Violet - (pictured on our magnetic fridge pad) - was a budgie who brought more laughter than any other, so vivid was her character. She had an almost identical sister, Veronica, and a brother Blackberry, with similar aggressive, intelligent, passionate and excitable personalities. They were all difficult to manage, and the three of them brought me close to tearing my hair out at times! But they were beautiful birds - all brillant, inky Visual Violets (deeper than in this picture), with neat little faces.
There was never much peace. Violet and Veronica fought regularly, sometimes resulting in significant wounds to toes. They fought mostly over mates -- particularly their bothersome brother, Blackberry! If I stood still in the aviary, they would both come to me, and then begin to fight over possession of my pockets or my feet -- they were favourite enemies and loved to fight! But -- and this is important -- Violet was the dominant sister. She was a tiny bit stronger, and a dash more aggressive than Veronica, and that was that. She was the boss, and nothing was going to stop her being the boss! But Veronica sometimes tried to turn the tables!
Years went by, with rarely a dull moment! When they were quite old, Violet and Veronica were reunited after having been kept apart for a while to stop them from fighting . Something very special happened when they found themselves together again in that 4ft cage -- and this is what my budgie diary says --
When she was 8½, Veronica got so over excited that she had to come into the house for a rest, away from her sister and all the males she fancied. She was very noisy and heavily swollen above the vent and pumping with her tail. She kept making an unusual call that I nicknamed the triple screach -- (and believe me, you wouldn't want to hear it!! She was like the bird version of the proverbial 'fisher's wife'!!)
After some weeks, she cut the noise down, but instead spent hours each day energetically rattling, banging, swinging, hurtling and lifting small toys!!!! When I eventually tried her back in the birdroom, the budgie who had been her companion in the house was thrilled to bits to get rid of her! -- but it was no good because she was soon overexcited AGAIN! Veronica then came indoors permanently, and fortunately she and her companion, Cicely, became friends as she calmed down. They lived the life of pets, and were let out together each day.
While the 'lesser' sister, Veronica, was enjoying her new life as a house pet, 'Violent Violet', now 9 years old, was courting two cocks in the flight, and frequently asking them to mate with her! She got herself exhausted -- and pregnant! I brought her in and rested her in the heated hospital cage where, after an application of warm olive oil to her vent, she laid an egg.
After recuperation, I returned Violet back to the flight, but the egg episode had sapped her strength. She became unusually quiet and lost her dominating facial expression -- (yes, budgies can have those!) She actually became very poorly with a chest infection -- so bad that she was out of breath in my hand when I examined her. I gave her a course of a powerful probiotic medicine for birds which uses 'good bugs' to blast the bad ones out of the body. Though she had been dangerously ill, the medicine was highly effective, and she soon turned the corner. Over time, she regained her beautiful singing voice, her plumage gloss, and her lost weight, and got that bold expression back! It was quite a spectacular recovery.
After that, 'Violent V.' lived indoors too. The only trouble was, Veronica was in the same room - the only room I could put them in - the dining kitchen. Violent V. inhabited a big box cage, while Veronica came out of her pet cage each day with her friend. Hilarity ensued with Veronica flying over to the wires of Violet's cage to make trouble! The two of them would be clinging either side of the wires, threatening and pecking each other, and I'd have to rush over and shoo Veronica away -- upon which she'd return defiantly and start the unnecessary dispute all over again!
Veronica and Cicely's favourite place in the big kitchen was the clothes airer which hung from the ceiling over the Aga. This was perfect perching -- with the bonus that it could be made to swing soothingly -- and we used to lower it to a suitable height for them each day. They loved to be swung!
Meanwhile, Blackberry continued to live in the birdroom, so didn't normally see his sisters - - though he could hear them, and they him. One day, he was brought through their room in a cage -- I think on his way to the vets' -- and the three old siblings were ever so excited to be together again! It was another of those special moments.
Violet lived three years longer than Veronica. She took over as the kitchen pet budgie, coming out to fly around as Veronica had done. This earned her another nick name: 'Violet the Pilot'!. She lived with the same companion for a time, but though the sisters seemed exceedingly alike to me -- a mere human -- Cicely did not accept Violet as a friend in place of Veronica, which seemed a little sad.
One day, I was daft enough to leave a nest box out, on a kitchen surface. -- It had been hanging up to dry over the Aga. -- When Violet came out for her exercise, she made a beeline for this box and went straight inside it!! -- At 9 years old!! This is amazing behaviour (as always with Violet) because young paird-up hens often take some days to pluck up the courage to enter nest boxes, even though they are very interested in them. (They probably have an inborn concern that there may be a snake or lizard inside).
Violet was even more fun in the kitchen than Veronica. She took a liking to a spice rack that hung on the wall. All the little jars and packets interested her, and she loved to push them over the miniature ballustrade and watch them crash on the surface below!! Some of the containers were very heavy for a tiny bird -- and she was tiny -- so the job took all her strength and ingenuity. If she failed to hurl a particular herb or spice pack over the rail, she would try once or twice more. Then, if she was still out of luck, she would pause and think -- then she would try again using a different technique, and usually succeed! We would be rolling about laughing, quite unable to bring ourselves to stop her bad behaviour and the resultant destruction! Needless to say, not many of the spice jars had much label left!
Violet's other 'inconvenient' behaviour in the kitchen involved a block of loose paper in a magnetic holder on the fridge door. (See the photo' at the top of the page). Apart from nibbling the sheets so that they all had a fancy edge, she would, when the mood took her, pull them out one by one and toss them onto the floor, scattering them far and wide!
One of the many remarkable things about this family of budgerigars was that they were just as inquisitive and adventurous in old age as when young. This enabled the sisters to enjoy themselves as house pets, even though they were already elderly when they came indoors, and had led a completely different life up until then. They never -- absolutely never -- became set in their ways.
© Helen Day, first published 2003.