Choosing Your Parakeet
How do you choose the Parakeet that’s right for you?
There are many decisions to make when choosing a parakeet. You will want to read as much as possible about the bird before picking one. Talk to several breeders and see what suggestions they have for you. Do you want a male or a female? Do you want one or two? Do you want a breeding pair? You will probably have a few answers to these questions already but the breeder will be happy to help you with the rest. The following tips will also help you when choosing your parakeet.
Observing the Parakeets as a Group at the Pet Store or Breeder Facility
Take a look at the birds as a group. Are they lively and alert? Do they look healthy? Is their cage clean? Does any particular bird seem more interested in you than the others?
Do You Want a Bird That Will Talk?
Male parakeets are more vocal and more likely to talk and sing. A pet store employee might not be able to tell you which birds are male or female. A breeder will be able to help you discern male from female. You will also want to listen to the birds for a while and see who is the most vocal of the group.
What are the Differences Between Male and Female?
As stated above, males are more vocal and have a greater ability to learn to mimic human speech. Females need to nibble and chew more because they dig holes in trees for a nest in the wild.
Both sexes enjoy being cuddled and spending time with humans but the female seems to be more playful and easygoing.
How to Tell a Male from a Female
You can often recognize a male adult parakeet because they have blue waxlike covering on the top of the upper beak around the nostrils – called the cere. It’s beige or brown on females. Unfortunately, this change doesn’t appear until birds get older.
Until young birds go through their first molt at around the age of three to four months, it is hard to tell if they are male or female.
Young females also have a tendency to be more aggressive than males.
Weaned or Unweaned
Unless you are experienced with raising birds, you will want to buy only birds that have been weaned. Hand feeding unweaned birds should be left to the experts. It takes a lot of time and effort to hand feed a bird and you must make sure he is getting enough of the proper nutrients.
Even newly weaned birds might be a problem. The stress of coming to a new home might cause them to revert to babyhood and they can actually starve to death if the new owner doesn’t pay enough attention to the bird or is unaware of the problem. The bird might look like it’s eating when in actuality it might only be playing with its food.
I don’t recommend that you take on the responsibility of an unweaned bird. However, if you are sure you can handle hand feeding an unweaned bird, spend some time with the breeder or pet store and learn the proper way to hand feed a bird. You must learn how to prepare the food, check the temperature of the food, and feed the bird. Be sure you use the same food that the breeder is using.
You must be sure the food is the correct temperature so that you do not burn the bird’s crop during feeding. Also if the food temperature is not what the bird is used to, it may refuse to eat.
How you hold the bird during feeding can also lead to the bird’s refusal to eat. This is why it is so imperative that you feed the bird a few times while in the presence of the breeder so he can offer suggestions.
The breeder will also be able to assist you in filling the syringe with the correct amount of food, showing you how to correctly feed the bird, and how much to place in the bird’s crop. Overfilling of the crop could lead to problems. The bird could choke or develop pneumonia. Training with the breeder is very, very important. Only experienced bird owners should attempt to hand feed unweaned parakeets.
Should You Get One or Two Birds?
Whether or not you choose to buy one or more birds is up to you. If you want to breed parakeets, then of course you will need at least one pair. However, it’s very important to make sure that your breeding pair isn’t related.
Parakeets by nature are very social birds. They are happier if they can develop a strong bond with a human or another parakeet. If you really don’t want to breed but are afraid your parakeet may be lonely, you will want to consider whether to get two birds of the same sex or one of each.
If you decide to get two birds, remember the other changes that will come with the second bird. You’ll need a bigger cage, you’ll have double the vet bills, etc.
Young parakeets often like to chase each other around and playfully tug on each other’s tail feathers. Unfortunately, the tail feathers come out. Don’t worry, they’ll grow back.
Things to Look For in a Healthy Parakeet
When you’re trying to choose a parakeet, take a close look at all the birds. Some important things to look for are:
- An attentive, straight posture. The bird should be interested in its surroundings. It should be active. Don’t consider puffed- up birds or birds that look sleepy.
- Twinkling eyes that do not have any discharge. The eyes should be alert and clear with no swelling.
- A smooth beak. Also, the upper and lower parts of the beak should meet with no suggestions of separation.
- Smooth, colorful feathers without frayed ends. There should not be any bare patches.
- Clean, dry nasal passages. The nostrils should not have any blockages and should be approximately the same size and shape.
- The feet should have all its toes. The bird needs to be able to grip its perch or your finger firmly. Young birds feet should be smooth and soft. An older birds feet may be more scaly but not excessively so. A foot that is missing a toe is not something to be extremely worried about, it will make no difference if you are buying a pet quality bird but will keep the bird out of any competitions.
- Breathing should be normal. Make sure there is no wheezing or snorting.
- Will the bird sit on your finger? Ask to handle the bird to see if he is friendly. Does he show good social behavior or does he bite? Is it scared or interested?