Budgies are one of the most intelligent birds you can keep as a pet, but this intelligence comes at a cost. Without appropriate enrichment activities to help keep them occupied, budgies can fall into destructive habits such as feather picking and excessive screaming or whistling.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best DIY budgie enrichment ideas you can use to help keep your budgie entertained throughout the day. These ideas are especially important if you spend a lot of time away from home during the day and your budgie is left alone to entertain themselves.
Soothing Sounds to Stimulate the Senses
As a bird species, budgies are sensitive to different kinds of sounds since musical calls, chirps, and whistles are a budgie’s primary form of communication other than body language. As a result of being so attuned to sound, budgies benefit from auditory enrichment.
Here are some ways you can use noise and sound to help provide auditory enrichment for your budgie:
- Play music for your budgie. Many budgies enjoy music and you can get an idea of what types of music your budgie likes to listen to based on his or her responses. When a budgie enjoys a sound, they will let out a happy chirping or thrilling noise. Birds are individuals, so different budgies will enjoy different genres of music.
- Play natural sounds for your budgie. Along with music, budgies enjoy ambient sounds that help emulate their natural environment such as rainforest noises or recordings of other budgies chirping. In the wild, budgies live in extremely large flocks, so providing an ambient sound of other budgies can help them feel happier and more secure.
- Play a recording of your voice. If you have to be separated from your budgie during the day, making some recordings of your voice talking to your budgie or reading a book out loud can help your budgie feel like they have company. Playing recordings on repeat is also a good way to teach a budgie to speak, sing, or whistle certain songs.
- Give them toys that make noise. Many budgies enjoy playing with toys that make a sound, so giving them a crumpled ball of paper to loudly shred or tying a bell to a cat toy can provide both noise and entertainment.
It doesn’t take fancy equipment or toys to give a budgie auditory enrichment. Just exposing the bird to different interesting noises can help keep them entertained.
Fabulous Food to Feed Your Friend
All animals in captivity enjoy food enrichment, which can be broken into two major categories. The first way food can be used as enrichment is by providing a varied diet for your budgie. This gives them plenty of different things to see, smell, taste, and touch. Providing a wide variety of textures and flavours for your budgie can help keep them from getting bored.
The majority of a budgie’s diet should be made up of seeds and pellets. These types of feed mixes are designed to provide maximum nutrition for your bird. However, food enrichment and variety can be provided for budgies in the form of treats.
Treats are typically food items given to the budgie in smaller quantities since they shouldn’t form a major part of the bird’s diet. While treats form a smaller percentage of a budgie’s diet than their main feed mix, fruits and vegetables should still be included in a budgie’s diet daily to provide enrichment and additional nutrition.
Here are some of the best fruits and vegetables to feed your budgie for food enrichment (Source: Pet Budgie):
- Chopped apples
- Chopped pumpkin or pumpkin puree
- Sliced grapes
- Grated carrots
- Chopped parsley
- Chopped broccoli
- Diced mango
- Diced sweet potato or sweet potato mash
- Chopped yellow squash or zucchini
- Baby spinach and other dark leafy greens
Since fruits and vegetables spoil quickly, it’s important that you remove any uneaten fruits and vegetables at the end of the day and replace them with fresh snacks each morning so that your budgie doesn’t get sick from rotten fruits and vegetables. This will also help keep any associated smells in your budgie cage to a minimum.
Along with fruits and vegetables, budgies also need to be provided with occasional protein. This can be offered in cheese chunks, slices of deli lunchmeat, or boiled egg.
Be Your Budgie’s Buddy
Budgies are an extremely social animal, making social enrichment for budgies one of the most important forms of enrichment to provide. Without social enrichment, budgies can become stressed and even begin to exhibit self-destructive behaviors like plucking out their own feathers out of boredom and loneliness.
Here are a few ways that you can provide social enrichment for your budgies:
- Get your budgie a buddy. In the wild, budgies are always found in large groups, so a budgie caged with another budgie will be significantly more relaxed and happier than one left alone in a cage by itself all day. In general, it isn’t recommended to keep a budgie on its own unless you are able to provide hours of interaction for it a day.
- Separate budgies in the house. If you have multiple budgies, separating them in different rooms of the house and allowing them to find each other via their calls can help emulate flock-finding behaviours that budgies would exhibit in the wild. This also gives budgies a chance to explore the home on their own.
- Spend time with your budgie. The best way to provide social enrichment if you only have a single budgie is to spend several hours a day handling and interacting with them. Keep in mind that a budgie has the intelligence of a four-year-old human child, so they require mental stimulation to prevent boredom and unhappiness.
Budgies may not be a large pet, but they still have significant needs when it comes to social enrichment. Providing a social outlet can help result in a much better behaved bird.
Something Smelly to Sniff Out
Birds have a strong sense of smell that helps them find food in the wild that they may not necessarily be able to see. As a result, olfactory or scent-based enrichment can help engage budgies on another sensory level and can help keep them entertained in captivity.
Be aware that many essential oils traditionally used in olfactory enrichment for animals may irritate a bird’s delicate airways and respiratory system. The safest way to provide olfactory enrichment to a budgie is to offer it strongly-scented treats and food to stimulate its sense of smell.
Here are a few examples of aromatic foods you can safely offer your budgie:
- Rosemary stalks
- Springs of mint
- Cut grapefruit
- Sweet-smelling fruit like mangoes or pineapple
- Fresh eucalyptus
Exploring Their Everyday Environment
Along with olfactory enrichment, budgies also appreciate getting visual stimulation through their living environment.
Here are a few ways you can help provide environmental enrichment to budgies (Source: Great Companions):
- Wear bright-coloured clothing. Budgies are visually motivated and enjoy looking at bright colours, so they enjoy it when their owners wear brightly coloured shirts. They’re especially attracted to warm colours that mimic the colours of fruits and flowers in their native habitat, such as yellow and red.
- Move your budgie’s cage around. Since they have wings and have evolved to cover hundreds of miles of territory, captive budgies want to enjoy a change of scenery now and then. Rotating the location where you keep your budgie or carrying your budgie’s cage to your location in the house can keep them entertained.
- Provide foraging opportunities. Hiding a budgie’s treats around their cage or the room where they’re allowed to freely explore can help provide food enrichment, environmental enrichment, and olfactory enrichment with one activity.
Just making sure your budgie has a chance to get out of their cage and experience the wider world regularly can go a long way towards improving their environmental enrichment. Without it, budgies quickly become under-stimulated.
Enrichment for Budgies is Important
While budgies are one of the few domesticated parrots in the world, this doesn’t make enrichment any less important to provide for them. Just like dogs and cats, budgies enjoy the mental stimulation and sensory enjoyment that enrichment activities provide. Making sure your budgie leads an enriching life can ultimately help prevent many behavioural issues in your bird.