rand avicultural society
conservation through aviculture

Budgies and Lovebirds
by Gordon M Duncan©

Budgies and lovebirds are probably the most widely kept small parrot-like birds in the world. In adult budgies the sexes are easy to determine. The male has a blue cere (the naked skin above the beak) while the female’s is brown. With young birds this is more difficult to determine, but both sexes make equally good pets – it doesn’t really matter. Lovebirds are, with a few exceptions, impossible to sex visually.

Through mutations and selective breeding literally hundreds of colour forms and combinations have been developed both in budgies and lovebirds. The choice and variety is truly unlimited.

Budgies and Lovebirds are intelligent and active birds. Never imprison them in tiny cages. Buy the biggest cage that you can afford, with 45cm long by 20cm wide and 30cm high being an absolute minimum size for one or two birds. Most cages come equipped with two food and water dishes, a removable floor for cleaning and two or three perches or swings.

The perches should preferably be natural, non-poisonous sticks or twigs, which vary in thickness to provide variety and exercise for your birds’ feet and beak. Twigs are easy and free to replace when chewed up by the birds and certainly do improve the quality of your little friend’s life. Plastic and metal perches are totally unsuitable. If your bird is to be housed alone without a friend, it is a very good idea to stock up on a selection of toys.

Before you buy a bird or birds you need to decide what you hope to get out of them, and much more important, what you are prepared to offer them in return. A single, tame and talking pet needs a lot of regular attention. A pair will never get as tame, but will keep each other company. If you are prepared to take on the responsibility and joy of a single pet, be certain to buy a newly fledged baby. An adult will never become truly tame.

Any bird that is tamed and allowed outside his cage needs to have his wings clipped. I find that removing ± one third of the flight feathers from both wings is about right. He should not be able to fly upwards. Taming consists simply of gently placing him on your hand. If he jumps off, gently retrieve him and place him back on your hand. Keep doing this until he stays there. Gentleness and patience are the key words here! To teach your bird to speak, you must keep him (or her) away from other birds, start young and be regular and patient with your lessons. 15 minutes of repetition, twice per day, every day will do it.

Should you, however, decide that you want the pleasure of birds without the responsibility of an individual pet, a pair will very happily live together in a cage in your living room. A multicoloured group of budgies or lovebirds (never both!) will also live very happily together in a garden aviary. Make sure that a part of the aviary provides shelter from the rain and also from cold winds. Provide twice as many nest boxes as there are pairs of birds in the aviary if you want peaceful breeding to take place. Provide dead trees in both the sheltered and open part of the aviary as perching. Allow 1m of aviary space per pair of birds.


  1. Seed: A good mixture including millets, oats, canary seed, and for lovebirds a little sunflower.
  2. Soft food: Avi-plus parakeet, or a little moistened stale bread should be offered daily in clean dishes.
  3. Fruit and green food: Greens and a slice of fresh fruit (not avocado) should be offered as often as possible.
  4. Grit and minerals: Supply a mixture of crushed, untreated charcoal, oyster shell grit, river sand and a powdered mineral supplement.
  5. Fresh water: Obviously clean, fresh water for drinking and bathing must be available at all times. Clean the dishes and supply fresh water daily.
Should you wish to try your hand at breeding budgies or lovebirds, this can be done in the living room as easily as in an aviary or proper breeding set-up. Join a bird club and buy a good book to get proper, detailed information. In short, all that you have to do is supply a nest box (and nesting materials for lovebirds) in a large cage, offer a good, balanced diet, make sure that the birds are not unduly disturbed and they will get on with it themselves. And of course make sure that you have a true pair to start with. Most pairs are free breeders once they start.

If you wish to meet others who enjoy the hobby as much as you do then it is advisable to join a club.

The members of the Rand Avicultural Society meet at the Honeydew Country club Tennis club section, No 1 Boundary Rd Honeydew, Johannesburg on the LAST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH, except December.

If you wish to find out more about the club then click back to RAS introduction page.


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