Budgies are extremely intelligent, and therefore can be taught to talk easily. But you need to create the right atmosphere first. And don't forget: you need your budgie's cooperation. They are not going to talk just because you want them to.
First of all, here is a little fact. Some people say that only male budgies can learn to talk. This is a myth, because females can learn too, and there are plenty of talking female budgies out there!
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TIPS AND WARNINGS:
- Wait until your budgie is at least 3-4 months old before you start teaching him or her to talk.
- Be a good and patient teacher for your budgie. Don't get mad at him if he doesn't show any signs of interest. It may seem like it will never happen, but just keep trying, and eventually, your budgie may talk!
- When you teach him/her how to talk, try to use your own language, or at least a language that you master well. It will sound more natural and relaxed to your budgie, and they will pick it up more easily.
- One of the first things that you teach your budgie should be his own name, and the names of the other budgies in the cage.
- Never punish your budgie if he makes a mistake, that is the worst thing you can do! They will not understand what they did wrong and get scared of you.
- Always reward your budgie for his achievements. This will stimulate him to do even better. Typical budgie rewards are spray millet (it's like candy to them, so don't give them too much!), or a piece of fruit.
- Try to teach one budgie at a time. Once he can talk, he will set an example for the other budgies in the cage.
- Put on some relaxing music, this may help to get your budgie into the right mind set for learning
- Keep listening to your budgie, because when he finally says his first word, they often say it so quietly or quickly that you miss it!
- Budgies seem to find it easier to learn from women and children (sorry guys!), because they have a more high-pitched voice, and this is the type of voice that budgies feel the most comfortable with.
- Read your budgie a bedtime story. It's not as crazy as it sounds and your budgie will love it! They will listen to your intonation, understand it a little bit, and maybe catch a word here and there! You can do this anytime during the learning process, it's always effective.
- Last but not least: stay positive! Budgies love to get compliments! Tell them how good they are, use words like "sweet" and "beautiful", "strong" and "good". They work like magic and will reassure your budgies that they're in good hands.
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STEP 1: GET THE BUDGIE USED TO YOU - it's impossible to teach a budgie how to talk when he's terrified of you. The more tame your budgie is, the bigger the chance of talking. While you're teaching your budgie, remain calm and don't raise your voice or wave your hands. That will only stress them up.
STEP 2: START WITH ONE WORD - I don't mean that you have to say the same word all over again until your budgie is bored to death, but you should definitely focus on one word. It could be as simple as "budgie". Say "good morning budgie" or "how is my little budgie doing today?" or "I love you budgie". Your bird will see a pattern there. Say the word more slowly, "Bud-gee" and repeat that a few times. Your budgie will notice that this is an important word in your communication, and he will want to repeat it.
FYI: this is how far I got with Frodo right now. He definitely knows our word "parkietje" (Dutch for 'little budgerigar') and he's trying to repeat it.
STEP 3: SIMPLE SENTENCES - once your budgie can say a word or two, you can start with simple sentences. An easy way to do this, is to observe your budgies in the cage and tell them what they're doing. When Isla is taking a nap, I can tell Frodo that "Isla is sleeping". When Frodo is drinking water, I can tell him that he's a "thirsty bird". This is still relatively easy for a budgie to learn.
STEP 4: FEELINGS ** FOR HARDCORE TEACHERS ONLY** - this is where it gets much more complex. Budgerigars can feel love, fear, anger, grief and happiness. But it is very hard to explain them these things. Again, the best way to learn this is by association.
: courtship behaviour, such as mutual preening, or sharing food, shows a bond between mated budgies that can be seen as love. When Leonidas is feeding Pixie, I can say that "Leonidas loves Pixie". Or when Frodo is preening Isla, I can say that "Frodo loves Isla". You don't have to make it more complicated than this.
: Angry budgie behaviour may contain threatening postures, intimidating noises, lunges and pecking or even biting. You often get to see this behaviour at feeders (oh, how many times they fight over the food!), or when their (nesting) territory is invaded. So here I could tell Isla to "stop being angry with Frodo", when she's chasing him off the feeding tray.
: this is a complex emotion and one that I hope you will never have to explain to your birds. Budgies have been known to remember the death of a mate, or a friend, or a young. For days in a row, they could be searching for this budgie, without finding anything. As a result, they go quiet (it's often a bad sign when a budgie stays quiet for a long time) or show other signs of listless behaviour such as a drooping posture.
: Quick flight and escape are the most obvious signs of fear. Budgies get easily scared by loud noises or sudden movements. Other fear factors include rapid breathing, freezing to the spot, and alarm or distress calls. For example: Pixie gets lost behind the curtain and doesn't see a way out. She starts calling for help, and then I could say that "Pixie is scared".
: is your budgie singing, or resting on one leg while crackling its beak? Then you certainly have a happy budgie! I often tell Frodo how happy he must be, because he's singing pretty much all the time :-)
This step may be the hardest of all, but also the most useful to you. I remember a story of an African Grey telling his owner that he felt "sick", because he was molting! Isn't that amazing? It would be so great if our budgies could tell us how they felt, and I realize that this is not easy to say the least! That's why I wrote "for hardcore teachers only" :-)
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STEP 5: BASIC VOCABULARY - Once your budgie knows a few simple sentences, it's time to teach him the names of things around him. When someone comes to visit, tell your budgie the name of that person. You can teach him a little phrase to say hello or goodbye to visitors. Tell him about all the toys in his cage, or the food that he eats. Never underestimate your little friend, because budgies are capable of mastering a vocabulary of 1000+ words!