In the Australian Outback, parakeets usually breed in response to rainfall. This tends to be between June and January, but the birds will breed at any time of year in a warm, well kept aviary. Indeed, as long as there is water and food in abundance, budgies can produce several broods in a year. Naturally, this tends not to happen in the wild, but can cause problems in captivity if the birds are allowed to breed. Too much egg-laying takes a toll on hen birds. For more on this subject, check out the Nesting and Breeding section of this Guide.
Pet parakeets nesting in a tree
Parakeet nests are pretty basic – a simple tree cavity is all they need. As long as the space can accommodate one adult and five to eight white, circular eggs, the birds are happy. Fence posts with holes are often used as substitutes in the wild, or even a log on the ground. The hen birds take full responsibility for hatching the eggs, sitting alone on the clutch while the male brings her food. He does this by regurgitating seeds for her, and he continues to bring food while the female is in the nesting cavity with her chicks.
The eggs hatch at a rate of one a day, with the first one hatching after 17-19 days. The chicks are born naked and blind. Their first meal is a liquid from the hen’s crop, sometimes referred to as budgie milk. This is an essential first meal, packed with nutrients and antibodies.
The cock bird spends all the day, from sunrise to sunset, filling his crop with food and bringing it back to the nest to regurgitate for his mate, who then passes it on to her chicks. The male only starts feeding the chicks when they are three weeks old (although sometimes an over-protective hen refuses to let him).
Because the eggs hatch one at time, the nest contains chicks of different sizes. Unlike in many bird species, the survival chances of the younger parakeets are very good. In fact, the hen instinctively feeds them first rather than the older chicks. In captivity these later eggs are often removed and given to a surrogate hen parakeet to hatch.
Three-week-old budgie chick
Budgie chicks open their eyes after ten days. At this stage they have grown soft down, with ‘pin feathers’ appearing at two weeks. These scaly stubs develop into feathers between three and four weeks. The birds are ready to leave the nest between 30 and 40 days after hatching - but it takes another nine months before they’re completely independent of their parents.
At one year old, budgies are ready to breed. As both parents invest so much time rearing their young, a parakeet pair form strong bonds, engaging in mutual grooming, beak ‘kissing’, and head bobbing to strengthen the bond.
How long do pet parakeets live?
Budgies generally live between five and eight years in the wild, but can easily reach 10 and even 15 years in captivity. The official record for parakeet longevity is 29 years and two months, according to the Guinness Book of Records.