Budgies are flock birds, and they will live happily together. However, an established bird may still get a bit shirty if a new member is introduced to the flock – especially if that flock consists of just one or two birds.
Any new addition will need a period of quarantine, to make sure there are no health issues, and to get all the birds used to each other. For the first four weeks you should keep the new budgie in a separate cage, close to the other birds. This will give everyone a chance to acclimatise. After this time has elapsed, bring the cages close together so that the budgies can make their first beak-to-beak contact.
Maintain this status quo until the birds seem at ease with each other. The first physical contact without bars should take place in the cage the birds are due to occupy together. If this is the already the older bird’s territory, swap the fixtures and fittings around to make it a different, neutral space. Put food stations on both sides of the cage, to allow the budgies to feed separately if they so desire.
Birds of a feather flock together - even in cages
If there is any bickering or squawking, don’t panic – this is natural, and as long as there is no persistent violence taking place, things should quickly calm down once the hierarchy has been established. Offer the birds millet, to take their minds off confrontation via group feeding.
If the birds fight a lot, you may have to keep them apart longer and try again in a week or so. The larger the cage, the easier the transition should be.
Keeping Budgies in Pairs
A pair of budgies will, generally, be happier than a single budgie. They are sociable birds, and in the wild they live in large flocks. Two birds, and a couple of mirrors, will recreate the contact and noise of a flock (albeit a very small one). It would be easy to say ‘the more, the merrier’, but this could be taken as suggesting that happiness increases with the size of the flock, which is neither true nor (for most of us) practical. All your bird needs is a companion, and its socialising needs will be met.
If you are only keeping one bird, you will have to provide all the social stimulation it needs. This means spending as much time as you can with it every day – which is the ideal opportunity for finger-training the budgie, and attempting to teach it a few words and phrases.
How Many Budgies Can Fit in One Cage?
To find out how many birds you can accommodate, you will need to work out the cubic capacity of your cage. This is the height x the length x the width, so that a cage measuring 90cm (35 inches) in all dimensions will be 729,000cm3 (42,875 cubic inches). Each budgie requires 65,000cm3 (4,000 cubic inches), so in a cage of these dimensions you could fit 10 birds. Note: this is the maximum number, and you should always provide as much space as practicalities allow.
If you intend keeping other species of bird with your budgies (see the sections below), adjust the calculations accordingly. Birds of similar size to budgies will require the same space, while a larger bird such as a cockatiel (and you should never introduce anything larger than that to a budgie aviary) will need three times the cubic space of a budgie.
Keeping Male Budgies Together
If your pair are both male, you may get a lot of bickering. Having said that, arguing is all part of the budgie’s social life, so it’s not such a bad thing as long as neither bird is being bullied. The angry noises of bickering budgies may not be music to your ears, however. It is important to realise that buying a budgerigar means bringing noise into the household. This is usually musical and gentle on the ear; but a couple of males with mating season hormones kicking off can be a challenge.
Male budgies can live together happily
There is no way of telling whether this is going to become an issue. When you chose your budgie he was probably in a cage with several other birds, and will have occupied a different social niche to the one he finds himself in as joint occupier of the cage in your house. Only when he and his companion have settled in will you know how contented they’re going to be. Most birds rub along very well; but it’s a potential issue you need to be aware of.
If you’re very unlucky, and one of the birds becomes bullied and his health suffers as a result, you will have to accommodate a second cage and separate the budgies. It’s worth underlining that this is a very uncommon dilemma.
Keeping Male and Female Budgies Together
Many keepers recommend keeping a cock and hen, if you’re limiting yourself to just two budgies. They will tend to live together very amicably, with the important proviso that at some point their thoughts are going to turn to mating. If you don’t want to add budgie chicks to your aviary, you can quell the call of nature by making sure there are no potential nesting holes in the cage (i.e. anything in the cage with a hollow, including coconut shells or other toys that could be adapted into nests). If the tools are not available, two (or more) birds can live happily and celibately together.
Neutering your budgies is not a good option. Such a small bird is likely to die as a result of such an operation.
Keeping Female Budgies Together
Most of the myths about hen budgies being more aggressive than males and keen to peck each others’ eyes out – you’ll meet this kind of thing in some pre-1970s budgie literature – have been rejected for the sexist nonsense they are. Hens can cohabit perfectly well, and will actually squabble slightly less than males as a rule.
Hen budgies can cohabit happily too
Factors that may upset this equilibrium include the later addition of a male to a pair of hens. There is probably not a species in the animal kingdom that would fail to fall out in those circumstances. Come the mating season, hormones will surge and three will definitely be a crowd. The same principle applies to two males and a single female. Three females? No problem.
Keeping Budgies With Other Birds
Budgies will mix happily with other small birds, including their fellow Australians the cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), and many other small parrots, parakeets and lorikeets. Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) generally get along with budgies too.
Popular pet birds that should not be kept with budgerigars include all parrots larger than cockatiels; love birds (family Agapornis), which, despite their name, have been known to bite chunks out of other species; the Common Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis) ; and (unless you have a huge aviary) canaries (Serinus canaria domestica).
One important issue when keeping different species together is space, and the availability of places to escape from the noise and bustle. The birds will also need room to fly and explore every nook and cranny of the cage without constantly bumping into each other or stealing limited perching space. Any harassed bird needs somewhere to retreat until the heat dies down – a high perch, a box, a quiet corner – and this, again, requires space. If your birds are being kept in an outdoor aviary, space will be less of an issue.
Budgies and cockatiels usually get along just fine
Another important detail is food. Budgies and other species of cage bird have their own specific dietary requirements. All the occupants of the cage or aviary need to be catered for. You will need to watch their behaviour closely, to check (for example) that a greedy cockatiel isn’t stealing one particular item of the budgie’s diet. Also, cockatiels need plenty of oily seeds such as sunflower in their diet, and although the occasional nibble isn’t going to harm your budgie, you will need to make sure he isn’t eating too many of them. Obesity and liver disease are the hazards here.
Budgies and other small parrots are intelligent birds. Intelligence is a double-edged sword – it makes for a very satisfying pet, but it also makes each animal different. A budgie may be forthcoming, shy, easy going or slightly aggressive, depending on his personality. This will always have an impact on the equilibrium of any birdcage. Tempers tend to reach a pitch when the birds are nesting.
The nightmare scenario is of an easily intimidated budgie lodging with an intimidating parakeet. In these circumstances you will have to intervene, for the good of all the cage’s occupants. Have spare cages on standby. The truth is, you are unlikely to meet with any cohabiting problems; but it pays to be prepared.
Keeping Budgies and Finches Together
Budgies and Zebra finches live alongside in their natural Australian habitat, and should get on just fine in a cage or aviary. Make sure the cage is big enough to accommodate the number of birds you put in it – that’s the golden rule. If the budgies feel crowded, they may take it out on the finches.
Before inflicting cohabitation on budgies and any finch or finch-sized bird offered via the mainstream pet trade, consult an expert on the subject of compatibility. Species such as the Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora), Nutmeg mannikin (Lonchura punctulata), white-backed munia (Lonchura striata) and Double-barred finch (Stizoptera bichenovii) are fine; but there are many other species offered too, so always check.
Budgies and Zebra finches make happy cage-mates
Keeping Budgies and Canaries Together
You often see these birds alongside each other in large park or zoo aviaries. If there is lots of space, you can get away with it. In more confined quarters, even using the cubic-cm-per-bird calculation given above, budgies tend to bully canaries. The latter are fragile little things, and can easily be killed by the stronger bird.
Keeping Budgies and Quail Together
If the budgies and other birds are being kept outdoors, they can share their space with quails. The commonest types available in Europe are the tiny Chinese painted quail, aka the Button quail or King quail (Coturnix chinensii), and the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). These will scuttle about on the aviary floor in a separate little world of their own, and will be unfazed by the noise and madness going on above them.
Keeping Budgies in Separate Cages
It may be necessary to keep budgies apart if one of them is being bullied, or if one is being overly aggressive. Mating birds will need their own space too (see the section on Mating budgies, below).
If you have a couple of smaller cages rather than one big one, that’s fine, as long as there isn’t just one bird in each. They will get frustrated when the bars prevent them from interacting in their usual tactile way. If there is more than one budgie in each cage, you should be fine; but watch their behaviour closely to make sure no one is getting overly frustrated by the partition. If it becomes a problem, the cages will have to be moved further apart, or you will have to invest in a single, large cage.
If you are introducing a new bird to an existing set up, settling him in with a separate cage is a good idea. Place it close to the established birds so that they can all get used to each other. This is particularly important if your addition is a young bird, as he will be very nervous to begin with, and easily bullied.
Keeping Budgies Warm in Winter
Budgies evolved in Australia, so they’re used to a bit of heat. They’re not built to withstand cold, though (which is why escaped birds never survive very long in northern Europe). Indoor birds should not be kept in a cold, unheated room during the winter. Anything below 8C will feel chilly to them. In general, if the ambient temperature is comfortable for you, it will be comfortable for your budgie.
It’s not all guesswork, though. You can tell if a budgie is feeling the cold, as he will sit with his feathers fluffed up for long periods (conversely, if too hot he will sit with his wings away from his body and his beak open). Keeping a cover over the cage at night will help retain heat.
If your budgie is ailing in any way, he will be more prone to feeling the cold. Make sure his diet is always top-notch, and you’ll be giving your bird and his immune system the best possible start as the winter months close in. In the winter you’ll need to check the birds’ water regularly too, to make sure it’s not frozen.
Budgies are happy outdoors, as long as they're warm enough
If the budgies are indoors, central heating will solve the problem, especially if you have temperature regulators on each radiator. If you have other forms of heating, just make sure the room is as sealed as possible when you retire at night, to minimise draughts and temperature plunges. Good double-glazing will reduce the risk of an overnight freeze.
An open fire to heat an indoor room isn’t hazardous to budgies, (as long as all the smoke is going up the chimney). If this is the only source of heat, however, the room will soon cool down during the night; so, again, make sure the room is kept as cosy as possible.