Many a times we thought of keeping pets at home. Our preference was always on keeping a dog but it is not practical with our present circumstances. Being two old persons, it is very difficult. It has to be regularly taken out for walks not doing which will be an injustice to the animal. More difficult is the situation when both persons have to go out for somedays. Where to keep it then? We had this experience in the past when we had a beautiful Labrador as a pet. Unfortunately, it’s association with us was brief and it’s life was cut short. This incident also left a kind of fear and apprehension to keep the pet dog again.
So our choice fell on birds. We brought home a pair of budgies in a cage. Difference between birds and dogs as pets is that a dog forms a strong bond and share our moments of happiness and sorrow. Dog will never desert us and miss us when we are away and wait for the members of the family who have gone out and will be returning. Birds on the other hand, especially budgies, don’t form such attachment. Should they happen to fly out by accident from the cage, you cannot expect them to come back. They can be left provided they have enough food and water in the cage.
All day we cared for them. Taking the cage out in the summer evenings and keeping them inside in the cool. They were given the food purchased from the pet shop. They also like to nibble at the leaves of certain plants and trees like coriander and silver oak.
During the summer months one day their cage was kept hanging out. It was cleaned. Water and containers were cleaned. It so happened that one of the doors was left opened inadvertently. The male budgie came out. When it was found out, it was sitting on the top of cage and our effort to catch it scared it and it flew away and sat on a tree. We located it perched on a nearby tree but were helpless. We lost its track. Since these birds cannot endure the long flights, it must have been killed by the hawks which lurk there on these trees.
The female was left alone. Whole day it was making calls and seemed desperately missing its partner. We were also anguished and were at a loss as to what should be done. We considered many options like giving it to pet shop owner. Other was to find another male which should be compatible with it. After few days, we found one in one shop and brought it home. In the beginning, female would not allow it near and peck it angrily. But to our satisfaction they became friends and played and twittered together.
After somedays, the female began laying eggs. But since these were on the cage bottom sieve, these were broken by the female. After consulting some people having this experience, we brought one fired round clay pot with open top and one big hole carved on one side. This was fixed in the top of the cage.
Female began to survey it and inspect it. After few days both were going in, sitting and coming out. An egg was laid followed by two three more but for days on nothing was coming out of the. Female began sitting for long periods on the them. At last a day before Diwali festival, one of the eggs hatched and a very clumsy mass of flesh was there. That it was alive could be judged only from its shivering. The one after another three were there. There were still three more eggs remaining.
We were thinking how they will be fed but our fears were unfounded. The male who was now a father would eat the seeds and crushed them inside its gullet and then pass the liquified food to female who further churned it finer and fed it to the newborns. From morning till sunset it went on. The kids began growing and still very clumsy with no eyes and no plumage. I was surprised how the parents kept track of feeding each one. Six chicks jostling in a small space. But it is hard wired in their DNA and there is no need to learn. Meanwhile the other eggs hatched after a few days spacing. After fifteen days the eldest one had small plumage and eyes began opening. Others followed suit. Plumage became richer and one by one beginning with eldest began to take shape of the grown ups. We transferred them all to a bigger cage.
In addition to the normal shop bought food, we also fed them fresh green rice which I brought everyday from the fields nearby our home since the like the seed with cover intact. We also tried the wheat soaked overnight in hot water. They become habituated to it after few days of hesitancy. But here also they removed the outer coating to take only the core material.
When six chicks are growing in small space, the waste material accumulated inside the nest. But many a times, female frantically dived in and brought out the waste material and threw it away to keep the nest as clean as possible.
Another feature was that female never allowed the male to feed chick directly. He will only watch from the top of nest or gathering another round of seeds while female fed the chicks.
They began straining their necks out. Eldest one started fluttering the feathers. Then one day, when we removed the cover from the cage, we were surprised to find the first one sitting at the cage floor. It is very beautiful and have blue and green color. It began nibbling the seeds but would expect the easy way of being fed by its mother. But she was stern with it and only once in a while gave it food. But Another another problem cropped. The father began pecking it harshly and was scaring it constantly. We have to transfer it adjacent partition although with heavy heart. It fretted there and became very aggressive.
In the evening, we went out and returned after dark. I was surprised to find that the small one has gone back to the nest because how it flew there is hard to imagine. Another day second one only came down and after hopping here and there and eating the seed went back in the night.
It began to be cool weather because of November month. We have to leave the place for few days. Luckily our daughter who lives nearby was ready to help. We told her the procedures and eating times and food. She is managing them now. Only one which hatched in the last, remains in the nest. All others have left the nest to become independent.
Two lives have become eight now. It is the way of nature. Below are some pictures