For many years budgies have been one of the most popular pet birds. This is hardly surprising; they’re reasonably-priced, full of character and are quite long-lived. However if both you and your budgie are going to get the most possible out of your relationship then it’s essential to get him used to you as soon as possible.
After all, if your budgie goes berserk trying to get away from you every time you go near the cage then it’s going to be a pretty sorry life for your pet. Furthermore, you won’t gain as much from pet ownership if you don’t make a real “connection” with your pet.
What follows therefore are some tips and advice how to tame a budgie. You’ll find that with the right attitude – and a little patience – your budgie will soon be looking forward to spending time with you. And that’s an experience that’s truly priceless.
Before we actually discuss the taming process it is worth discussing three ethical concerns that are sometimes raised when it comes to taming budgies. Quite what you decide is up to you as an individual, but by raising them here you will at least be aware of some difficult decisions you may have to make when taming your pet.
- Should You Tame A Budgie?
Some pet lovers strongly disagree with trying to tame birds – or even keep them in cages in your home. To many people budgerigars should only be kept in large aviaries where they can fly free and behave as naturally possible. Cages, no matter how large, are considered unethical by some people.
The flipside to this situation is that tame birds generally are easier to health-check and to keep an eye on. Being more handlable they can also be much easier for vets to work with. And of course without repeated interaction with you – most likely in your home rather than an aviary – they may slowly become “feral” and lose their connection with their owner.
As stated earlier – if you choose to keep a budgie in your home you may come against some negative comments; just be aware that this comes with the territory.
- Budgies Tame Best Alone
Budgerigars are gregarious birds; in the wilds of Australia where they are to be found flying free they typically exist in massive flocks. Budgies like company – and ideally the company of other budgies over humans.
Two budgies in a cage will have constant companionship and will happily together for many years. Unlike many other species of mammal and bird, where fights can break out randomly at any point, budgerigars very seldom bully cage-mates so can be kept together for life.
The flipside of this situation is that when a budgie has an avian friend they can be far less tempted with human interaction. In short, budgies are easiest to tame when kept on their own.
The second ethical decision that you will therefore have to make is whether you plan to seek a single budgie or a number of budgies together. The lone budgie is likely to be much easier to tame, all things being equal, but may get lonely when you’re not about. Taming multiple budgies at the same time can be much harder, but at least they have company when you’re out of the house.
- Wing Clipping Can Make Taming Easier
A budgerigar’s natural response to danger is to fly away. Get an untame budgie out of its cage and try approaching it and it’ll likely fly off madly. As a result many pet owners opt to clip their budgies wings, thus preventing this flying away, and so speeding up the taming process.
Equally, flight is a perfectly natural activity for budgies, so concerns exist about the ethics of preventing this from happening. So while the clipping process is simple, quick and painless many bird owners are loathed to attempt it.
There are two “middle roads” that many budgie owners opt for. The first is to try and tame their budgie without wing clipping, using wing clipping only as a “last ditch” strategy if others fail.
The second is to only clip the wings once. The reality is that each time your budgie moults it’s flight feathers will regrow, and it will regain the power of flight. Therefore some budgie owners start by clipping the wings of their pet, in order to facilitate easier taming. Then, once their budgie is tame and the flight feathers regrow they are left as-is – so your now-tame budgie can decide itself whether it wants to come over for some affection or not.
Once again each individual will have their own opinions on the above ethical concerns; your task before trying to tame your budgie is deciding quite what you think will work best for you (and your bird).
Those concerns aired, let’s take a detailed look at the strategies and processed for taming a budgie as quickly and effectively as possible.
How To Tame A Budgie: The Overall Process
The concept of taming a budgie is actually quite simple; it’s the implementation that is rather more problematic. In essence you’re looking to convince your budgie:
- That you don’t pose a threat to them
- That interacting with you can actually be fun
In essence this is achieved through a very gradual process of getting your bird used to your presence, and then offering rewards for correct behaviour.
Here are my top tips for taming a budgie:
Stay Calm at All Times
The first thing you need to be aware of is to stay calm at all times. Birds have evolved to fear sudden noises or movements, so the slower and calmer you can be around your budgie the sooner the taming process can begin.
So approach your budgie’s cage slowly, gently and methodically. Talk in a calming, smoothing voice and try to maintain this composure throughout the taming process. The worst thing you can do is let your bird make you jump, at which point your sudden movements will do far more harm than good for the taming process.
Little and Often
Let’s be honest; when you start the taming process your budgie is likely to be scared stiff. Your goal is to get over this initial fear. But simply bothering your budgie for hours on end is unlikely to help.
Instead you should aim to spend some time with your budgie each day. Make each session short and sweet so your budgie won’t have be scared for too long. Over time as your bird gets used to you, and the taming process develops, you will be able to spend more time with your bird.
To start the process off, however, it’s better to spend 10 or 15 minutes a few times a day than force your bird to put up with you for a solid hour.
Gently Does It
Taming a budgie is a very gradual process. A series of steps, each of which is only introduced when the last step has been successfully and reliably implemented. Don’t be tempted to jump through the steps too quickly or you could undo much of your previous hard work.
Bribery Works Wonders
They say that the way to man’s heart is through his stomach. The same could be said for budgerigars. As the taming process develops don’t be afraid of gently “bribing” your pet with some of their favourite food stuffs. Sunflower hearts, millet sprays and carrot tops have all proved successful in my experience.
The Taming Process
As mentioned earlier, the taming process essentially takes the form of a gradually progressing list of steps. Simply keep at each one until you are confident that your bird is comfortable with it, then progress on to the next step. The whole process is likely to take some weeks or even longer so don’t rush the process. Remember: patience is a virtue!
Sitting Beside The Cage
The first stage of taming is simply getting your bird used to having you around. So place a chair some distance from the cage and every so often simply quietly and slowly walk over to the chair and sit down. Then just sit there. If necessary, read a book or magazine to entertain yourself. Remember: just 10 to 15 minutes. Then get on with your day.
Over time your budgerigar should become familiar with your presence. As you walk in he’ll no longer leap off his perch or try to fly to freedom. When this can be reliably achieved, try moving the chair a little closer.
This process continues until you can sit down right infront of the cage without your budgie going berserk. Then it’s time for the next step.
Opening The Cage
Now you can sit right next to the cage, the next step is to get your budgie used to you inside the cage as well as outside it. At this point you should sit down in your usual place infront of the cage, gently open the door and simply place your hand just inside.
Once again, your budgie probably won’t react favourably so repeated attempts will be necessary until you can open the door without scaring the budgie.
When you can, you’ll want to slowly move your hand ever closer to the bird. Again, this can take work. Eventually you should be able to hold out some food in your hand. After repeated patient attempts your budgie should finally start nibbling on your offering.
This is where things start to get really fun because you’ll actually start to make contact with your pet.
Touching The Bird
When your budgie is happily eating out of your hand you can try to gently stroke or tickle him. In budgies the “money shot” is the back of the neck. Many tame budgies will willingly nod their head forward in order to grant you access to their “nape”.
Picking Him Up
All your efforts are paying off! By now you should be able to approach the cage without worry, gently open the door and reach in with some treats. Your budgie should happily approach and may even welcome a little tickle.
At this point you should be ready for the final stage – gently pushing your finger against the budgie’s chest so that it steps up onto your hand at will. When this can be achieved then the hard work is primarily over.
Try letting your budgie out in a pet-safe room (no house plants, no open windows!) and simply enjoy spending time with him or her.