An “Almost Perfect” Pet, We’re Chirping

By Kathryn Marchi

           It is said that having a pet provides companionship, opportunity for exercise and lowers blood pressure. But most of us have been through the “pet” stages when we were younger or had growing families. Now that we are retired and free to go wherever and whenever we please, having a pet can be limiting and expensive.  

          Dogs and cats are the most popular pets among retirees, but they require daily care whether their owners travel for weeks or simply leave for one day. So is there a pet out there that will not require so much work and attention, but still provide entertainment and companionship? Which one will be the easiest to leave when we travel? 

          This was my dilemma when we finally retired. My husband said emphatically that we would not get another dog or cat, that our frequent travel would not be fair to a pet. This was the first time we’d not had a dog, at least, and I admit to longing for one.  

          One day my daughter called and offered me a parakeet or budgerigar (Budgie). The little bird had been flying around her neighborhood and landed on my granddaughter’s hand. No one claimed the rescued bird so we became the new owners!  We named him “Bernie” and his antics and sweet fluty chirps quickly entertained and delighted both of us. We soon found out how easy he was to care for. Besides a suitable cage, he needed  bird seed, water and a disposable cover (paper towels or newspaper) for the bottom of his cage.  Checking these items and changing the papers when needed was no big deal.  

          As far as our traveling was concerned, during short trips a neighbor was happy to check on Bernie as she watered our plants and brought in the mail and newspaper. It was simply a matter of making sure he had seed and water and a little human contact. (I often left a portable radio playing music for his listening pleasure.) For extended trips, one neighbor insisted on bringing Bernie and cage to her house where he was the focus of delight for her family.

          If you’re unfamiliar with budgies or parakeets, they are hardy, colorful little birds who originated in Australia. First written about by a European named John Gould in 1865, they are members of the parrot family and can actually learn to talk. Normally these little birds are 7 to 9 inches from the tip of the beak to the tip of their tail, weigh from 1 to 1.4 ounces and have a life span of 12 to 14 years. They come in a wide range of colors, primarily in green, blue, white, yellow and variations thereof.

          Since budgies are intelligent, playful and easily interact with their humans, they have become the most popular pet bird. They are inexpensive to purchase and maintain, and are readily available in pet stores or from private breeders. To find out more on the Internet type in “budgies” or “parakeets” or log onto or or 

          If you do decide to own a budgie, it’s probably best to purchase a young bird that you can train from the beginning. The youngsters are distinguished by black bars over the crown area of the head. Their “cere,” which is located above the beak and contains two nostril type openings, will be a pale pink or tan color. After they reach four months of age, the cere changes to blue, indicating that the bird is a male and light brown or yellow, if a female.

(Owners have reported that either sex makes a good pet). Of course, you’ll need a cage, food and all sorts of other toys and such, all of which can be found in any pet store. There are books and websites devoted to these birds that will provide information about feeding, training and general care. 

          After two years, our little Bernie continues to be the easiest pet we’ve ever had. He does require attention and care, but nothing compared to walking a dog and picking up after it or changing a cat’s litter box. There are no vet bills or grooming issues, no worry about leaving the house for a day of errands, no feeding schedules or worry about destructive behavior in your house. 

          He is quiet at night and resumes his chirping and activity when we arise in the morning. Each day, we open the cage for his “fly by” and he swoops around the family room several times and then returns to his cage. It’s great exercise for him and fun for us. Even though we can’t “cuddle” him as we would a dog or cat, he is another “warm body” in the house and we enjoy talking to him while he sits on our finger or shoulder. We even think we’ve heard him say “pretty bird” during some of his little bird exhortations. And when guests arrive, Bernie never fails to entertain. 

          Next month, we are leaving for another extended trip. Our neighbor is happy to have Bernie in her home again and we’ll be able to enjoy our journey. In every way, it seems that our little budgie is an “almost perfect” pet. 

 Kathryn, former owner and caretaker of numerous cats, dogs and horses is enjoying her one winged pet.  She can be reached at [email protected]



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