Budgies have a reputation for being spirited and vocal birds. A budgie that just sits there, making no noise, is rarely happy and healthy.
Budgies stop chirping if they develop an avian goiter, a condition that results in a swollen throat that makes vocalization increasingly difficult.
If your budgie doesn’t have a goiter, it could be quiet due to a respiratory infection or injury. Stressed or upset budgies often fall silent.
Budgies sleep a lot as they have fast metabolisms. However, there will be an explanation if your budgie is uncharacteristically silent while awake.
Do All Budgies Chirp?
Chirping is closely associated with birds, to the point that many birds begin chirping while still inside the egg. This means that you’ll expect a pet budgie to tweet upon hatching and remain vocal.
Budgies are quiet, even silent, for the first month of their life. Hatchlings stay silent to wild instincts. Until the budgie can defend itself from predators, it’ll be careful not to give away its location through noise.
Once your budgie is four weeks or older, it’ll chirp with increasing regularity and volume. The sound of a budgie’s chirping will become so ingrained in your day that you’ll immediately notice if it falls silent.
Can Budgies Lose Their Voice?
If your formerly vocal budgie has lost its voice and stopped chirping, the first thing you should check for is thyroid hyperplasia (avian goiter).
This condition sees the thyroid gland, found in a budgie’s throat, visibly enlarge and swell.
The first symptom of avian goiter is that your budgie will lose its voice and struggle to chirp. The swollen thyroid makes it increasingly difficult for the appropriate noises to leave your budgie’s throat.
Other symptoms of goiter include:
- Lack of appetite because the budgie can’t swallow.
- Vomiting any food it has eaten.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Wheezing and trouble breathing due to the enlarged thyroid placing pressure on the lungs.
An inappropriate diet often causes goiter. If your budgie follows a seed-based diet, it’ll likely lack iodine. Iodine is a chemical element that helps create thyroxine, a hormone distributed by the thyroid. As thyroxine is also responsible for a budgie’s high metabolic rate, it’s critical to all birds.
Some seemingly healthy foods, including broccoli, soybeans, cabbage, and kale, can block the formation of thyroxine in a budgie’s body. The same can apply following the inhalation of toxins.
Goiter can usually be diagnosed on-sight by an avian vet, although further testing may be necessary. Treatment will usually revolve around adjusting your budgie’s diet and, if necessary, adding iodine supplements to its drinking water.
Typically, if you catch goiter early, your budgie will make a full recovery.
As discussed by the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, the concern can have a higher mortality rate if allowed to spread. Goiter places pressure on a budgie’s heart, so it must be addressed.
Why Do Budgies Stop Chirping?
If your budgie isn’t struggling with goiter, there will still be an explanation for its silence.
Budgies don’t fall silent for no reason unless they are sleeping. Even then, as per PLoS Biology, budgies experience REM sleep. This suggests that budgies dream and may chirp in their sleep.
If your budgie isn’t making any noise, observe its general behavior and demeanor.
Budgies are hardy but can be prone to injury.
Budgies have a limited number of bones – as few as 25 – but they can be quite brittle. For example, if your budgie has cracked a bone in its wing, it’ll be significant discomfort and remain quiet.
Your budgie may also have an injury in its foot. If the budgie experiences swelling in the feet, it may develop a painful concern known as bumblefoot. Bumblefoot allows bacteria to enter your budgie’s feet, leading to a loss of scales and thin, red skin.
Left untreated, these bacteria will lead to ulcers on the feet and spread around the body.
We’ve discussed the threat of avian goiter, but other illnesses can affect a budgie. A budgie that feels unwell will undergo personality changes, including a lack of verbalization.
Respiratory infections are a likely culprit. For example, mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that rapidly spreads between birds. The symptoms of this concern include streaming from the eyes and nose, sneezing, and limited interaction or vocalization.
Avian Diseases warns that mycoplasma has a mortality rate of around 20% in budgies, so if you suspect that your bird has the condition, isolate it at once.
Mycoplasma has no cure, but antibiotics (usually water-soluble Tylan) minimize the symptoms.
Chlamydophila (parrot fever) is another common respiratory infection in budgies and other companion birds. This bacterial infection is zoonotic, so handle an infected budgie with care.
Upon diagnosis, your budgie will be treated with an antibiotic (tetracycline or doxycycline, in most cases.) It can take up to three weeks for a budgie to fully recover from chlamydophila, but it should start to respond to treatment almost immediately.
Respiratory infections should always lead to a consultation with an avian vet. Your budgie may well recover from a respiratory infection by itself within a few days.
Emotional duress is as likely to silence a budgie as a physical ailment.
Budgies are often cheerful, happy birds but can be prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. You must provide your budgie with an appropriate environment and lifestyle.
The Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine explains that a stressed budgie will likely pluck at its feathers. This behavior is a red flag, and you must determine what is upsetting your budgie as soon as you see it.
Other warning signs of stress include:
- Loss of appetite
- Refusal to hydrate
- Biting and pecking other birds
- General lethargy, not dozing
A range of things can stress a pet budgie, including:
- Boredom is caused by too much time alone in a cage without exercise and stimulation.
- Excessive noise around the cage.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
- Changes to lifestyle, such as new food or moving to a different home.
- Loneliness, as budgies love company and will mourn the loss of a conspecific that shared a cage.
Stressed and upset budgies won’t necessarily be completely silent.
They may still make some limited verbalizations, albeit closer to a dull whimper than a traditional chirp. This should be considered just as concerning as silence.
How To Get A Budgie To Chirp
It’s concerning if your budgie is uncommunicative. Even once you have determined the likeliest explanation for the silence, your budgie may need some encouragement to start verbalizing again.
Check the temperature outside the cage, as this should be around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If your budgie is quiet with puffed-up feathers, it may feel too cold.
Provide an appropriate balance of light and darkness for your budgie, ensuring that it can sleep when necessary. Keep any stressors away from your budgie, including loud, sudden noises and other pets.
Create Ambient Noise
It’s important not to subject a budgie to too much ambient noise.
This doesn’t mean that budgies want or need to live in silence. Budgies welcome a little background noise under the right circumstances and at an appropriate volume.
This reminds budgies of living in a flock, surrounded by chirping.
PLoS One explains that wild birds also create unique calls and sounds to address each other, akin to humans addressing each other by name. Pre-recorded music can have a similar effect on budgies.
Music is a popular example. Many budgies like to listen to music, assuming it has a repetitive and comforting beat and melody. Many budgies love pop, R&B, dance, and even rap music.
In addition to music, always take the time to speak to your budgie.
Provide Stimulation in the Cage
Ensure that your budgie has stimulation and entertainment in its cage.
Fill your budgie’s habitat with toys, perches, and, most importantly, mirrors. Many budgies will chirp at the sight of their own reflection for some time. However, mirrors can confuse a budgie into thinking it has a companion bird.
Consider providing your budgie with a friend if you have a big enough cage. As much as budgies enjoy talking to their owners, a conspecific will speak the same language and encourage chirping.
If you have a particularly noisy budgie, a period of silence may initially feel like a relief. It’ll not take long for this to become a worry, though. Any sudden change in a budgie’s behavior merits investigation.