The First Flying Hours:
The proper time to let a parakeet leave its cage for the first time depends entirely on how well it has adjusted to you and its surroundings. If it no longer flutters around excitedly when you do things in its cage and no longer turns stiff and slim with fear when you approach, you can open the cage door. But make sure all room doors and windows are safely shut. Even an open window behind venetian blinds can serve as an escape route to a parakeet that has decided to take off. Curtainless windows often spell disaster. Not being able to see the glass, a bird may fly straight toward the light and crash against the window. Death by a broken neck or skull may be the sad result. If you have no curtains of any kind in front of your windows you will have to teach your bird that the window is a boundary. Cover the window except for about 12 inches at the bottom by lowering shades or by some other method and turn on the electric light in the room if it is too dark otherwise. The uncovered portion at the bottom of the window can then be increased a couple of inches every day. This way the bird learns to respect the window as the "end of its world." Be sure to stay in the room and watch your parakeet when you open the cage door. Perhaps the bird first hovers in the cage because the unaccustomed opening arouses suspicion. But it may quickly grasp your intention and cautiously climb up on the outside of the cage to get a better view of things from the top. Then, quickly or after some hesitation, your bird will take off. In the air for the first time, it may be seized by anxiety at the sight of all the new and untested landing opportunities. Perhaps it will find its way back to the cage on this first outing and return there, but it is more likely to fly higher and land on a tall shelf, a curtain rod, or a lamp. There the bird will sit, panting with agitation. First it needs to calm down. Relief is on the way if it shakes its feathers, and if it starts tripping around on this new perch, peering around curiously and even preening itself, it has conquered the worst fear. Now you should talk to the bird, saying its name in a praising tone, but don't under any circumstance interfere actively. All the bird needs is some time to muster the courage to fly back. This may take a while, and even now it may not make it back to the cage. But the bird has now seen the cage, and sooner or later the bird will find its way back. If this does not happen, bring the opened cage up close to the bird after about half an hour.

It will no doubt be ready to exchange its perch for the safety the cage represents and conclude the exciting adventure by eating a few seeds. If the parakeet should land on the floor, which is quite likely if thus far in its young life it has had little opportunity to fly, you can spoil the bird a little by tossing a few seeds on the floor from a little distance. As soon as the bird notices this it will hop from one seed to the next. This way of eating appeals greatly to a parakeet because it is how these birds get food when living wild in the steppes, where they gather grass seeds from the ground. No matter how the first session of free flying ends, don't make the mistake of waving brooms or cloths at the bird in an effort to dislodge it from a high retreat in order to return it to its cage. Such an experience would convince it that you are its enemy from whom it has to try to get away. If everything else fails, leave the bird sitting where it is overnight. If it is hungry the next morning it will pick up its courage for the return flight or hop into the cage held up for it. If there is some compelling reason why the bird should not spend the night outside the cage, wait until evening and then grab the bird in the darkened room and gently return it to the cage. After all, you want your pet to think of you as a friend in need and develop trust in you. Of course this first flying venture must not be a one and only experience. Your bird should have an opportunity to fly extensively every day, preferably at the same hour. As it is, a parakeet can make only very limited use of its excellent, inborn flying skills in our small living spaces. In nature these birds are not only strong but also extremely fast flyers, even exceeding the speed of swallows.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc. 1996