Reproduction in Budgerigars: A study of domestic life in a pair of pet budgies.

28 day old budgie peeking out of the nest box while its parents observe. 27 day old budgie showing off its developing feathers.

This page is a diary of our experience observing captive budgies breeding in our living room. If you are interested in baby budgies you can read about and see pictures of two of them and their parents here. The most recent entries are at the top of the page.

This page is (almost) text only. All of the pictures are available on individual pages for each day, or on the All Pictures page.

Keeping budgies can be very rewarding. They are, in my opinion, much better pets than small rodents for kids old enough to be gentle. They are very responsive and interactive and have interesting personalities. They do need some attention and, I believe, some time to fly and interact. They can be desctructive to furniture, books, door or window frames etc. as they do like to chew. In our experience this varies with the individual but was very common with our females. They can also be very noisy at different times of day, such as the early morning (sunrise). Many birds sing with the rising sun though so this isn't unusual. See the Wikipedia page on the Dawn Chorus. I do recommend that you keep them away from other, possibly dangerous, pets. Give a budgie a try.

This budgie diary is now closed.

Timeline, Nesting Budgies, March--April, 2004

The first egg was lain on 29 March
The second egg was lain during the night of 31 March - 1 April
The third egg appeared on 2 April
The last egg appeared on 4 April

20 April 2004, The first chick appeared.
20-21 April 2004, The second chick appeared during the night
22 April 2004, The third chick appeared during the night
23 April 2004, The third chick died during the night
24 April 2004, Oldest chick observed holding up its head and "walking"
24 May 2004, Oldest chick flys for the first time (34 days after hatching).
30 May 2004, Second chick flys for the first time.
1 October 2006, Oldest chick dies (two and a half years old).
13 December 2008, Second chick dies (four and half years old).
Keywords: budgie, budgies, parakeet, adult budgie, chick, budgie reproduction, reproduction in budgies, mating, behaviour, eggs, budgie babies, canada, victoria, british columbia.

20 April, 2004

Day 1
The first chick hatched today! It is rather homely but the parents don't seem to care.

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Pictures from before the eggs hatched.

21 April, 2004

Day 2
The second chick hatched today. Actually we think it hatched late last night.

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22 April, 2004

Day 3
Egg number 3 hatched last night

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23 April, 2004

Day 4
The most recent chick died during the night. The parents had pretty much abandoned it since it hatched. It was pushed off to one side of the nest box. We took the last egg out since we are pretty sure it was the first one she laid, and thus, well, a bit overripe.

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24 April, 2004

Day 5
The oldest chick is now able to "walk". We watched it take a few steps this morning while holding up its head. The older one also seems to be pushing the younger (one day!) out to the edges of the nest box with its head. These birds don't even have their eyes open yet! Speaking of which, it looks like there is a membrane over their eyes. We presume that will dry up and fall off at some point. For now we guess either the eyes are not developed enough yet and/or the risk of accidental damage is too great to rely only on eyelids. The older chick has very different eyes than the younger. we hope this is only colouration and not some problem with development. Both chicks have full crops so we guess feeding is going well.

Now that there are no more eggs in the nest and things seem to be going well mom (Kiwi) is showing a bit more of her former behaviour. She comes out of the nest for longer intervals although she is still not out frequently.

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26 April, 2004

Day 7
Our only chance to look closely at the babies this morning was not really encouraging though not really discouraging either. Neither of them had full crops though from what I could see through the nest box hole later, mom was feeding them. The second chick has splayed legs which we read could be a problem and might be due to the hard bottom of the nest box. We added more wood chips yesterday but Kiwi pushes them out of the way.

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28 April, 2004

Day 9
The difference in size between the two chicks is increasing.

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29 April, 2004

Day 10
The eldest chick ("one") is standing up, holding up its head and its eyes are open. The younger ("two") is still struggling (metaphorically if not physically).

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1 May, 2004

Day 12
One's feathers have begun to become more feathery. Its legs look to be just about full size already!

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3 May, 2004

Day 14
We don't have a lot of comments to add today. Here some pictures.

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4 May, 2004

Day 15
One's development is still outpacing Two. Two is still slowly growing. Conclusion: Who knows! As long as Two keeps getting fed (yes) and is kept warm (yes) then we assume it will continue to develop slowly.

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5 May, 2004

Day 16
Kiwi and Meringue (the parents) have discovered a candle on the shelf where they like to perch. They go mad trying to eat (or just chew) the wax. Kiwi is starting to spend more and more time out of the nest box. Also Meringue has resumed his advances and Kiwi is suddenly receptive again. I guess they are thinking of starting another new family.

Merinque (the dad) is starting to sing again the way he used to before all of this family stuff began. He sits on a perch on the cage or up on the shelf across the room and "babbles". It's quite beuatiful really.

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6 May, 2004

Day 17
These pictures were taken in the morning. Two is still apparently struggling to keep up developmentally. One (the kids are calling it Sherbet or Lemon) is doing well. We are handling it for a several minutes at a time a couple of times per day. Kiwi doesn't seem to mind at all.

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7 May, 2004

Day 18
What a difference a few hours makes. Late yesterday afternoon Two began to stand up and waddle around the nest box. Honestly we had just about given up on it and of course it's not fully grown yet, and still lags behind One. This morning it was cuddling with One in the corner (their favourite place). The kids joke that Kiwi must be a teacher (they must have a lot of experience sitting in the corner at school).

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9 May, 2004

Day 20
The big change in the last little while is that One's (from now on Officially called Sherbet) major feathers are starting to, well, feather. See the fourth picture below.

Two (speculatively called Pickle) has continued its wonderful progress. We have every hope of successful development now. We are sure that Sherbet will be leaving the nest box long before Pickle and wonder if this will cause problems. If Kiwi stops tending Pickle after Sherbet leaves, Pickle won't make it.

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10 May, 2004

Day 21
The babie budgies continue their progress. Sherbet (One) is more alert now and looks up at us when we open the nest box. It's strange, but Two is the more active when it is held in our hands. Sherbet is starting to make more mature noises (which seem to bother Meringue). Kiwi and Meringue are spending more and more time doing their "adult" things, including, lots of sex. We are a bit concerned about the chance of more eggs. As soon as the current chicks are out the nest box for good we are going to take the box away. Hopefully, this will make Kiwi less receptive.

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11 May, 2004

Day 22
Notice that the feathers on Sherbet's wings are starting to come together to form the trailing edge for flight. The feathers at the wing tips are going to be lighter than the shoulder feathers.

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12 May, 2004

Day 23
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14 May, 2004

Day 25

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15 May, 2004

Day 26

It's funny. Sherbet is very timid. If given the opportunity this bird will crawl into the tiniest space to hide.

Though Pickle doesn't really walk around much, it will lift its head and look around. It is very curious and makes much loader noises when it wants something than Sherbet.

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18 May, 2004

Day 28

Sherbet is making its (his?) first foray into the wide world. Sherbet is coming to the door to get its meal and apparently also feeding Pickle (or at least mimicking the behaviour). Merinque feeds Sherbet at the door. Kiwi doesn't seem to do that.

When Sherbet comes to the door, Kiwi sits between it and Meringue and polices the two of them.

Pickle is still way behind Sherbet in devolpement, but is otherwise doing well. There does seem to be the possibility of one splayed leg. If it doesn't get better, Pickle may always have trouble perching.

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20 May, 2004

Day 30

Pickle is going to have the more common barred appearance that we see in Kiwi (the mother).

Sherbet is quite timid (as we have mentioned before) and will take any opportunity to hide.

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22 May, 2004

Day 32

Pickle is catching up with Sherbet quickly now. It looks like Pickle will take after Kiwi and have a barred body with green tail.

We are pretty sure that Sherbet is a she because of the opaque white nature of her cere, her nostrils. Today Sherbet came out of the nest box several times. On one of her bolder explorations she managed to go all around the cage while Kiwi and Meringue watched and, well, freaked out. They weren't panicky but they were quite agitated. Here is a bigger picture of Sherbet. Sherbet seems to have some iridescence in her feathers. They don't look green at all until you view them in a bright light, then you see green flashes. This picture also shows Meringue's blue back, which illustrates a similar effect.

Pickle wants in on the action too. Its not quite ready though.

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24 May, 2004

Day 34

Sherbet comes out of the nest box several times per day now. She still doesn't make any effort to fly. She is still familiarising herself with climbing around the cage and balancing on the perches. Yesterday we put Sherbet onto LB's shoulder and Kiwi immediately flew over and landed on her shoulder as well. That was exceptionally unusual behaviour for Kiwi who has never landed on any of us.

Pickle is growing nicely. It comes to the nest box door to look out, but has not made any effort (that we are aware of) to climb out.

Update: This morning, Sherbet had her first flight. A few hours later she made a second attempt but unfortunately collided with a window. So far she appears to be fine and is resting on a perch in the cage. Most interesting to us is that she didn't practice, she could just do it. On her first flight she managed to land again on the cage after doing a lap around the room. On the second flight she had to be picked up after the rather unceremonious and undignified collision.

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26 May, 2004

Day 36

In the last day or two Sherbet has begun to fly more and more confidently. She also lets us handle her and, we think, thinks we are part of her family. A few of her landings were entertaining. She landed on our thin TV antenna and promptly spun around so that she was hanging upside down. She stayed that way for a considerable amount of time. She was probably not sure that she could take off from that position. The few times that she has appeared to be stuck, we have eventually rescued her, but we let her contemplate things for a half hour or so first. Sherbet is also carefully selecting seeds and gravel from the food dishes and chewing on the greens we provide. She is still accepting food from her parents (mostly Meringue -- dad) as well.

Pickle appears at the door of the nest box frequently. He (we think he is a he--his cere looks more transparent and it is not white around the nostrils, he is also more vocal than Sherbet). He still hasn't come out on his though we handle him frequently. There are moments when we hear vigorous flapping in the nest box and debris comes shooting out of the door. Furthermore, he was being held yesterday and managed to lift his body into the air while flapping. He remained attached by pinching a fold of skin (not too painfully) with his beak.

Finally, Kiwi is, we think, going to lay more eggs. We observed her yesterday hauling wood chips and other bits out of the nest box. The mating instinct is still strong between Kiwi and Meringue. We want to take the nest box away soon, but have to wait for Pickle to come out on his own. We can also separate the birds by sex as we have two cages.

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28 May, 2004

Day 38

Pickle is still a nestling. You can see in the pictures below that Sherbet stands upright, confidently, while Pickle crouches and is very unsure of himself (still not certain of Pickle's sex actually -- now I am starting to think Pickle is she due to the white rim around the nostrils).

All budgies love to preen each other and to be preened. This is demonstrated in the bottom picture. Sherbet is cleaning all of the little feathers around Pickle's face.

Speaking of feathers, this picture illustrates the "hairy" feathers that the birds have on the chests and bellies. These are very different from their wing and tail feathers. Presumably these are designed to insulate and to make the body sleek in flight. The wing feathers are much tougher and more rigid. The individual little barbs on the wing feathers hold tightly together to provide a strong wing for flight.

Sherbet is now a more confident flyer. She flies around and around the room and lands on a variety of surfaces. We are still handling her frequently to ensure that she thinks people are part of the family.

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30 May, 2004

Day 40

We have taken away the nest box. Pickle probably could have used a few more days in it (at bedtime) but it's time to try to slow Kiwi down. She has immense amounts of energy and seems determined to explore every nook and cranny of the living room. She seems to be trying to find a new nest location. If we put gravel in the gravel dish she attacks it, emptying every piece of gravel out of it. Really, she is like a power shovel digging up mouthfuls and throwing it away. When the dish is empty she tries to pull it off of the cage. We are not really sure what has motivated her hatred of the gravel dish

Meringue is an excellent father to the two babies. He feeds them and preens them frequently. Kiwi is pretty much determined to treat Sherbet as a competing adult. She is strict about the rules in the nest. Namely, she owns all of the seed dishes and especially the gravel dish. Sherbet is a bit of a bully when it's feeding time. She pushes herself in front of Pickle so that she gets first dibs. Sherbet is also eating at the seed dish so we know she is getting enough. We try to arrange things so that Pickle gets some alone time with Dad.

Update: Pickle is now a flyer. Pickle was not quite as graceful as Sherbet was on her first flight. He takes after Meringue who is a bit clumsy as well. There have been some rather undignified landings after collisions with doors, shelves, windows, etc. Actually Pickle has been taking a fair bit of abuse as he (maybe she) learns the ropes.

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1 June, 2004

Day 42

Both babies are flying and doing well otherwise. They both eat at the food dishes, but still get "snacks" from mom and dad. Our next job is a sad one. We have to find homes for the new critters (or maybe mom and dad).

Updates to this page are now going to slow down or stop entirely. At any rate they won't be regular anymore. Thanks for reading this and we hope you enjoy the pictures (and find them useful if you are raising baby budgies yourself).

10 December, 2004

As I am sure you can understand, we kept the babies. We now have a healthy flock of four birds. Pickle and Sherbet are doing well and are definitely male and female respectively. Sherbet is turning into quite a "bossy" bird who picks on Pickle terribly when she gets annoyed. Pickle does have a bit of a problem with one of his legs (a very mild case of splay legs) but he copes just fine and I don't imagine it would slow him down much in the wild. Lately we have had the addition of a couple of miniature hamsters to the household and there is a lot of mutual curiosity between these critters and the budgies. Otherwise all is well with the birds.

24 July 2005, Sherbet died.

Sadly, we discovered Sherbet dead this afternoon. The cause is unknown. She was observed regurgitating food from her crop in the morning. However, her behaviour was otherwise normal. She flew about with the rest of flock as usual. She was buried beneath our passion flower in the back garden.

05 April 2006, Pickle's Close Call

Pickle had a close encounter with Maxwell (our cat). We didn't see it but the evidence is there. A few drops of blood scattered about and scratch on Pickle's chest. We will be more careful about allowing them to fly while the cat is in from now on. Pickle seems to have entirely recovered from the "adventure".

01 May 2006, Kiwi died.

Kiwi had been suffering with some kind of paralysis in her right foot for some weeks now. She tried to fly yesterday and had a very difficult time doing more than one pass around the living room. She immediately returned to the cage. This morning we observed her sitting on the bottom of the cage and this evening when we returned from work she was dead. She's buried under the passion flower alongside Sherbet.

21 August 2006, Happy Boys



Both Meringue and Pickle are doing well, though Meringue does seem to be getting old. He can fly back and forth across the room a few times and then he takes a break on or in the cage. We only let them out when the cat (Maxwell -- after James Clerk) is out.

1 October 2006, Meringue Has Died

We are sad to inform you that Meringue has died. He was getting pretty old. We can account for at least eight years of life. He was having an increasingly difficult time keeping himself clean and was losing feathers around his rear end. In the last few days he couldn't stand on a perch for very long and would fall to the bottom of the cage and climb slowly back up again. Finally he could no longer climb up again. Pickle was a good companion for him. While Meringue sat on the cage floor Pickle (his "son") would perch nearby and talk to him. Meringue is now buried along side Kiwi and Sherbet under the passion flower in the garden.

15 October 2007, Pickle

Pickle is a happy little budgie. He loves to play call and respond in the morning with some birds outside the window. He enjoys sitting on our hands or shoulders but he tends to get really excited about our hands. When I say really excited I mean in a surprising way. He seems to think our fingers are female budgies. Needless to say we don't really encourage that sort of thing.

18 November 2007, Pickle is Moulting

Pickle has shed some feathers recently. The new ones are growing in quickly and are especially obvious on his head.

27 February 2007, Pickle

Pickle is still doing well. He gets out of the cage quite frequently (when the cat is locked up).

13 December 2008, Pickle has died

The two photos above are from the morning of 13 December 2008.

We've been watching Pickle closely for a last week or so. His behaviour changed noticeably. He began spending a lot of time on the bottom of his cage rooting about in the spilled gravel and seed husks. He wasn't very chirpy in morning when he woke up. Usually he would play call and respond with the birds he could hear outside. He also seemed to be eating or attempting to eat a lot more. He has been out flying regularly (with the cats safely in another room) and seemed, until very recently, normal. This morning we had him out and we knew something was wrong, he didn't want to fly though he could a little. He did try to eat some fresh cilantro so we were hopeful. When he perched on our fingers this last time we noticed that he had lost weight. He was constantly fluffed up the last little while. He was probably trying to keep warm.

Pickle died today at about 4 PM.