Budgies are prey animals, so they instinctively hide any sign of injury or ill health. If the budgie can’t mask a movement issue, something is amiss with its foot or leg.
Some budgies are born with a limp due to congenital disabilities. For example, if your budgie resulted from inbreeding, it might have one leg shorter than the other.
Budgies have hollow bones prone to impact injuries. A budgie may have fallen while perching or climbing, leading to a sprained or broken leg/foot, severely impeding mobility.
If your budgie has developed a visible foot swelling, it has bumblefoot. This condition has many causes, including bite wounds to the feet, sandpaper perches, and injuries.
Other medical explanations for a limping budgie include arthritis, gout, curled toes, and nerve problems.
Why Is My Budgie Struggling To Walk?
Some budgies are born with a limp due to congenital disabilities. If this is the case, the budgie will adjust to movement with a slightly unnatural gait.
If your budgie has started to limp seemingly from nowhere, there will be a reason. Budgies love human interaction, but they won’t limp to get attention. If your bird struggles to walk, it is almost certainly trying to hide the limp – unsuccessfully, as it transpires.
The first thing to look for in a limping budgie is excessively long claws. If your budgie’s nails are overgrown, the toe will be lifted off the ground, creating an unnatural gait.
Trim these nails, and to prevent future concerns, provide a pedicure perch several times per week.
1/ Impact Injury
Budgies are spry and light on their feet, but they can be accident-prone.
If your budgie climbed a cage wall and fell, clipped its leg on a ceiling fan, or got into a difference of opinion with a cagemate, it may have injured itself.
Injuries to legs and toes come with varying degrees of severity and impact. If your budgie sprained its leg, you can likely isolate it and let the injury heal itself.
If your budgie is limping, check both legs. The bone may be broken or fractured if one leg is bent at an unnatural angle. It doesn’t take much to cause this injury to a budgie’s hollow legs.
Budgies’ legs are insubstantial, so broken bones are rarely pinned or placed in a plaster cast. Usually, pain is managed with medication and the leg wrapped in gauze to stabilize it.
Once the leg has been stabilized, the budgie should start to recover. Most budgies can start putting weight on a broken leg again within a week.
A muscular sprain is less severe than a leg break and will heal organically with rest.
Isolate the budgie and ensure it has opportunities to keep weight off the sprained leg. The budgie can return to its usual cage and routines once the swelling subsides and the limping ceases.
2/ Pododermatitis (Bumblefoot)
Bumblefoot was initially described as a staphylococcus bacterial infection in a bird’s legs or feet.
As per Reviews in Veterinary Medicine, the term is now used to describe any swelling or inflammation in avian feet. Naturally, these symptoms will lead to limping.
A budgie’s feet should be checked at least once every two weeks, regardless of whether it’s limping. Small bumps or signs of inflammation can become open sores, inviting bacterial infection. Equally, signs of pododermatitis may point to fungal or bacterial disease.
If your budgie has bumblefoot, an avian vet may prescribe painkillers to moderate the discomfort. Also, anti-inflammatory medication will reduce swelling, alongside antibiotics, if necessary.
The cause of bumblefoot should also be reviewed, with corresponding lifestyle changes.
Unsanitary Living Conditions
Budgies are often messy eaters, dropping food on the cage floor. Also, they poop every 15-20 minutes. So, it’s the owner’s responsibility to clean up the cage regularly.
If you allow living conditions for your birds to grow too messy, the cage will become a breeding ground for bacteria. If bacteria live within the floor of a cage, pododermatitis becomes more likely.
While it can be concerning if a budgie looks too skinny, allowing a bird to grow overweight is just as dangerous. Budgies have a fast metabolism and manage to keep their weight with exercise, but too many fatty seeds in the diet can lead to obesity.
Diabetes and heart disease are risks in overweight budgies. In the immediate term, a budgie’s legs and feet will struggle to maintain the pressure caused by excess weight.
A poor diet could be linked to obesity, and budgies need a balanced meal plan.
However, the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition explains that bumblefoot becomes likelier if your budgie isn’t consuming enough Vitamin A, Vitamin E, copper, or zinc.
You may need to check the quality of any perches found in a budgie cage. Plastic and pedi perches can lead to bumblefoot, as it’ll feel increasingly uncomfortable under the budgie’s feet.
Offer a range of well-crafted wooden perches of varying shapes and sizes. Perch diversity will encourage budgies to shift their weight occasionally, reducing the risk of pododermatitis.
The less time a budgie spends in one position, the less likely it is to develop bumblefoot.
3/ Curled Toes
Look at your budgie while it is seated on a perch. Is one foot curled up, seemingly to excess?
Curled toes start to arise in older budgies. Their toes clamp around perches but struggle to unwrap themselves afterward, primarily due to arthritic bones.
You can uncurl a budgie’s toes manually but consider getting a range of different perches of varying sizes. This way, your budgie’s feet are less likely to mold themselves into one position.
Like all older animals, budgies can be prone to arthritis in their senior years.
If you visit an exotic pet store, you’ll find supplements for arthritic birds that reduce inflammation. Anything containing glucosamine should mitigate cartilage deterioration and relieve discomfort.
If your budgie is in visible pain and constantly limping, speak to a vet. NSAIDs may be required, although these are invariably only a short-term solution.
Ensure your budgie has sufficient comfort within its cage so that it’s not placing undue weight and pressure on its legs. Keep your budgie’s weight down; the lighter the budgie, the less arthritis will be felt.
Gout is a uric acid disorder that is quite commonplace in older budgies.
The problem arises when uric acid builds up in the joints, crystalizing and making movement difficult. Gout could be due to inefficient kidney performance or an excess of protein in the diet.
Avian Diseases explains that a healthy uric acid level in budgies is 5.6ml of blood plasma per deciliter. You can’t be expected to measure this, but an avian vet will take a reading and diagnose gout.
Treatment depends upon these underlying causes. You’ll likely need to promote more exercise and change your budgie’s diet.
Medication may be given if there are concerns about renal performance. Once a budgie’s kidneys fail, the trajectory is irreversible and only moves in one direction.
6/ Leg Paralysis
If your budgie can’t use one or both legs or feet, one of the following explanations may apply:
Have you exposed your budgie to toxic fumes, such as fly spray, fresh wall paint, or scented candles? Budgies have a delicate respiratory system and may have inhaled a toxin, leading to paralysis.
Is your budge getting enough calcium in its diet? If not, the bones will weaken, making it increasingly difficult to walk normally.
Add a cuttlebone to your budgie’s cage to encourage more calcium intake. Your budgie will also need Vitamin D to absorb the calcium into its body, so direct sunlight is essential.
Sometimes a budgie can experience abdominal tumors that put pressure on nerve endings. This concern is rare and will only be uncovered by extensive testing by an avian vet.
Don’t ignore a limping budgie. Birds may have wings, but they still need to walk, hop, and climb, while limping suggests a soreness in the foot that’ll make roosting difficult.