Do you want to know how to entertain your pet budgie? A lot of people never ask themselves this question because they don’t think about it, but the truth is that most birds are bored.
Some people say that budgies should be given a mirror or a bird bath, but those ideas lack creativity and can get boring quickly. This comprehensive guide to budgie enrichment will cover some easy ways for you to keep your budgie entertained and happy.
Budgies are social creatures and need a lot of interaction to stay happy. They also have the intelligence of a 4-year-old child, so they require daily mental stimulation too. Providing quality enrichment to your pet budgie will ensure that it is a cheerful, lively companion for years to come.
So what can you do for your budgie? Read on to discover the different types of enrichment recommended for your budgie, including examples of activities to use and the side effects of overlooking enrichment.
What is Enrichment?
Enrichment is a critical aspect of having any type of pet or companion animal. It is an essential service that you provide or involve your pet in. Often, enrichment focuses on several things, including:
Enrichment should centre on naturally occurring and instinctual behaviours that are found in the wild.
Animals that have a sufficient level and variation of daily enrichment will have better mental and physical health and be better able to handle stressors. Enrichment can even develop and hone natural behaviours for animals in captivity.
Budgies are no exception to needing enrichment, and due to the advanced intellect of these animals, they need a vast array of it to thrive. Plan to spend time every day with your budgie providing different types of enrichment and lots of attention.
Why Environmental Enrichment is Important for Budgies
This type of enrichment is dedicated to recreating what life could be like for animals outside of captivity and is common across all species and types of captivity. Owners and zookeepers understand the importance of recreating natural behaviours to keep their animals happy.
Their living space should be adjusted to reflect real-life environments and be changed often. Budgies live in the wild in Australian grasslands and are more than capable of surviving in nature.
Environmental enrichment stimulates the budgie’s brain with its physical surroundings. There are many types of environmental enrichment available, and many reasons that this is important for budgies.
The Science Behind Environmental Enrichment
Birds can develop dangerous and self-harming behaviours, like feather plucking. These parakeets experienced a reduction in their feather-plucking behaviours when environmental enrichment was provided consistently.
Stereotyped behaviours are atypical, and zoos usually take these behaviours to mean that the animal’s mental health is not in optimal condition.
A lot of research backs up the idea of enrichment providing various benefits to birds. This study shows a link between increased environmental enrichment and a decline in physical and behavioural issues in birds, parrots specifically. Increased opportunity for natural behaviours such as foraging has been shown to result in increased motivation and entertainment for the parrots, eliminating some behaviours caused by boredom.
There are two main areas of environmental enrichment that are important to know for budgies. These include the physical cage/home of the budgie and additions for increased and varied enrichment.
Budgies Require a Specific Type and Size of Cage
Environmental enrichment is especially important for animals that are in captivity, like a budgie in a cage. These types of enclosures can become predictable and monotonous for highly intelligent species.
Budgies are also a small bird, so the cage has to reflect that. The horizontal bars should be no further than ½ inch wide. Any larger, and they run the risk of getting their heads or wings stuck between the bars.
The minimum acceptable cage size for one budgie is 12x18x18 inches. This is only sufficient to meet the budgie’s environmental needs if it is frequently allowed outside of the cage to fly. If not, a larger cage is required to provide room for flight.
For multiple budgies, here are the recommended minimum cage sizes:
|Number of budgies||Recommended cage size (inches)|
If the birds cannot free-fly outside of their cages, consider increasing the cage size to where your budgie can comfortably take flight for up to two feet of distance.
For additional budgie numbers, try this online calculator tool to estimate the needed cage size.
Budgies need environmental enrichment daily, whether that is a change in cage location or the addition/switch of something in their cage.
What Happens to Budgies Without Environmental Enrichment?
Many zoos use this type of enrichment to keep their animals from engaging in “stereotyped behaviour.” These are abnormal behaviours, and for budgies they can include:
- Pecking out feathers
- Rocking back and forth
There is evidence that environmental enrichment can prevent cognitive decline in animals. There is similar evidence found in the increase of teens’ brain synapses in captive mice, and laboratory birds, after enrichment activities.
As your budgie ages, providing this environmental enrichment may help them stay sharp and healthy for a longer period of time by building connections in their brain.
Without environmental enrichment, animals in captivity can experience a decline in mental and physical health. Budgies are no exception, and environmental enrichment is key to providing a happy home and a healthy budgie.
Ideas for Environmental Enrichment Activities for your Budgie
Making sure your budgie has variety in their physical environment is the most important part of this enrichment. This can include moving the budgie’s cage around to different locations in your home for a change of scenery.
Let your Budgie Experience the Outdoors
Consider placing the cage near a window where your budgie can observe the changes that happen outdoors, particularly something interesting like a street or other feeder/tree where birds may hang out.
This environmental change can also provide visual enrichment, which is important to budgies too.
If you are able, budgies love to be (safely) outside. Consider placing their cage on a screened-in porch or even in the yard. If in the yard, place their cage within a larger cage or have a covering to protect the budgies from other animals like:
- Birds of prey
- Raccoons (USA)
- Possums (USA)
There should be enough of a gap between the budgie cage and the exterior shell that the other animals cannot reach the budgies and harm them.
If you are unable to provide the extra layer of security with a second cage or screen, simply stay outside with your budgies to keep them safe. Assuming that you have tamed and trained your budgie to fly back to you, of course.
Add Excitement to your Budgie’s Cage
Budgies need a variety of environmental stimulation in addition to other enrichment activities. Budgies enjoy things like:
Below are a few examples of environmental enrichment activities for your budgie and the benefits.
|Benefit to your budgie||Enrichment idea|
|Increase grip strength||Provide a variety of perches and stands in the cage. This will help exercise your budgie’s feet and keep them strong|
|Provide a quiet, safe place||Add a bird tent to the cage to provide a secure nesting space for your budgie to hide out|
|Mental stimulation- encourage natural shredding behavior||Create a coffee filter pompom to hang in the cage for your budge to shred|
Budgies should also be provided room for flight, as this is an excellent form of exercise and will keep them engaged and alert. If their cage doesn’t provide enough space for them to fly freely, consider letting them take flight in a safe space of your house for at least an hour every day.
Adding fresh tree branches with actively growing leaves and buds can provide hours of environmental entertainment for your budgie. They can chew on the bark and leaves or perch on the branches.
Make Sure to Provide Auditory Enrichment to Your Budgie
Anything that your budgie can hear is auditory enrichment. This includes sounds inside and outside of your home from any number of sources. In the wild, birds use sound for a variety of different things, including:
- Warning calls
- Locating food
- Listening for predators
- Finding members of their flock
- Finding a mate
All of these instinctual and natural behavioiurs in the wild need to be emulated in captivity. Auditory enrichment is important in the health and happiness of your budgie and should be added every day.
Budgie Sounds – How They Communicate
Birds love to communicate, as have their ancestors for thousands of years. There are various studies like this one that demonstrate captive birds’ reason for music. Their flying speed increased, as well as their singing with the addition of different types of music.
Your budgie will enjoy auditory enrichment too. They can make various sounds, including:
- Speaking words
Budgies aren’t as well-known as their macaw and cockatoo counterparts for speech, but some can develop a clear and varied vocabulary and will communicate with their humans. In fact, the Guinness World Record for the bird with the most extensive vocabulary ever goes to a budgie! Puck was a budgie in California who knew an estimated 1,728 words at the time of his death in 1994.
Budgies not only have a wide range of sounds and options for communication, but they also have excellent hearing.
The Importance of Auditory Enrichment for Budgies
Auditory enrichment provides opportunities for your budge to practice natural and instinctual behaviors. These species-specific behaviours are the cornerstone of enrichment of all types, and it’s important to provide these opportunities for your budgie throughout the day.
What Happens To A Budgie Without Auditory Enrichment?
Birds will become bored without auditory enrichment. They may “scream” or squawk incessantly for long periods to fill the silence. This is not ideal for you, your neighbours, or any other budgies in your care.
Budgies may be trying to find an outlet for their instinctual behaviours, and this can manifest in an unpleasant or unwanted way. For example, many bird owners complain that their pets are louder in the early morning hours than at any other time of the day.
There’s a good chance this is an instinctual habit, and many birds may not even be doing it intentionally. In the wild, many birds wake up and immediately begin to communicate to locate their flock. As an owner, you may be unintentionally encouraging this natural behaviour by greeting your budgie first thing in the morning and eliciting a response.
To avoid these behaviours provided guided auditory enrichment at specific times throughout the day.
Ideas for Auditory Enrichment Activities for your Budgie
To eliminate the “good morning” squawks that occur too early, try setting a timer with any of the following options:
- Rainforest noises
- Parakeet chirps
- A recording of your voice
You can control the volume of these recordings. Hopefully, your budgie will get a sufficient amount of comfort and auditory enrichment to make for a more peaceful morning transition for everyone involved.
If you are going to be away from home for a period of time, leave the radio or tv on, preferably tuned to a nature station like Animal Planet or the Travel Channel. Birds will often interact with the sounds they hear, and this will provide easy enrichment while you’re away.
There are also YouTube videos and channels created especially for birds to listen to that play for hours. These have happy bird and nature sounds to provide entertainment for your budgie.
It’s important to note that you may want to “filter” things that your budgie hears. Much like young children, they will begin to “parrot” terms and may just decide to add them to their regular repertoire of sounds. If there is something specific you’d rather not have your budgie pick up on, don’t expose them to it!
Providing Food-Based Enrichment for Budgies is Easy and Fun
Food-based enrichment is another type of enrichment that can be incorporated easily into the daily activity and interaction with your budgie. There are various benefits of this type of enrichment, including:
- Mental stimulation
- Physical stimulation
- Diet diversification
Providing food-based enrichment can strengthen the bird-owner bond with your budgie and will keep them entertained and healthy with a varied diet.
The Importance of Food-based Enrichment for Budgies
In the wild, budgies find food in many different ways. They generally feed on seeds, bugs, and nuts found in grasslands. Keeping your budgies in tune with their natural behaviours by providing food-based enrichment will keep them entertained and happy.
Utilising food-based enrichment is essential for birds. They are natural foragers, so including this activity in their daily lives will have various benefits, including emulating natural behaviours and the subsequent increased physical activity, and will encourage their natural behaviours and instincts, which is always a goal of captive animals.
Seeds and pellets are the usual staples in a budgie’s diet. Adding fresh, colourful fruits, vegetables, and various nuts can enrich your budgie’s diet and daily life.
What Happens to Budgies Without Food-based Enrichment?
It’s important to introduce a variety of new foods for your budgie consistently.
Providing the same food daily for your budgie is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the nutritional requirements are met. However, your budgie will likely become bored and may end up being disinterested in the food, leading to malnutrition.
A seed-only diet may seem like the most inexpensive and easiest option for your budgie, but this can be dangerous. Many nuts are high in fat and can contribute to obesity and other health issues in budgies. Nuts also lack essential minerals and proteins that your budgie needs to be healthy.
Ideas for Food-based Enrichment Activities for Budgies
Fruits and vegetables provide an endless number of options for new treats for your budgie. You can experiment with different elements including:
All of these will provide enhanced food-based enrichment for your budgie. Below are a few enrichment ideas to try.
|Benefit to your budgie||Enrichment idea|
|Encourage natural feeding behaviours||Provide nuts still in the shell to your budgie, and they will have to work to open the shell and get to the nut inside|
|Encourage mental stimulation||Hide treats from your budgie by wrapping them in paper; enhance difficulty by tying closed with a short piece of cotton rope or sisal twine|
|Replicate forest floor foraging||Cut a piece of a grass doormat to your desired size, and sprinkle seeds, nuts, millet, or crushed up treats for your budgie to forage and dig out|
|Encourage physical stimulation||Hang leafy greens or roots (like carrots) from the top of the cage or between bars; this will make your budgie have to stretch, reach, and work physically to get their food|
There are also popular puzzle toys that can provide food-based enrichment for your budgie like this foraging feeder or bird-safe fruit and veggie skewers to hang treats in their cage. A combination of all of these ideas will provide endless entertainment for you and your budgie.
Olfactory Enrichment in Birds is Often Overlooked
Olfactory enrichment has to do with scents and odours that your budgie is exposed to. These are familiar smells in the household or specific scents that you introduce to the budgie.
Currently, there are not many studies or science-based informative articles on the efficacy and necessity of olfactory enrichment in birds. Your budgie’s safety is a priority, and it’s important to understand the risks involved in providing olfactory enrichment. Some types of essential oils are harmful to birds and other pets so make sure you check before using one.
The Science Behind Olfactory Enrichment for Budgies
Birds do have a strong sense of smell; this helps them detect food in the wild. Budgies are no different, and adding some quality olfactory enrichment can provide entertainment and help in emulating behaviours and responses found in the wild.
This study found that birds could discern between packages with food hidden inside and without and overwhelmingly became interested in the packages that contained food, learning new cues and olfactory responses to stimuli placed in their environment. They would forage and complete challenges for food-based rewards due to the scents in the packages.
The Importance of Olfactory Enrichment for Budgies
All types of enrichment are important for budgies. Incorporating olfactory enrichment can be as simple as adding in a strongly scented piece of fruit or vegetable to a budgie’s meal. This can help stimulate their olfactory senses similar to the wild and provide a new, novel experience to keep them entertained.
Ideas for Olfactory Enrichment Activities for Budgies
Provide non-absorbable olfactory enrichment, and be sure to provide only pure or natural ingredients for your budgie. If using essential oils, high quality is a must. There are good reports of the Young Living brand being a safer choice than drugstore brands.
There are several options for providing olfactory enrichment to your budgie. This may include placing a scented piece of cloth outside of the budgie’s cage. You can also rub a strongly scented food item on the budgie’s perch or other areas in the cage.
Below are a few ideas for olfactory enrichment and what they provide.
|Olfactory benefit to your budgie||Enrichment idea|
|Provide novel scents to your budgie||Diffuse bird-safe essential oils near the budgie cage|
|Provide new scents through toys||Scent a favourite toy in the budgie’s cage with a new smell|
|Provide new scents through food||Sprinkle some strongly scented, edible treats in the budgie’s cage|
Some ideas for safe and smelly treats for your budgie include:
- Rosemary stalks
- Mint leaves
Mix up the scent you are providing your budgie, and change the method you are using to deliver the scents. This enrichment will keep your budgie interested and enriched, and you may find something that they love.
Social Enrichment is Vital for Budgies
Birds are highly social animals. It is not recommended that you only have one budgie in a cage. They do best with at least two budgies together and more if you have space. If you choose not to have a companion for your budgie, you will need to make sure to provide consistent and very frequent enrichment and socialisation to your budgie.
This study lists the benefits of sufficient social interaction (from humans or other birds) for budgies, which includes:
- Learning new vocalisations
- Feeling protected
- Lowering stress levels
- Decreasing feather-plucking behaviours
If you work or are away from home all day, consider getting two budgies, so they are not alone throughout the day.
The Importance of Social Enrichment for Budgies
Budgies are still found in the wild and live within large flocks across the grasslands of Australia. They engage in social behaviours both in the wild and in captivity. These behaviours include:
- Preening one another
- Serenading and chirping
- Playing and exercising together
It’s important to provide the opportunity for these behaviours to occur in the home, whether it is from you or another budgie.
Budgies also mate for life. One study found that budgies could recognise their mates even after being separated for 70 days. The bonds they create are important and memorable, and it’s important to provide social enrichment to your budgie.
What Happens to Budgies Without Social Enrichment?
If you have two budgies and one of them dies, they can grieve. Budgies can live for fifteen years, which means they could be bonded to their companion for quite some time. Without their partner and social enrichment, budgies can start to exhibit grief symptoms that include:
- Obsessive behaviours
- Increased aggression or biting behaviours
- Prolonged searching/calling for the other budgie
- Loss of appetite or change in feeding behaviour
None of these behaviours are good for your budgie. The good news is that budgies will often easily accept a new cage-mate if introduced properly. This is the best way to ensure your budgie is getting sufficient social enrichment daily.
Ideas for Social Enrichment Activities for Budgies
Besides simply having two (or more) budgies together for social interaction, you can provide enhanced enrichment opportunities for your budgies.
Let them out of the cage to fly around in the same space or same room for a while. Your budgies will enjoy exploring new spaces together and will often communicate with one another as they search around.
You can also separate your budgies by placing them in different rooms. Let them explore on their own, and then see how long it takes for them to begin chirping to one another and reunite.
This will emulate naturally occurring flock behaviours and provide an easy, hands-free social enrichment to both of your budgies.
Human Interaction Enrichment is Important for Lone Budgies
The human-bird bond is not well understood but has grown in importance. This study developed a brand-new scale, the Owner-Bird Relationship Scale (OBRS), to understand the importance of human interaction with pet birds. The four main areas are:
- Owners anthropomorphising their bird
- Social support that bird supplies to owner
- Empathy and attentiveness of owner to the bird
- Relationship of the bird toward the owner
So, while your budgie is important in filling and meeting some human needs, we are also important to them.
Enrichment by human interaction is important for all pet budgies, but even more so if you choose to only have one budgie.
With a single budgie, you must become the budgie’s flock and main companion. It’s also important to start this experience soon after you get your budgie, so you can form an effective and strong bond that lasts a lifetime.
The Importance of Human Interaction Enrichment for Budgies
Without another budgie, you become the sole companion to your pet. Budgies require 5-8 hours of interaction and entertainment each day, so be prepared to dedicate a significant portion of your day to provide a happy life for your budgie.
If you have more than one budgie, they will get continual interaction throughout the day, and you can get by with spending only an hour or two with them per day.
What Happens to a Budgie Without Human Interaction Enrichment?
If you have multiple budgies and provide them with consistent forms of other enrichment, they will likely not miss out on your human interaction very much because all their other needs are being met.
They will, however, be much less tame. This can lead to unwanted behaviors such as biting, or the inability to let them out of their cage for exercise.
Ideas of Human Interaction Activities for Budgies
Bonding with your budgie is important. You can provide a variety and a combination of other necessary enrichment just by being with your budgie, whether you have a single or multiple. Some examples of these enrichments are below.
|Type of Enrichment||How to provide it|
|Visual enrichment||Your budgie will recognise you visually, and by switching your clothing to brighter colours, you can provide visual enrichment|
|Auditory enrichment||Speaking or singing to your budgie can mimic vocalisations it would normally have in the wild|
|Environmental enrichment||By taking your budgie with you around the house, you easily provide new environmental stimuli and enrichment|
|Olfactory enrichment||Your own scents can provide enrichment to your budgie. Consider altering your perfumes or scented products to provide different scents to your budgie|
You can also spend time teaching your budgie tricks. Here’s my list of 17 easy and fun tricks you can train your budgie to perform.
Build a Better Bond with your Budgie Through Enrichment
There are many types of necessary enrichment for your budgie. Providing this enrichment will ensure that your budgie is healthy both mentally and physically.
Luckily, many of these different kinds of enrichment have crossover and can be a simple and fun way to engage with your pet.
- Visual and food-based enrichment can combine easily with brightly colored fruits and vegetables to meet both needs.
- Environmental and auditory enrichment pair easily, with relocating the cage to a different area.
- Human interaction can provide varying degrees of all of the other types of enrichment.
Try out some of the activities listed throughout the article, and be confident that you are providing the best life for your budgie.Got a budgie? Then read this article all about Budgie Enrichment: Practical Guide on How to Entertain Your Budgerigar Click To Tweet
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Keeping Budgie’s Happy FAQs
What budgie cage size would be correct for one budgie?
A 12″L x 18″W x 28″H budgie cage would be appropriate size for one bird, but make sure to get a few toys and perches inside the cage in addition to food dishes so it can stay entertained!
Can flightless budgies be happy?
Yes! Flightless budgies are just as happy and healthy, but they will need a different type of cage set up that has plenty of toys and ladders to climb.
Why is my pet bird climbing the bars of his cage so much?
Birds like to climb the bars of their cage because it helps keep them occupied and away from getting too bored. If your bird is climbing a lot you should try giving him more toys inside his cage or moving some old perches around so he can have different types of ways to play.
What kind of toys do budgies like?
Budgies love to play with bells, mirrors, swings or anything that they can chew on.
Can I get a single budgie?
You can get a single budgie, but they are happier when you give them friends. Budgies seem to be happiest in mixed sex pairs and will most likely not live as long if kept alone.
How can I keep my budgie entertained?
There are lots of things you can do to keep him entertained inside or outside the cage. A bird will always be happiest when he has plenty to chew on, climb and interact with.
How can I make my budgie happy?
Give your budgie a variety of toys to play with. It’s best if they can chew on things too, such as wood and paper towel roll tubes or untreated wooden blocks. If you’re not sure what type of toy to give him, try some bells or mirrors! Budgies always seem happy when they are looking at themselves or hearing new sounds.
How do you tell if a budgie is happy?
A budgie might be happy if it is:
• Chewing on and playing with toys in its cage.
• Eating food from a dish or pellet feeder.
• Telling you to pet him by bowing his head down when he sees you coming over, whistling at your footsteps, or hopping up to meet your hand.
• Bristling its feathers, which is a sign of happiness when done by a male budgie.