Few things are more worrying as a bird owner than when your little ball of feathers stops eating. This can be especially troubling when it’s a budgie, parrot, parakeet, or other Bird of Paradise that’s suddenly sworn off food.
These birds already tend to have very specialized needs and diets, so when something goes wrong with them, it can be that much harder to figure it out and treat the issue.
Or is it?
Well, it depends on what the actual cause is, of course. While it’s never “good” for a bird not to eat, the reason behind your budgie not budging on eating may be more benign.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some reasons why budgies stop eating, how concerning each reason is, and what you can do about it.
1 – New Surroundings
First, it’s important to clear up that while all budgies are parrots, not all parrots are budgies. What’s more, not everyone calls them “budgies” – if you’re an American, chances are you’ve heard “parakeet” instead, even if it’s not always a perfect match.
Certain Australian parrots known as “budgerigars” are nicknamed budgies, unless they’re called parakeets as in America and other places – got that?
Despite the differences in names, however, one thing all budgies, parrots, and parakeets have in common is that, extravagantly-plumaged little performers though they are, they can have a bit of “stage fright” when you first bring them home.
Remember that birds in captivity spend most of their lives in a very defined space. When they are taken from the only home they’ve ever known at the pet store back to your home, they might understandably be a bit anxious.
Thankfully, of all the potential reasons for budgies not eating, this is by far the easiest to solve, and tends to solve itself. Just give your new budgie time to get acquainted with its new surroundings. Soon enough, acclimation to its new home and peckish-ness should make it peck at its food.
If the budgie in question was already shy at the pet shop, chances are it’ll take longer to settle in and start eating than a more naturally-extroverted one. Likewise, if the budgie is used to being hand fed, chances are it is used to the scent and feel of its feeder’s hand.
Now that it’s you feeding it, either by hand or via a birdfeeder, it’s going to need some time to get used to that.
2 – New Food
Just because there’s food in front of them doesn’t mean budgies always feel compelled to eat it. That may seem surprising to those who are used to budgies binge eating, but that’s when they’re either really hungry, really happy with the food with which they’ve been presented, or both. Parrots can be picky about food, and budgies are no exception.
For example, if you have just switched from one type of food to another, even if they’re both fine, your budgie may be cautious about eating. If you find them playing with new food that’s perfectly healthy rather than eating it, this is a possible reason why. Your budgie is trying to get used to the new food before daring to eat it.
For this reason, while a neat little treat here or there is fine, it should be supplemental and in small quantities. Larger changes to your parrot’s diet (ie, a new feed, or a fruit or veggie they haven’t tried before) should be done gradually.
Then again, maybe you’re accidentally trying to feed your budgie something they can tell is bad for them. Some bad budgie foods include:
- Citrus fruits
- Cherries, apricots, and peach stones (all possibly lethal)
- Apple seeds
- Aubergine (or, in another Europe/US naming split, eggplant)
- Lemon and lime
- Meat and poultry
- Green tomatoes (red tomatoes are fine)
3 – Irritability and Stress
If you are a stress eater yourself, you may find this one particularly preposterous. However, while stress makes some of us much more likely to indulge in comfort food (whether our waistlines like it or not), the same isn’t the case for budgies. When they are stressed, they often forego eating.
This is what’s going on when birds are nervous about their new circumstances. That said, there are lots of other reasons why your bird may be irritable or stressed.
For example, if your bird has not gotten any exercise lately, it can start to become bored or depressed. If it used to have a fellow bird to play with and it passed on or is otherwise no longer around, it may be depressed that its friend or mate is no longer there.
On the plus side, unless your bird has some deeper trauma (which may be the case if it’s a rescue bird that’s been mistreated in the past), this reason for not eating also tends to abate reasonably quickly.
Just be patient. After a day or two of its new surroundings, and as it gets a little more comfortable with you, it should start to feel less stress and irritability and start to eat again.
Start with a treat you know it likes (the budgie equivalent of comfort food) and if it continues not to eat anything after a couple days, go to the vet.
4 – Parasite Problems
Now we start getting into the causes that can cause stress for you as a budgie owner. No one wants to think of their little ball of feathered joy suffering from a parasite, but it’s sadly one reason why your budgie might not be eating.
5 – Possible Diseases
The silver lining of this section and that on parasites is that, as mentioned above, there are other, more common, and far less dangerous reasons why your budgie might not be eating. Just because parasites and diseases are a possibility doesn’t mean they’re the probable, let alone definite, cause of your budgie eating woes.
However, if you have already reviewed the options above and found them lacking, you’ll want to start acting like parasites or diseases are a more distinct possibility. You should take your budgie to the vet.
Maybe there’s something you missed and it’s nothing serious – and if it is a disease or parasite, the sooner you take your bird so they can identify it along with potential treatments, the better.
- Avian gastric yeast infection
- Sour crop
- Fledgling disease
It’s important to note that, on its own, not eating isn’t definitively diagnostic for budgies. Rather, it is a symptom that can go with a lot of potential diseases.
That said, it can also simply be one of the other, more easily-explained and treated issues above, such as your new budgie being shy about its new surroundings, depression, or it simply not liking the food you have given it, especially if it’s new.
While it’s understandably worrying when your budgie stops eating, therefore, hard as it is, you should try and stay calm. The issue may be serious, yes, but it could also be quite minor and easily fixed. Give it a day or two, see how your budgie responds, and when in doubt, go to the vet.