Yesterday I started clicker training Pixel. She quickly became conditioned to expect a treat after hearing the click, but teaching targeting took a lot longer. Initially I tried doing the training sessions with her on the table, but she had no interest in touching the target stick. This evening I tried using the target stick through the bars of her cage instead which was easier because she stayed in one place. After about 10 minutes I was about to give up for the night when she suddenly got it! She now bites the tip of the target stick as soon as I put it near her in order to be rewarded with millet. Eventually we’ll be able to use this technique to teach behaviour and tricks.
Pixel is very confident around people now, including visitors. She explores the room, landing on lots of different surfaces. When the washing airer is empty she likes to jump from rung to rung. She lands on our arms/shoulders/heads and even landed on Colin’s glasses once! When I went to sort out Pixel’s food and water this morning (the children were at a sleepover), she flew straight out of the cage and onto my shoulder.
Aaron and Tabitha were very pleased to see her when they got back from their sleepover. She hopped around the table while they ate their lunch.
Pixel rejected the broccoli, carrot and parsley I offered her today. However, she did eat the dry eggfood supplement I sprinkled over her seed dish, so eventually I may try mixing finely chopped fruit and veg in with that.
Tabitha was rather wary of Pixel at first, but they seem to have bonded well now.
However, Pixel’s confidence has led to one problem. Before, she only came out of the cage when someone brought her out and went back in easily. Now she comes out as soon as we open the door and flies off when we try to put her back in. So somehow we need to train her to go back into her cage nicely!
A brief training session with Aaron and Tabitha before breakfast.
Pixel likes to land on our picture frames, but she ends up facing the wall as she doesn’t have enough room to turn around. Colin made her these clip-on perches. She loves them and has been doing lots of flying between them!
Some bonding time after church and Sunday School.
Pixel occasionally nibbles at the pot of bird grass but has been ignoring all the fruit, herbs and veggies I’ve tried so far (cucumber, pepper, grapes, basil and peas). However, she does seem to like the sprig of parsley I hung up this afternoon!
Colin woke up early this morning so Pixel was already out of her cage by the time I woke up. She was clambering all over him and the children.
As I showed Aaron how to change her drinking water and blow away the husks from her feed dish, I noticed that there was a pile of firm black and white droppings under her perch. Yesterday her droppings were watery, so it’s a good sign that she’s settling in well. I put a dish of water on the table, which she walked through and had a brief splash. She also explored the floor for the first time and looked out of the window.
We had arranged to go swimming with family this morning. Before we left I hung some wet basil up in the cage, but it doesn’t look like she’s touched it. She spent some more time out when we got back this afternoon. She is yet to venture out by herself when we leave the cage door open, but perhaps that’s because the children usually fetch her out after a few minutes anyway!
This evening I spent about 15 minutes training her to step up and step down, as yesterday it was sometimes quite difficult to get her off our hands and back onto her perch. It took her a little while to get the hang of step down, but by the end of the training session she knew exactly what I wanted and was even flying back to her perch from just outside her cage.
This morning we set off to visit a budgie breeder who had three young cock birds to show us, all blues. One was still in the nest, one was about 6 weeks old and the other was going through his first moult. While we were chatting we watched him handle the birds. They obviously weren’t used to having so many people around, but they were fairly happy to hop onto his hand or be picked up. He also pointed out the mother in the breeding cages and the father in the aviary. Aaron chose the middle bird and we brought him home in a cardboard box, driving very carefully and playing music to help calm him down.
Once we had transferred the budgie into the cage, we left him alone for about an hour to settle in and recover from the car journey. He stayed absolutely still on the perch where we had put him. On closer inspection, I think that “he” may actually be a hen. The cere is light blue with white around the nostril, whereas a young cock’s cere would probably be more of a pink or purple colour. So we adjusted our list of names to unisex ones and eventually settled on Pixel.
After a while, we went over to the cage, talked to her and slowly put our hands inside the cage. Suddenly she seemed to realise that we were not a threat, and began to climb around and explore the cage. She nibbled at the pot of bird grass, hung upside down from the roof and investigated the toys.
Half on hour later, I held out some spray millet for her and she was happy to eat some. Then I held it a little further away to entice her onto my hand. She stepped up and stayed on my hand for quite a while!
We have the Hagen Vision cage, which has a transparent plastic section at the bottom to help contain mess. However, Pixel seemed to struggle getting back up from the floor of the cage. I removed a few perches and toys from the cage to give her more space, but she still found it difficult to get back up onto the perches. I had to remove the ladder until she’s bigger as she kept getting stuck between the rungs and the side of the cage. However, when I offered my hand, she gladly used it to help her climb up. After that she was much more confident near our hands.
I wasn’t sure about letting her out of the cage today, but Colin decided to. She seems to like him, she’ll happily sit on his hand or shoulder. Her first free flying session was very clumsy as she is young and hasn’t had much chance to practice yet. However, she seemed quite comfortable around us and happily preened Aaron’s hair!
After her first free flying session she kept stepping up on our hands and then trying to walk up our arms and squeeze out of the cage door! As she seemed to enjoy it so much, we had her out several more times throughout the afternoon and evening, and by the last time she had mostly figured out how to navigate the room and land safely instead of crashing. She likes the curtain rail and the picture frames.
She has been tucking into her seeds, but she doesn’t seem to have touched any of the fresh fruit or veggies. I’m not sure if she’s found the water bottle yet so I put some water in a dish as well. We covered the cage for the night when the children went to bed around 8. Pixel is still very young and has had a stressful day, so I thought she’d appreciate an early night. I checked back a little later and she was fast asleep on the perch with her head under her wing.
A few months ago, Aaron said that he would like a pet budgie. We haven’t had any pets since we moved here five years ago, so first we checked with our landlord and he said a small caged pet would be fine. Aaron saved up all of his Christmas and birthday money instead of spending it, so that he would have enough money for a cage and supplies. We visited pet shops, read books and did lots of research online.
Once we were sure that we wanted to go ahead, we reserved an egg from a lady who runs a bird rescue and handles her chicks so that they are already tame by the time they are ready to leave their parents. Aaron has been waiting so patiently for his baby budgie to hatch and grow!
Last weekend we heard that Aaron’s budgie was ready, so we made plans to collect him on Friday. There was much excitement throughout the week as we set up the cage, went shopping for toys and made lists of names! However, we then heard that the budgie had something wrong with his feet and wouldn’t be able to come home with us after all. Aaron shed a few tears but handled the news very well considering.
Sadly, I’ve since had to tell the children that the little budgie died yesterday. As parents it is tempting to shield them from everything unpleasant, but that won’t help them in the long run. Colin and I have always been open and honest with the children about death. Learning to deal with disappointment and grief helps to build emotional resilience.
For now, we have an empty cage. It is Tabitha’s birthday tomorrow, which will be a happy occasion, and after that we’ll decide whether to wait a few more months for another tame budgie or try to get one from a breeder and tame it ourselves.