Title - Care Of The Ageing Budgie
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Budgerigar Longevity: The Challenge
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Also suitable for owners of two or more pet budgies!

Eleven year old budgie, ComfreyIf your pet budgerigar is already 5 or 6 years old - or more - this in itself is testimony to the quality of your care. Therefore, I have confidence in your bird care regime, and won't bore you with the basics. This article is specifically about the special needs of the older bird.

Put simply, an ageing budgie is likely to need a protein boost whenever he or she begins to moult, and until the new feathers have finished growing. Your little friend may also require an even temperature day and night.

Egg is Easy
If your budgie will eat mashed hard boiled egg, this is the easiest form of protein to use. The bird may like whole egg mashed, or may prefer white only, so experiment and see. Only a tiny portion is needed, but your budgie can eat as much of it as he likes. Try offering it in various ways to see which best encourages him to enjoy this food. Options are: from your hand; off the sandsheet; in a dish; or in the treat dish of a toy.

- or Maybe Milk
For budgies who don't want to eat egg, or who are too old to bother, the next option is to mix either soya milk or real milk with the drinking water. Start with 1 part of the milk to 3 parts of water, and increase to a 50/50 mixture if this is acceptable to your friend. Unsweetened soya milk may be a touch bitter, so a tiny addition of sugar, honey or pure fruit syrup may please your budgie! If your household doesn't use soya milk, an economical way of providing it for the bird is to freeze small portions in an ice cube tray. In the case of cow's milk, skimmed or virtually fat free is preferable, and I have read of one breeder using the latter 100% without adding any water. Any milk mixture is better in a dish than a tube hopper, as it tends to separate in a long tube.

Of course, you will need to change the drink regularly and wash the dish or feeder well. I'd suggest twice daily for real milk, and once for soya milk - but if the weather is very hot increase the frequency.

Special Suppliments
Thirteen year old budgie, ParsleyIf you have a budgie who won't eat egg, (even white), or drink a milky mixture, another option is to obtain a special bird supplement of the kind that incorporates amino acids which are easily digested, protein constituents. These products are formulated to compensate for the nutritional weaknesses of a seed diet, the only problem being that they are - so far as I know - only packaged and marketed with the breeder in mind. The mixing instructions may well be for a litre or worse! and accuracy will be important. One amino acid supplement available by mail order in the UK is Vydex's Feathersure. The current price including p&p is £7.95. 'Phone Vydex on 02920 578578 International : +44 2920 578578. You can also track these formulas down through the magazines of the bird fancy, or possibly through your vet or a specialist pet shop. I should point out that I have not used them myself, nor have I ever bought anything from Vydex - so this is not an endorsement! I am including this link simply because specific information is a lot more useful than vague information! In theory, these products should be easy to use and highly effective.

Don't Chill Me!
As mentioned briefly, the other special need of some older budgies - (and less robust younger budgies too) - is for a fairly even room temperature day and night. This takes the strain out of life. If your bird has been looking chilled of a morning, or has been producing wet droppings overnight, it would certainly be wise to provide a constant temperature if you do not already do so. The same goes for a budgie who has recently suffered an illness. Unfortunately, many central heating systems are programmed to switch off at night and other times, to save fuel. You may have to use ingenuity to find a way of meeting your bird's need! Possibly you may have a small room that would cost little to heat constantly during the colder months, and you could consider keeping your budgerigar there at times when the house is cold.

About Ageing
I have found that budgies tend to stop feeling gorgeously young at about 7 years of age. They slow down a bit, and moulting becomes more of a challenge, which is where the bit of complete protein comes in. With a bit of extra help, budgerigars can often keep going, with good quality of life, to the ripe old age of, say, 9 to 11 years. Unlike dogs, they don't show their age much, and are likely to stay beautiful. Eventually, they may get a bit stiff and bent-looking - just like old people really - and their tails may become tatty. Having said that, I have never seen a really ancient budgie like the one in the World Longevity Record below!!

Average Life Span
If you are interested to know the average life span of a pet budgie, I have been able to find two figures obtained from actual surveys, though they are a bit old. The Budgerigar Society published a figure of 8 years in their Research Digest of 1979 - 1981. A lower average of 6½ years was published in 'Which?' magazine in 1976 or '77, and here mention was made that the top age found was 14 years. However, these figures will include individuals who died young because of inherent weakness, or because of some error on the part of an inexperienced owner. For a budgie already enjoying a healthy middle age, there is every reason to anticipate a longer than average life span.

The World Longevity Record

According to The Guinness Book of Records, 1995, the oldest budgerigar on record is Charlie, who lived from April 1948 to June 20th 1977 - a total of 29 years, 2 months. He was owned by J. Dinsey of Stonebridge, London, UK.

The New Guinness Book of Records 1995, Guinness Publishing

Helen Day.

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© Copyright Helen Day, first published in October 2000.