This is always fun and exciting, but there can be confusing decisions to make. Do I get a boy or a girl, hand raised or aviary bird or a very young or more mature bird? Here is some information to help you choose.
Budgerigars generally live about 8-10 years, but can live to 15 years. Cockatiels live 10-15 years but can live for 20 years. Females, even living on their own, will sometimes lay eggs. It is normal for them to lay 5-8 eggs in a season, and this is not a problem if they are on good diet. However, some females lay excessively, which is stressful and exhausting for them. Calcium deficiency and egg binding may occur, which can be life-threatening. These birds need extra calcium in their diet.
Hand raised birds which are much tamer than birds brought up by their parents. These birds are much happier to be handled, tend to be more playful and are much less stressed living closely with people. They make great pets! It is important to make sure that hand raised baby birds are completely weaned and eating independently before coming home with you!
Wing clipping is another decision that has to be made. There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on your personal situation. Unclipped birds can get lots of exercise and escape from other pets in the house if needed. On the other hand, they can also escape outdoors, they can crash into things and they may fly away instead of interacting with you and stop being as tame. Your new budgie or cockatiel may already have clipped wings when it first comes home. Remember, birds moult their feathers once a year, and the wing feathers will grow back, so you can change your mind about wing clipping or not.
Your bird does need a cage or somewhere secure and familiar so it can feel safe, especially at night. Birds want to go to bed when the sun goes down and get up at dawn. Some budgies and cockatiels get quite stressed by lack of sleep.
The cage needs to be made of powder coated/painted wire. Birds tend to go to the highest point in a cage for safety, so a tall, thin cage has much less available space than a short wide one. Most birds love to play with toys and there are lots available. Be careful of toys made of metal, as some types of metal, namely zinc, lead and copper in particular, are toxic. Toys made of rope, wood and stainless steel are the safest. Toxicity often occurs with cheap, flimsy bells and they are best avoided.
Getting the diet right from the very beginning is vital for cockatiels and budgerigars to live long healthy lives. In the wild cockatiels and budgies eat a wide ranging foraging diet. If they only eat seed, because it is very high in fat and low in many vitamins and minerals, obesity and dietary deficiencies will occur. We often find that seed eating budgies and cockatiels do not live to their expected life expectancy, this is a great loss! We recommend a mix of seed, fresh vegies and Vetafarm® bird pellets. Read our Nutrition Information sheets or visit us at Inner South Veterinary Centre. We are always happy to talk bird! Feeding your new budgie or new cockatiel right from the start can improve quality of life and give many extra years!