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Parakeet

Parakeet Care Sheet

Melopsittacus undulatus
Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Parakeets, also called budgerigars or budgies, are small members of the parrot family. Native to Australia, where they live in flocks of hundreds to thousands, budgies have become one of the most popular pet birds. They can become good mimics, and with practice, they can learn to speak numerous words.

Table of contents

Typical parakeet appearance and behavior

  • Parakeets are social, friendly birds who can easily be hand-tamed
  • They recognize and are very responsive to their caretakers
  • Small-bodied with long, slender tails, they are generally docile and easy to handle 
  • While native parakeets are green, domestically bred budgies may be yellow, blue, white, gray or combinations of these colors 
  • The name “parakeet” means “songbird with wavy lines,” referring to the wavy-looking black lines of feathers that cover their heads and bodies 
  • The black lines of feathers (or “bars”) across the tops of their heads extend all the way down to the tops of their beaks when they are born and recede as they age; these bars are slowly replaced by solid-colored feathering on their heads by 3–4 months of age, after their first molt 
  • By about 10 months of age, male and female parakeets can be differentiated by the color of the skin around their nostrils, called the cere, which is blue in males and brownish pink in females 
  • Parakeets make a variety of sounds, including chirps, clicks, trills, whistles and chatters 
  • Parakeets can be kept alone to bond with pet parents or in multiples to bond with each other; different types of birds should not be housed together 

Parakeet characteristics

Care Difficulty Beginner
Average Life Span 10–12 years with proper care
Average Adult Size 7” long, from head to end of tail
Diet Herbivorous
Minimum Habitat Size 18” W x 18” D x 18” H

Habitat

Habitat size 

Provide the largest habitat possible for your parakeet. A habitat approximately 18" W x 18" D x 18" H, with metal bars spaced no greater than 1/2" apart, is the minimum size of habitat for one parakeet. 

Building your habitat

Parakeets acclimate well to average household temperatures, not to drop below 65°F or to exceed 80°F; be cautious of extreme temperature changes. The habitat should be placed off the floor in a well-lit area away from drafts and out of reach of any other pets. Ensure there are no habitat parts or toys with lead, zinc, other potentially toxic heavy metals or lead-based paints or galvanized parts, as these can cause serious medical issues if birds ingest them. 

  • Perches: Perches should be at least 4" long and 3/8" in diameter; a variety of perch diameters is required to exercise your bird’s feet and help prevent pressure sores from developing on their soles. Sandpaper covers on perches are abrasive to the bottom of feet and are not recommended 
  • Habitat liner: A metal grate over the habitat bottom will allow droppings to fall away from the your bird’s feet and keep the habitat cleaner; line the tray in the habitat bottom with habitat paper or other paper-based products to ease cleanup and minimize dust 
  • Feeders: Provide separate food dishes for dry food, fresh food and water; if housing more than one parakeet in a single habitat, provide multiple feeding stations to reduce competition 
    • To avoid contaminating food dishes with droppings, do not place food or water containers directly under perches 
    • Water dishes should be large enough for birds to bathe in; birds who don’t bathe regularly can be misted gently a few times a week with warm water from a plant mister to maintain healthy plumage 
  • Toys: Birds are very intelligent, so they need to be able to forage for food and other objects, as well as to play with toys for enrichment and psychological stimulation; otherwise, they get bored and may feather pick or develop other destructive habits. Be sure to routinely rotate toys to help prevent boredom 
  • Lighting: Birds need exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light to make vitamin D in their skin, which then enables them to absorb dietary calcium. UV light is filtered out by glass in windows, so placing the habitat next to a window is not sufficient. UV lights designed specifically for birds should shine on the habitat 10–12 hours/day and be changed every 6 months, as their potency wanes 

 

Cleaning your parakeet’s habitat  

Spot clean the habitat daily, removing discarded food and droppings on perches. Thoroughly wash and dry food bowls daily. Replace substrate or habitat liner at minimum weekly or more often as needed, especially if the habitat houses more than one bird. Regularly clean and disinfect your pet’s habitat and perches by: 

  • Moving your bird into a secure place (such as another habitat or travel carrier) in a separate air space 
  • Washing the habitat, perches and toys with a bird habitat cleaner or 3% bleach and water solution, ensuring that all trace amounts of habitat cleaner or bleach are washed off and there is no residue to which your bird could be exposed 
    • Do not use any cleaning agents around your bird that aren’t marked as pet-safe; birds’ respiratory tracts are very sensitive to anything aerosolized, and fumes from cleaning products can be harmful
  • Thoroughly dry the habitat and its contents 
  • Replace substrate or liner, perches and toys 
  • When the habitat is dry and free of all cleaning product odors, return bird to habitat 
  • Replace perches, dishes and toys when worn or damaged; rotate new toys into the habitat regularly to alleviate boredom.  

 

Feeding  

What to feed your parakeet 

A well-balanced parakeet diet consists of: 

  • 60–70% nutritionally complete and balanced pelleted food specifically formulated for parakeets, plus smaller amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits and fortified seeds as an occasional treat 
  • Clean, fresh water changed daily 

Do not feed birds avocados, fruit seeds, chocolate, caffeine or alcohol, as these are toxic and can cause illness and death in birds if consumed. Avoid high-salt and high-fat treats. 

Things to remember when feeding your parakeet: 

  • Fresh food and water should always be available 
  • Vegetables and fruits not eaten within a few hours should be discarded 
  • Treats should not exceed 10% of total food intake 
  • Although birds are social and like to eat when their habitat mates eat, never share food from your plate or your mouth—people have microorganisms in their mouths that can cause illness in birds 
  • Since parakeets remove the hulls from seeds before eating them, they do not need to be fed grit to grind up food in their stomachs 

 

Parakeet care 

Bird pet parents should avoid nonstick cookware and appliances with nonstick coatings, as these items can release colorless, odorless fumes when heated that can kill birds if they inhale them. 

  • Birds need regular grooming, including nail trims every few weeks to months; nails should be trimmed by a qualified person to prevent injury to the bird 
  • Beaks should not need regular trimming in most birds, unless they have an underlying condition (such as liver disease) that can cause abnormal beak growth; birds’ beaks normally maintain a good condition with daily use 
  • Clipping the outermost five flight feathers, when done correctly, can help prevent injury or escape; consult an avian veterinarian on what is best for your bird 

Where to buy a parakeet 

Petco sells parakeets in stores. Call your local location ahead of time to ensure availability.    

 

 

Habitat mates  

Parakeets can be kept alone to bond with their pet parent or in pairs or larger groups to bond with each other. Different types of birds should not be housed together. 

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy parakeet 

  • Active, alert and sociable 
  • Eats, drinks and passes stool throughout the day 
  • Dry nares and bright, dry eyes 
  • Supple skin on feet and legs and smooth beak 
  • Clean, dry vent 
  • Smooth, well-groomed feathers 

Red flags (contact your veterinarian if you notice these signs) 

  • Fluffed, plucked or soiled feathers 
  • Sitting on habitat floor for an extended period of time 
  • Wheezing, sneezing or coughing 
  • Open-mouthed or labored breathing and/or tail bobbing 
  • Regurgitation or vomiting 
  • Runny, bloody or discolored stools or no stool production 
  • Straining to pass droppings 
  • Favoring one foot when not sleeping 
  • Eye or nasal discharge 
  • Red or swollen eyes 
  • Crusty skin around face and feet 
  • Persistently closed eyes or sleeping during the day 
  • Loss of appetite 
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Common parakeet health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Chlamydiosis (psittacosis or parrot fever) Symptoms or Causes Appetite loss, fluffed feathers, nasal discharge, lime green feces, swollen abdomen, respiratory difficulty and conjunctivitis Suggested Action Seek immediate avian veterinary attention
Health Issue Diarrhea Symptoms or Causes Fecal portion of stool (versus solid white urine portion or clear liquid urine) is not formed; has multiple causes from diet change to bacterial or viral infection to internal parasites Suggested Action Consult an avian veterinarian and ensure proper diet
Health Issue Feather-plucking Symptoms or Causes Bird plucks own feathers; may be due to boredom, stress, poor diet or other underlying illnesses Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and help relieve boredom with attention, new toys and more stimulation
Health Issue Mites (scaly face and leg disease) Symptoms or Causes White, scaly, crusty deposits around eyes, beak, legs and feet Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian; disinfect habitat with diluted bleach and discard all porous (non-plastic and nonmental) items that cannot be properly disinfected

FAQs  

  • How can you tell a parakeet’s gender? By about 10 months of age, males and females can be differentiated by the color of the skin around their nostrils, called the cere, which is blue in males and brownish pink in females.  
  • How do you tame a parakeet? By speaking softly to and gently handling a parakeet daily, as well as rewarding them with their favorite food and treats for stepping on to your hand, you can socialize a parakeet and create a bond over time. 
  • How can you tell the age of a parakeet? The black lines of feathers (or “bars”) across the tops of their head extend all the way down to the tops of their beak (the cere) when they are born and recede as they age; these lines are slowly replaced by solid-colored feathering on their head by 3–4 months, after their first molt. 
  • What is the lifespan of a parakeet? Parakeets can live 10–12 years with proper care. 
  • How do you bathe a parakeet? Water dishes should be large enough for parakeets to bathe in. Parakeets who don’t bathe regularly can be misted gently a few times a week with warm water from a plant mister to help maintain healthy plumage. 
  • How do you trim parakeet nails? A parakeet’s nails typically need to be trimmed every few weeks to months and should be trimmed with small nail clippers by a trained professional so that the bird does not get injured. 
  • How can you teach a parakeet to talk? Parakeets learn to mimic words when they hear them over and over in the same tone. Talking to your bird daily, using the same words and intonation, can encourage your bird to mimic words. 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources 

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee. 

Because all birds are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as chlamydiosis (also called psittacosis or parrot fever), always wash your hands before and after handling your bird or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease. 

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for birds and should consider having a pet other than a bird. 

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about birds and disease. 

Note: The information in this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.