Buying and Training Parakeets

Help Buying a Parakeet –
Types of Parakeets to Consider and Tips on Parakeet Training

Buying a Parakeet (Budgie)

We didn’t go to the store to buy our parakeet. Buying a parakeet from a store gets you a different type of bird personality than if you were to buy a parakeet from a breeder. Our pet parakeet happened upon our lives because it was abandoned and clinging to life upside down on a parking lot gate. Since our parakeet was distrusting of fingers, hands and basically anything human-like, we assume this was parakeet was raised in a bird store with hundreds of other parakeets, canaries and parrots. In other words, it learned from birth that its flock was not humans but rather other parakeets, canaries and parrots. Parakeets raised in stores are the cheapest types of parakeets to buy and the more challenging to raise and train. They cost about $20-$25 each. If we had the chance to decide where to buy our parakeet, we would have paid a premium to adopt a handfed and trained parakeet.

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If you have the option, buy a young handfed parakeet. These types of parakeets, which are more expensive at $49 in our local bird store, are best to buy because they are used to and trusting of humans. They’ve already learned to eat from human fingers and human hands, have perched atop them and have become comfortable with humans in general, including the human language. In other words, they already consider humans to be part of their flock.

Another reason to buy a young handfed pet parakeet is that you can teach it and mold it in your own way. You can teach it your words, phrases, mannerisms, your environment and your music in a more seamless manner.

Caution: Do not Leave Your Pet Parakeet Alone All Day
Parakeets are social birds. Buying a parakeet must come with a commitment on your part to understand them and to treat them well. Do not buy a parakeet if your schedule precludes you from being with it for most of the day. Parakeets need flock interaction whether it’s with you or another parakeet. Without social interaction, parakeets will become depressed and possibly sick. With that said, when choosing a young handfed bird as a pet, buy parakeets that are livelier and more playful. Make sure you can make eye contact with them.

How To Tell the Difference Between a Young and Old Parakeet
Before buying a parakeet, it’s important to know how to distinguish a young parakeet budgie from an old parakeet budgie. Buying younger parakeets can be better than buying an older one because, like toddlers, younger parakeets are malleable. A young parakeet has lines above its cere, which is the nose above the beak. The more lines a parakeet has above its cere, the younger it is. If the area above the parakeet’s nose is pure white without lines, then it is unmistakably an older bird. Only a parakeet breeder or avian vet will tell you a parakeets age with certainty.

Parakeet Colors and Sizes
Parakeets are native to Australia where they once were all the same colors: green with undulating patterns of black on their wings and back. These colors were perfect camouflage since they operated over grassy outback plains and lived in eucalyptus trees.

But, in recent times, breeders have affected the color patterns of parakeets which is why we now see pictures of them in many different colors: yellow, blue, red, black and green. However, despite the changing color patterns, everything else about a parakeet is the same whether you bought it in Boston, Bangor or Bakersfield. It still thinks, acts and lives like the green parakeets of the Australian outback.

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Types of Parakeets
There are many different types of parakeets. The ones listed below are only a percentage of all of the different types of parakeets that abound in Australia, Indonesia, India, Central and South America and even the Eastern United States.

Traditional Parakeets
Traditional parakeets are small multi-colored parakeets measuring about 6 inches in length including tail feathers. They are native of Australia. They were all initially green in color but cross-breeding now offers consumers many different color options when choosing a pet parakeet.

English Budgies
An English budgie is no different from any other type of parakeet other than in its size. English budgies have larger bodies and larger heads which tend to go over well at bird shows.

Monk Parakeet (aka Quaker Parakeet)
Monk parakeets are what I like to call Survival of the Fittest Parakeets. These birds are hearty and tough and can live 3x-4x longer than a typical parakeet – up to 35 years of age. They are native to South American mountains and can withstand extreme changes in temperatures. They will survive in Boston-type cold climates like a Barred Parakeet and in arid desert regions, as well. Typically, Monk parakeets are green like their Australian cousins but with grey feathers.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet (aka Hawaiian Parakeet)
The Rose-Ringed Parakeet is known for three quite distinguishable features: a red beak, a black ring around their neck and under their beaks and a size close to 16 inches including tail feathers. In contrast, our typical yellow budgie at home is about 6 inches in length. The parakeet birds are also referred to as Hawaiian Parakeets because they now live there in the wild after a manmade introduction years ago.

Carolina Parakeet
The Carolina Parakeet, the only parakeet type native to the Eastern United States, is now extinct due not to farmer outrage in the late 1800’s when the Carolina Parakeets took advantage of the crops at their disposal. Their chirping and eating was a minor disturbance. In fact, they might have succumbed to poultry disease and a shrinking living space (much of their forest habitat was cut down).

Alexandrine Parakeet
The Alexandrine Parakeet hails from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Southeast Asia. It looks like a small parrot in feature. Its head is green with grayish-blue cheeks. It has two colorful rings: one a black neck ring and the other a pink nape ring. Alexandrine parakeets are quite social with one another, can be heard for miles because of its noisy chatter, and can scream as loud as the Rose-ringed Parakeet but in a much deeper tone.

Barred Parakeets
Barred Parakeets are similar to Monk Parakeets in that they can adapt to extreme changes in weather. In fact, they have been observed enjoying bathes in melted snow puddles. It lives in the mountains and forests high above sea level mostly in Central America and sleep on very high perches in the forest. It’s difficult to discern a male Barred Parakeet from a female one. They are green and black birds.

Blue-Crowned Parakeet
The Blue Crowned Parakeet is a larger type of parakeet measuring almost 14.5 inches in length and is native to South America. They are typically green birds but do have blue foreheads, crowns, cheeks and ears. They like to live in the grasslands and on the outskirts of forests in dry patches.

Green Parakeet
The Green Parakeet is native to Mexico and Nicaragua but have in recent times established habitats in southeast Texas. It has a green body with a yellow beak. It eats seeds, some fruits and corn and thus stays close to swampy forests and woodlands.

Pacific Parakeet
The Pacific Parakeet is native to just Nicaragua and its body is solid green without the black undulated markings of a typical budgie.

Red-Masked Parakeet
The Red-Masked Parakeet looks like a small parrot because of the red Robin from “Batman and Robin” type mask it wears on its face. It’s native to Ecuador and Peru. They are larger birds – about 13 inches in length – but are not as long as the Blue-Crowned Parakeet. Their bodies are bright green and they live on the edges of forests.

Red-Breasted Parakeet
The Red-Breasted Parakeet is native to the many thousands of islands that comprise Indonesia. They have green bodies with a black ring around its nape with a red patch that extends from the nape to the breast. It also has a distinctive black band extending across its cere to each eye, again somewhat reminiscent of Robin from “Batman and Robin”.

Parakeet Training
The first thing to do when training a parakeet is to get it used to your home. First make sure the parakeet has a nice, spacious cage to live in. Their cage will serve not only as their living room, kitchen and bedroom but as their safe sanctuary, as well.

Once your parakeet is comfortable in your home, it is time to hand train it. Always speak softly with your parakeet. Loud noises or sudden actions scare it and will cause it to retreat or, if out of the cage, cause it to fly back into it or into a higher, safer elevation in the home environment. Second, when hand training, always remember to present your fingers parallel to the pet parakeet’s breast. A perpendicular presentation of the fingers will scare it and be viewed as a threat.

If your pet parakeet has been hand-raised, it no doubt is already comfortable with hands and fingers. It might already understand certain English words like “up” especially when presented with fingers approaching its breast in a parallel movement. If your pet parakeet has been store-caged along with hundreds of other budgies, then you probably will have to work a bit more diligently to train it. The finger action and speaking is no different with a handfed or store bought parakeet: parallel presentation of fingers and a soft encouraging voice.

As your fingers approach the parakeet’s breast, lightly nudge the breast while saying “up” at the same time. The parakeet may or may not jump up or step onto your fingers immediately. It depends on its level of training and background. If it doesn’t hop up on your fingers, continue to repeat your motion and encouragement each day. Eventually, it will obey after trust and comfort has been established.

When your pet parakeet does jump up (our Yellow Yorkie first stepped slowly and carefully onto our fingers), reinforce its trust and actions with soft, positive and comforting words, phrases and intonation.

Talking Parakeets
Our little yellow parakeet does not talk yet. We’ve had her 6 months. The reason our parakeet is not a talking parakeet is because she flocked with other parakeets in the beginning of her life and, in addition, she lives in an apartment with a lot of mirrors. Mirrors give the parakeet reason to believe that there are other parakeets in the house. The sliding doors in the corridor have mirrors on their outside surface. The bathroom is all mirrors. And since the apartment is small, we don’t want to keep her confined to an even smaller space even if it means that she might not become a talking parakeet.

But, if you can help it, keep mirrors away from your pet bird parakeet if you want her to talk. If you continue to allow it to bond with the other bird parakeets in the mirror, it will most likely chirp in its own language. Parakeets have the same maturation level of  3 year old toddlers. They are inquisitive, nosy, noisy (sometimes), social yet are not quite at the apex of their logical and reasoning games.

When trying to convert your bird into a talking parakeet, begin early in the morning when it is awake and most alert and make sure there are no disturbances or distractions. Repeat endearing words that begin with hard letters like K, T, B, and a hard C, slowly and clearly. Soft letters like “hello” or “hi” are difficult for them to enunciate. And, yes, parakeets can learn to mimic extraneous environmental sounds like the chirping of other birds and musical tones.

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