Budgies are prone to behaviors that may seem odd to you. They might hang upside down, bob their heads, or sing melodies. If you notice your budgie pecking at its own feet, you may assume this is just another quirky behavior.
For some, it is, and for other budgies, it can be a sign of pain, discomfort, or serious illness. That makes it wise to understand the possible causes of this habit. Budgies might bite their feet to:
- Clean their foot as a normal part of the preening process
- Deal with discomfort from issues like bumblefoot, arthritis, tumors, or mites
- Distract themselves from boredom
You may notice the budgie pecking at its cage mate’s feet, which can mean:
- Enforcing the pecking order
We’ll explore the causes and their meaning for your budgie (and its companions). That way, you’ll know how to address the problem.
Do Budgies Clean Their Feet?
Budgies clean their feet, and this behavior will look similar to how budgies clean the rest of their bodies.
The technical term for this is preening. You’ll see this as the budgie using its beak to gently pull and peck at itself, removing dirt and straightening feathers.
In addition to feathers, budgies will preen their feet. This will involve a quick pass between the toes and may include other parts of the feet and legs.
Preening the feet is normal. Just make sure that it isn’t done too often or aggressively.
If this is the case, it may be a symptom of an underlying illness, like gout or arthritis. If you think that your budgie is preening its feet too much (or too often), consult your vet.
Why Budgies Bite Their Feet
Aside from preening, there are five reasons why a budgie will repeatedly bite its feet. These include:
If your budgie has bumblefoot, it may try to peck at its feet to stop the pain or irritation.
Bumblefoot is a fairly common but concerning issue for your budgie. According to Exotic Animal Practice, bumblefoot starts as a small sore or wound that becomes infected by bacteria.
If treated early, your budgie won’t have any lasting issues. However, bumblefoot can become life-threatening. When left untreated, a bumblefoot infection can affect the rest of the foot, leading to:
- Permanent lameness
- Infections to the bone
Look out for the following symptoms.
- Balancing on one foot
- Not wanting to walk
- Scabs on feet
- Redness on the bottom of the foot
- Swelling of the infected area
- Ulcers and sores on the feet
Badly designed perches are the main reason for bumblefoot infections. Your budgie should have multiple perches at least ½ inch in diameter. Most importantly, your perches should never be covered with rough materials, like burlap and sandpaper.
Cleanliness is also important to avoid any form of bacterial infection. So, sanitize the perches at least once every 2 weeks.
Psittacine birds, like budgies, are at a greater risk of developing bumblefoot due to nutritional factors. So, ensure that your bird is getting enough vitamins, especially:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D3
Arthritis refers to an inflammation of the joints. Budgies are often on their feet, and all this stress can lead to inflammation. The main symptom of arthritis is the swelling of the joints.
Other symptoms include:
- Perching on one leg
- Reluctance to walk
- Biting of the joints and foot
Older budgies are more likely to develop arthritis. You can contact your vet for NSAID prescriptions to ease your budgie’s pain.
Thankfully, there are ways to ease your budgie’s pain yourself. These include:
- Adding apple cider vinegar to your budge’s water
- Putting aloe vera on your budgie’s joints
- Removing metal grates on the bottom of your budgie’s cage
- Trimming your budgie’s nail
- Providing heated perches
- Rearranging objects inside the cage to allow for easier movement
- Adding softer material to the surface of the cage
Sometimes, the foot pain may be due to tumors, specifically renal and testicular tumors. A mass in these areas may pinch a nerve on the foot, causing pain.
According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, budgerigars are more susceptible to developing tumors than other birds. Young to middle-aged male budgies are more prone to developing tumors.
The main symptom of tumors in budgies is the swelling of the abdominal area. Symptoms also include:
- Labored breathing
- Blood in urine
- Weight loss
If found early, tumors can be removed through surgery or chemotherapy.
Scaly leg mites are more common in younger budgies that are still learning how to groom.
Scaly leg mites will affect all parts of the body. However, it’ll be more obvious on the feet, legs, and beak. This will look like scaly white or grey lesions on the surface of the skin. Your budgie will also be itching and plucking its feathers.
If you think a budgie has scaly leg mites, quarantine it from other birds immediately. Scaly leg mites are highly communicable and will infect other birds in the cage.
Scaly leg mites require a visit to the vet. These mites often become active due to a weakened immune system, so any underlying illnesses must be addressed.
Your vet will then prescribe antiparasitic medication, most commonly ivermectin.
Budgies are highly intelligent animals that require constant attention, engagement, and company. They can get bored easily when they’re kept in a cage for hours on end.
Boredom can be dangerous for budgies because they’re likely to self-mutilate when desperate for entertainment. This causes physical injury to various body parts, including the feet.
Stress and boredom are the main reasons for an unhappy budgie. Look for the following symptoms:
- Excessive jumping
- Feather picking
- Lack of appetite
To resolve boredom, give your budgie mental stimulation. For example, ensure that your budgie’s cage has lots of toys, perches, and novel foods.
The best way to cheer up your budgie is by providing attention.
Playtime, teaching tricks, and short trips outside the cage can do wonders. Merely speaking to your budgie as you pass it by, doing activities near your bird, and playing the radio or TV, can do wonders.
Why Do My Budgies Bite Each Other’s Feet?
Budgies often communicate through body language and actions. So, if your budgie pecks or bites another animal, it’s likely trying to send a message.
Here are three reasons why your budgie keeps biting other birds in its cage:
Due to their high intelligence and emotional range, budgies are especially jealous creatures. In fact, they can even become jealous of their own reflection.
If one budgie notices that you’re giving more attention to other birds, that budgie may perceive other birds as a threat. Jealous budgies typically scream, chase, and bite at this new threat.
Jealousy isn’t just caused by a lack of attention. Budgies can become possessive of their own items, like toys, food bowls, and perches. If a budgie sees another bird using an item it owns, you’re likely to see a fight break out.
Jealousy can be solved with trial and error. Ensure that every bird has its own items; one food bowl, perch, and toy for each bird. If possible, make sure that these items are within view of each other so that no one budgie thinks they’re getting cheated.
Of course, pay the same amount of attention to every budgie. If your budgie continues to be possessive and aggressive, it may be time to move it to a different cage.
When budgies establish a pecking order, they’ll be aggressive toward other flock members.
However, establishing a pecking order isn’t the same as looking for a fight. This will usually look like a small nip, especially on the feet. The one enforcing the pecking order will usually want the other bird to move so it can use a food bowl or perch.
The other bird may scream or fight back. However, unless the biting causes physical injury, there’s no need to intervene. Eventually, pecking orders will sort themselves out on their own.
Some budgies will get into fights with other birds, one eventually harming the other. If a budgie is physically injured from fighting, it’s time to separate the two.
It may sound drastic, but such birds often don’t learn how to get along. In that cage, placing one in their own cage is the only way to stop a biting parakeet.