Reflecting on my budgies, TJ and Maxx

This is therapy: writing about the budgies as I deal with the loss of TJ.

In August 2013, when I had the birds for about 2 months, I described TJ as being unstable, would peck unexpectedly, would readily step on my finger even outside the cage, and would try food that I offer him. I described Maxx as cautious and loved to eat.

After having them for close to 3 years, their personalities have developed and are quite distinct.



TJ was the leader. He was the bully. The skinnier flightless bird would boss the bigger bird around.

TJ was the touchable budgie. He would let me pat his belly and wing area. He loved to be scratched around his neck and head. I’ve forgotten that it took a long time before he would let me scratch him. He enjoyed bath-tub baths but only occasionally. He would swim like a duck in the plastic container of water. During shower baths, he would turn his back to me and face the wall instead. Sometimes when he hasn’t showered in a long time, he would climb to the top corner of the cage and wiggled his wings and fluffed out his feathers to get more of the water sprays. It was always so fun to see him do that.

Whenever I pulled out the box underneath their cage, TJ would be the one to climb down and eyed the contents of the box eagerly. If I pulled out the spray millet, he would go bonkers. He was always the more curious and cautious bird, always very observant.

TJ was not much of an eater. He was the pickier eater. It was harder to get him to try new food. He loved corn, oranges, apples, sweet beans, pea sprouts, broccoli, and seeds. He was the seed junkie.

TJ had a weaker beak so it was fun to play with him because his bites were not painful. Because he was flightless, he was also the one that depended on me more to bring him back up to the cage when he accidentally fell (or not-accidentally jump) off the cage to the floor.



Maxx is the bigger bird but tends to follow TJ’s lead. When TJ refused to try a new food, most of the time Maxx would not try as well. When TJ jumps from the cage to the ground, Maxx would usually follow.

Maxx loves to eat. In the evenings, he is the one who would be going up and down the cage to eat the seeds at the bottom of the cage. He would readily eat pellets, and probably could be converted to a pellet diet.

Maxx does not like bath-tub baths but is very agreeable to shower baths. He faces the water sprays and takes the direct hit.

Maxx is not a touchable budgie. He tolerates light pats on his beak and chest occasionally. No scratching allowed for Maxx. He has a strong bite but lately hasn’t bitten me to the point of pain. More like playful-but-don’t-push-it bites.

Maxx pees a lot. I was very worried about this for a long time. But then in January this year, when I brought TJ to see the Avian Specialist, and Maxx got a free consultation, the doctor said that birds do pee and that’s normal! I haven’t read a similar statement on the internet but since the doctor said so, I have been assured.

Maxx is a little less aware and tended to watch for TJ’s reaction to things before he reacted. In terms of things, TJ might be the one to approach new things first. Maxx is also more nervous and jumpy compared to TJ. But then Maxx was also the first one to climb up my shoulder and hang out there!

Maxx is a beautiful budgie. Very regal English-looking!

Getting to know them

I have had the birds for close to three years. We have our set routines. I’ve forgotten that things were not always like these. At the beginning, they would not climb on my finger or eat food off my hand. They refused to eat fruits and veges and acted as if they did not see the food in their cage. They refused to go into the shower cage in the beginning. They did not like to be touched. But over months and years, we changed and adapted to each other.

Shower routine: TJ would be the first to get into the shower cage, followed by Maxx. TJ would stand on the left, Maxx on the right. Maxx would be the first to get out of the shower cage, then I have to coaxed TJ to come out.

Outside perch: TJ would be standing in the front, Maxx at the back.

Bedtime routine: When the living rooms lights were turned off, both of them would get into a fight as to who would get the chosen swing.

Morning window routine: TJ would stand on my right hand, Maxx on the left.

Food cups: TJ would eat from the front cup, Maxx the back. And after eating for a while, they would switch cups.

Vege/fruit/treat: There wasn’t a preferred location. The other piece of fruit/vege/treat was always better, so there would always be small fights and run-arounds in the cage.

Fights: I couldn’t say for sure who always won the fights. I think Maxx was often the winner during beak battles. But for some reason, TJ continued to be the boss.

The day I slammed the door on an old man…

The Center was located in an affluent commercial area with numerous offices and businesses. It was located on the second floor, so we did not get visitors who would walk in out of nowhere. But there was this old man who occasionally walked up the flights of stairs to the Center with his two assistants. During Chinese New Year, he handed out angpows. Sometimes, he gave out cheap toys to the kids. And every time, he drilled me as to why a university graduate would want to spend her time teaching children with disabilities. A harmless and curious visitor who wanted to do good deeds, I thought.

Then one day, this old man came on his own to the Center. This time, his assistants did not come with him. He was standing between the door and the table where I was having one-on-one with my student. As usual, he started questioning me about my reasons for pursuing this line of work. I was slightly annoyed that he kept wanting to talk about that issue. All I wanted was for him to leave the room so that I could start my session with my student. The conversation went something like this:

Old Man (OM): But you are a university graduate, I’m sure there are better jobs out there.

Me: This is what I want to do. Besides I’m also pursuing further study in special education.

OM: But they (the kids) are “cacat” (handicapped). What’s the point of spending your time here with them? Go find something better to do.

Me: But they can still learn. And I want to do this.

OM: They are useless to society. They have no value.

Me: That’s not true! They are valuable. Their parents love them. God loves them.

OM: Better send them to hell!

Me: You have to leave now. I have to teach my students (Closed the door on the old man).

Few days later, my boss, the director of the Center who was also a parent of one of my students, came to talk to me. The old man told her that I “slammed” the door on him. He explained to her that he was questioning me about my single status and I got upset by that so I threw him out of the room. My boss thought that that behavior was totally out of character for me. I told her what the old man said, and her eyes popped open with disbelief. Anyway, she said she would talk to the old man.

I was really upset that day but as I thought over the situation, I realized he was not just an ignorant old man. This old man took his time and energy to slowly walk up those many steps to come into the Center to curse my students. I’m glad I slammed the door him. Ever since that time, the old man never came visiting.