Calcium is an important part of a bird’s diet. It enables budgies to stay energized, keeps their bones strong, and helps females lay eggs. A budgie’s diet would be incomplete without this essential mineral.
Too much calcium can cause budgies to develop hypercalcemia, which causes kidney problems, tissue calcification, and nephrosis. It prevents budgies from absorbing other essential minerals.
Calcium is essential for budgies, but you need to know how much they need. Just as a lack of calcium can cause life-threatening health issues, too much calcium can put your budgie’s life at risk.
Is Too Much Calcium Bad for Budgies?
A calcium deficiency can cause many problems, such as egg binding and brittle bones. As it’s one of the most common health problems, owners must ensure that their budgies receive sufficient calcium.
Information on the dangers of calcium deficiency is front and center in budgie communities, leading owners to believe that they can never provide their birds with enough calcium.
This isn’t true, as there’s such a thing as giving your budgie too much calcium. Calcium intoxication can deteriorate your budgie’s health.
What Harm Can Too Much Calcium Cause?
Too much calcium in a budgie’s diet is detrimental to its health. How badly the calcium intoxication affects the budgie will depend on the following factors:
- Consumption level
- Health status
When a budgie has too much calcium in its blood, it’ll develop hypercalcemia. This is an umbrella term that covers all the different calcium intoxication problems a budgie can experience, including:
The kidneys have trouble filtering out excessive calcium, which can cause the following problems:
- Kidney stones
- Excessive urination
- Loss of motor control
Depending on the extent of the damage, a budgie may have lifelong problems that originated from kidney problems, such as stunted growth.
If a budgie has renal problems for too long, it can result in premature death.
Budgies given seed-based diets experience problems when given too much calcium.
Seeds contain a lot of oil, which can be difficult for the budgie to digest. The oil binds the calcium together and forms clumps of calcium that the budgie can’t absorb.
The more calcium the budgie consumes, the bigger these clumps will be. These clumps form in the intestines and are passed through when the budgie defecates.
One way to tell if your budgie is consuming too much calcium is to check its feces. Here, you’ll most likely see one of these calcium clumps.
If your budgie eats a lot of seeds or oily foods, you need to watch the amount of calcium it gets.
Bone And Muscle Weakness
Too much calcium can affect the strength of a budgie’s bones and muscles.
When a budgie has too much calcium in the bloodstream, the excess calcium leaches the calcium in the bones in a process called calcium mobilization.
Because the bones lack calcium, they become weak. The budgie is at risk of breaking its bones easily because of this calcium mobilization.
Calcium mobilization is dangerous for nestlings. If they grow up with weak bones, they could develop splayed legs or experience general stunted growth.
Many owners make the mistake of giving young budgies a lot of calcium to help their bones grow, but it has the opposite effect.
Inability To Absorb Nutrients
According to Cornell University, calcium metabolism in avian creatures is controlled by the following:
- Parathyroid gland
These parts also regulate the absorption of other important nutrients. However, excess calcium in the blood directly affects these areas, weakening them and inhibiting their ability to function.
So, budgies with hypercalcemia have trouble absorbing the nutrients in the food they eat. They become malnourished and quickly lose their strength, opening the door for other health problems.
Calcium helps budgies with muscle contraction and movement.
Calcium toxicity can weaken a budgie’s muscles and affect how they function. This is dangerous for female budgies when it’s time to lay eggs.
If the budgie’s muscles can’t contract correctly when laying eggs, it could lead to egg binding. This occurs when a budgie is unable to lay her eggs.
It’s a fatal condition that could lead to death. Female budgies can experience egg binding when dealing with calcium deficiency and calcium intoxication.
Soft Tissue Calcification
Soft tissue calcification occurs when calcium builds up in a budgie’s soft tissue.
Calcium buildup can disrupt organ function. It usually goes away on its own, but in severe cases, the calcium clumps may cause death by disrupting blood flow.
The most difficult aspect of diagnosing soft tissue calcification is it’s an invisible symptom of calcium intoxication. In budgies, you can’t see the lumps of calcium forming around soft tissue, so owners often don’t realize what’s happening until other symptoms appear.
Nephrosis is the degeneration of kidney tubules.
Kidney tubules are small tubes that filter nutrients and liquids back into the bloodstream. The other substances that the tubules aren’t able to release back into the blood become urine.
Calcium intoxication destroys kidney tubules and causes fluid retention, swelling, and infection. It’s a painful, fatal disease that has no cure.
Most budgies that suffer from this condition need to be put down.
How Much Calcium Do Budgies Need?
According to the University of Sydney, calcium should make up between 0.3% to 0.7% of a budgie’s diet.
Any less than 0.3% results in weak bones and problems when laying eggs. More than 0.7% results in kidney calcification. Budgies don’t need as much calcium as bigger birds, like African grey parrots.
Regardless of how you choose to give your budgie calcium, you should always measure the amount. Using calcium supplements makes this easier, whereas if you choose to rely on the calcium content of the food you give it, you would have to measure everything more precisely.
If you choose to use a mineral block or cuttlebone, only let your budgie munch on it a few times a week. If your budgie likes calcium and doesn’t know when to stop consuming it, let it have a cuttlebone or mineral block 1-3 times a week.
A month before your female budgie lays her eggs, you should increase her calcium intake slightly. Budgies need calcium while breeding to form the egg and stay healthy.
How to Tell If Your Budgie is Eating Too Much Calcium
You can tell if your budgie is eating too much calcium by its:
- Eggs appearance
Calcium intoxication is difficult to diagnose due to the way the problem affects the budgie externally is similar to other ailments.
Here are some of the common signs of calcium intoxication:
- Excessive urinating
- Loss of appetite
- Disinterest in flying
- Disinterest in talking
- Weight loss
- Splayed legs
Not all budgies experience all of the symptoms at once.
Depending on the symptoms, they can be confused for symptoms of:
- Calcium deficiency
A calcium efficiency misdiagnosis is dangerous in this situation because you could give your budgie more calcium when it needs less.
Some obvious signs of calcium intoxication would be in the budgie’s waste. Because an excess of calcium affects the kidneys, the urine will be foamy and may contain blood and traces of calcium.
You should also check any eggs the female lays. If there’s too much calcium in her system, she’ll lay eggs covered in calcium deposits. They’ll look spotted and crusty on the surface.
If she has hypercalcemia, you should stop the egg-laying process by discouraging breeding or nesting behavior. The calcium in her system could cause muscle failure and lead to egg binding.
Weight loss, fatigue, and malnutrition are all symptoms of long-term hypercalcemia. That makes it important to find the right balance of calcium for your budgie.