How Many Colorful Parakeets Can You Fit in a Cage?
At least once a week, I receive questions from someone who wants to get their first parakeet.  That's great!  I already know the bird will be going to a good home because the person writing wants to learn about the species before they bring one home.  A parakeet isn't a 'starter bird' that can be disposed of when a larger bird comes along.  It shouldn't be an impulse buy.  The title of this column probably sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it is actually one of the more common questions I receive.  This column will help you discover the answers to that and other common questions.

My first bird was a parakeet—the cage for this bird was visible from my crib when I was an infant.  I purchased my first companion animal—a parakeet—as 18-year-old, the day I left home.  She was a wonderful companion!  Angel had a cage, but I never closed the door.  She would come when I called, and spent the majority of her day on my shoulder while I studied my college course materials.  She learned to whistle the tunes I shared with her, but I didn’t know parakeets could talk, so I never tried to teach her any human words.  I have since learned that the companion bird with the best vocabulary was not an African Grey Parrot, but rather a beautiful parakeet!

You do not need to have two birds!  When you have only one bird, it will consider the people in your home as family but when you have two, they tend to bond with each other rather than their humans.  I think the reason some people feel you need to have two is that they work all day and are concerned that their bird will get bored if left home alone.  When I worked outside of the home, I found that the TV or radio is a good companion…but…birds do best when they have the opportunity for nap in the afternoon.  To that end, a simple timer, attached to the radio is a good choice.  You do need to be careful about the selection of radio or TV stations because parakeets, like all talking birds, tend to learn to say whatever you don’t want them to repeat.

If you want your bird to bond with you, you should select a bird that is between 6 and 8 weeks of age.  So how can you tell if you're looking at a young bird? Depending on the color of the bird, a youngster may have black, grey, or brown bars going down its forehead and reaching the cere, or 'nose'.  Most young parakeets have a dark tip at the end of their beak.  This tip gets smaller as they age and is typically gone by the time they are 10-12 weeks old.  Young parakeets tend to have crescent-shaped throat spots while throat spots of older birds are more circular. For dark-eyed birds, the iris is black in a young bird and this iris turns light around the time of their first molt at approximately six months of age. Some red-eyed varieties never get a lighter iris. The photo above depicts a young green parakeet peeking out from behind his cobalt mother.  

Some people will try to tell you that they have hand-raised parakeets.  If you are looking for a good companion, you actually do not want this.  In my experience, hand-raised parakeets tend to be nippy.  But you do want a bird that has been handled from the time it was hatched.  I used to play with my babies every day and had them finger-trained by the time they left my home.  Some people use the term co-parenting which indicates they gave the chicks some meals, but the babies were still placed back with their parents after feeding.  This does raise very gentle birds, so if you can find someone who does this, you will have a spectacular companion!

If you are planning to keep multiple birds, they will be interacting with one another more than with you, so the age is not as critical.  Your only concern with age at this point becomes their lifespan.  Reputable breeders typically band their birds with a closed band that can only be placed on the chick’s leg prior to 10 days of age.  This band will have the year of hatch on it.  I recommend selecting a bird that is no more than a year old.  The bigger problem with getting two birds is personality conflict.  For this reason, if you want to have two birds, you should get them at the same time, preferably siblings who have never been separated from one another.  Nothing can guarantee a disagreement—not gender, age, or anything else. 

When it comes to cages, there is a huge variety!  Your most critical requirement is that the cage bars are close enough together that your bird cannot stick his head through the bars.  For a typical parakeet, that is about ½ inch apart.  The next thing you need to be concerned about is the composition of the cage.  Parakeets chew, so bamboo and wood cages will be chewed through in no time.  The same goes for plastic-coated cage bars.  And, unfortunately, both wood and plastic can block the digestive tract resulting in emergency surgery.  I recommend stainless steel or powder-coating on the cages to prevent the possibility of heavy-metal toxicity.

Many cages have doors that slide up and down. Parakeets are smart and typically learn to slide up the doors within a few months.  Carefully placed stainless steel quick links can resolve this “issue”.  Parakeets do not like to stick their heads into food dishes, so you should avoid those—they’re really designed for canaries and finches.  The largest cage you can afford (with appropriate bar spacing, of course) is what you want—unless you are going to allow your new friend a lot of cage-free time, and even then, bigger is better.  Once you have the cage, be certain to wash it with dish soap (such as Dawn), rinse well, and allow it to dry completely before setting it up for your bird.

If after reading this, you have made the decision that now is not the right time to add a living parakeet to your home, you can still enjoy the beauty of a parakeet by selecting one of more of our lovely parakeet gifts.

1 Comments

Rita Glasel

Date 3/3/2021

This is such a great and informative article. I knew a little bit about budgies over the past few years mainly by trial and error but Beth Anne Is so knowledgeable and I learned so much from her.

Beth Anne Quinlan

Date 3/3/2021

Thank you, Rita!

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