Young parakeets are not ready to be moved to new homes until they are 8 to 10 weeks old. These youngsters have distinctive horizontal markings on their heads, including the crown (forehead). These frontal stripes disappear after the parakeet’s first molt, at three to four months. Any bird without these bars is older than 12 weeks.
There are a number of things to look out for if you want to take home a parakeet that will be both happy and healthy:
- Check out the bird’s previous home. Dirty, overcrowded cages and poorly kept cages are telling you one thing - shop elsewhere! A parakeet that has a bad start in life may have health issues.
- Ask the seller questions. If the breeder or store staff don’t know much about their birds, how can you trust that the parakeets have been cared for? Ill health in a bird often leads to its death. Buying pets from dodgy dealers helps keep those dealers in business, so shop elsewhere. If the conditions for the birds were really bad, report it.
- Ask for a written guarantee of health for your new bird. Many places will offer this as a matter of course.
Take a good look at your pet parakeets before buying
- Choose a bird that looks healthy. Things to look out for include:
- Sociable behaviour. Healthy young parakeets will be noisy, playful and alert. A quiet bird perched alone in a cage containing other birds will be ailing.
- Beautiful plumage. There should be no missing or messy feathers, and the bird should look sleek and shiny.
- Quiet breathing. Parakeets are real chatterboxes, but their breathing should be silent. Any ‘wheeze’ or a ‘clicking’ sound indicates respiratory problems, possibly air sac mite.
- Clean nostrils and beak. The nostrils should be clear, with no mucous or dried matter around the cere or beak.
- A well-proportioned beak. If it’s crooked, rough looking or oversized, there are hidden health problems.
- The right number of toes. There should be four on each foot, two pointing forwards and two pointing backwards (a formation known as zygodactyl). Watch the bird perching and climbing – any sign of clumsiness or awkwardness could indicate a deformity or problem.
- A clean vent (the vent is the area from which the bird poops). If the vent looks messy, it might be an indication of a health problem, or a poor diet which has weakened the bird.