts sitting. She may not sit until several, or all the eggs are produced. Five eggs is average. The hen incubates the eggs and handles most of the feeding chores.

22. What is banding?
The babies should be “closed-banded” so that records can be kept. If you wish to show your birds, you will have to use bands issued by the American Budgerigar Society, or some other official organization. The young are banded before they develop pin feathers. Then, the toes are still pliable and can be manipulated and pulled through the ring. In a few days, the toes grow and the bones harden. After this time, the ring will neither go on or off.

23. Are any special foods required for nesting and rearing the young?
Protein supplement foods MUST be provided during nesting and the molt for optimum health. Many different nesting foods are on the market. Cooked chicken egg serves the purpose. If you’ve a number of birds, place a whole hard boiled chicken egg, shell and all, in the food processor or blender. The bits of egg shell are a great source of calcium.

24. What should I do if the father abuses his young?
Sometimes the cock will kill or abuse the chicks as soon as they come out of the nest. If ANY HINT of trouble is observed, remove the young, if they are eating on their own, or remove the father.

25. How can I tell the age of a Keet?
A young Budgerigar has a smooth cere, black stripes (except for the light colored types) on the forehead (giving the term “bar-head” for a immature Keet), and a completely black eye. Within six months, the forehead is white or yellow and the eye has a white iris. The male’s cere remains smooth. The hen’s darkens in color and becomes crusty and flakey in appearance, not to be confused with a mite infestation. This is a normal sign of sexual maturity and can be used to differentiate the genders in Albinos and Lutinos, where cere color is no help.
Keets are ready to breed by nine months. I’ve seen hens as young as five months old produce healthy nests.

26. How long do Keets live?
Budgerigars have short life spans. Seven years is very old for the average bird. The show birds rarely reach five. This is for the males. Breeding hens don’t live this long.

27. What is the best temperature for these birds?
Sixty-five to eighty degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature for Keets. They can adjust to anything from freezing to one hundred degrees. Don’t subject them to extremes, unless that’s how you live yourself. As the thermometer goes over eighty, mist the birds with a fine spray of cool tap water, as often as possible.

28. How do I give a Keet a bath?
Keets like to bathe. You DO NOT restrain and scrub a Budgie, like you do a dog. A small pan of water is placed in the cage. The bird will perform its ablutions by splashing about. Be ready to clean the cage afterwards.

29. Does the quality and quantity of light make a difference?
Budgies, like all pet birds, must have a regular schedule. The birds should wake up and go to sleep with the sun. Covering the cage at night is a good way to ensure proper rest. If the Keets are in a dark area, set up full spectrum lights. These florescent bulbs, sold in pet shops, mimic the sun’s rays in a healthful manner.

30. Can Keets be tamed and trained to talk like the large parrots?
Budgerigars can be tame pets and can be taught to talk. You must get a male baby right out of the nest. Be prepared to watch that he is eating on his own. PARAKEETS ARE SOCIAL BIRDS! If you plan to train a baby parakeet, realize that somebody should almost always be home, or the bird will sorely feel the lack of companionship. The young Keet, desiring a friend, will naturally accept your advances. You can teach him to talk by repeating a single word over and over. “Hello” is a good start. Most birds in pet shops will be too old to train. If the bird has a white or yellow forehead, not black stripes, it is WAY past taming age.
If you do not wish to put the time into training a Keet, if somebody is not always home, or if you can not obtain a very young bird, you can still enjoy the pleasure of Budgies. In this case, get at least two birds. Try to get either two males, or a male and a female. Two hens will just sit at either end of the cage glaring at each other. With a friendly, little group, the antics of the birds and the cheerful chirping will never cease to amuse and entertain.

If you at first acquired a single Keet and now want to get a buddy for the bird, don’t immediately put the new bird in the same cage. Imagine coming home to find a stranger plopped down in front of the TV! Put the new guy in a separate cage, right next to the original bird. When you see them playing through the bars , then they can be placed together.

31. Does my bird need a toy?
Budgerigars enjoy toys. Bells, wheels, and chew toys are best. Avoid mirrors and plastic birds, for these items distract the birds. Mirrors will turn male Keets into (literally) the spitting image of Narcissus.

32. My bird’s beak is starting to grow crooked. Somebody tells me that it is mites. What do I do about it?
Mites are a terrible affliction of Budgies. Infestations can be prevented and controlled by spraying the bird, the cage, and the area surrounding it with a .05% pyrethrin solution. If the beak itself starts to look flakey, the cere starts to get a “spongy” look, or a male Keet’s cere begins to turn brown, stronger measures are required. Mites can be eliminated by the application of IVERMECTIN, under the directions of a veterinarian. Left untreated, the beak will begin to grow in a horrible, twisted shape. Death from starvation is possible.

33. Can my family or my other pets catch any diseases from Keets?
Budgerigars, like many other species of birds, can carry Psittacosis, which can be fatal to people, and Coccidiosis, a protozoan parasite that can also attack people, cats, and dogs. Psittacosis, “Parrot Fever,” has many symptoms. Coccidiosis shows up mostly as foul, wet droppings.

34. What is French Molt?
Keets that never seem to grow in flight or tail feathers, might have “French Molt”, which can infect many other species of birds, particularly Cockatoos, with dire results. If disease is suspected, DO consult a veterinarian.

35. What is egg binding?
If you expect the hen to lay an egg and you see her on the bottom of the cage in obvious distress or exhaustion, she probably has egg binding. The bird will die within a few hours without help. The best course of action is to seek a veterinarian’s help. I’ve gently felt the outside of the afflicted hens abdomen and was able to propel the lodged egg through the vent. But I have no medical training, so can not tell you to do the same thing. DO NOT HOLD THE HEN OVER A POT OF BOILING WATER! DO NOT ATTEMPT AN OLIVE OIL ENEMA! I’ve seen both of these idiocies offered as serious advice in published works.
Egg binding can be caused by a lack of calcium, so be sure that a mineral grit and cuttlebone is available at all times. Vitamins are needed for calcium to be utilized by the bird’s system, so be sure that all aspects of nutrition are correct.


by Ernest H. Hart



The American Budgerigar Society
Dinah Moore
A.B.S. Secretary
404 Tram Road,
Whiteville, NC 28472

Total animal care information!