Budgies are small birds, even at an optimum, healthy weight. So, understanding why a budgie is losing weight or is struggling to maintain mass is essential.
Budgies don’t hold onto fat reserves and have an extremely fast metabolism. They usually eat little and often during daylight hours to fuel their hectic lifestyle.
Check your budgie’s weight at least once per week through observation and tactile assessment, as budgies’ thick feathers can hide the shape and size of the body.
How Much Should a Healthy Budgie Weigh?
According to Ornitologia Neotropical, domesticated budgies can experience weight fluctuations.
Pet budgies share the rapid metabolism of wild budgies but can eat when they please, aren’t as physically active, and face fewer threats. Also, pet budgies are less likely to get intestinal parasites.
Pet budgies should fall within the following weight range:
- The average American budgie weighs 30-40 grams.
- The average English budgie weighs 45-65 grams.
English budgies are bigger in terms of overall size, length, and weight than American budgies. If you have American and English budgies, it’s important to compare like with like.
How To Tell if A Budgie is Underweight
If your budgie looks thinner than it ordinarily would, and this can’t be ascribed to a natural, seasonal shedding of feathers, it merits further investigation.
There are two ways to check if your budgie is losing weight:
Weighing on Scales
Release your budgie from its cage for exercise so that it’s a little more docile, and place a perch on a scale. Set the scale to zero and convince your budgie to land on the perch.
Wait for it to settle and remain in place long enough to get a reading, which may take several attempts.
Feeling The Keel Bone
The keel, also known as a carina, is an extension of the sternum. The purpose of the keel is to anchor the wing muscles, ensuring a budgie has enough leverage to fly.
In an underweight budgie, the keel will be sharp and prominent.
To check for the keel bone, follow these steps:
- Calm the budgie and hold it in one hand.
- With your other hand, trace one finger from the collarbone to the belly.
- Seek the ridge of the keel bone and assess the prominence.
This is not entirely scientific, but feeling for the keel bone is a good first step toward identifying if you have a skinny budgie.
Why Is My Budgie So Thin?
Budgies are naturally slender, as they have such a high metabolism.
As flying and movement require a lot of energy, budgies burn calories as soon as they consume them. Slender doesn’t mean stick-thin and scrawny.
Any sudden weight loss is concerning, especially if your budgie is eating but losing weight.
Answering the question, “why is my budgie losing weight?” should be your immediate priority. There are multiple possible explanations, including the following:
Nutrient Deficiency and Poor Diet
Captive budgies are at the mercy of human owners regarding nutrition.
Budgie food needs to focus on quality, not quantity. A budgie could eat a lot, but if the food is unsuitable for its purpose and doesn’t provide a balanced diet, it’ll still lose weight.
Up to 80% of a budgie’s diet should contain seeds and pellets. If you purchase an appropriately balanced product, this will give a budgie what it needs.
You can supplement a budgie’s dietary intake with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Inability to Eat
If your budgie isn’t eating, check that this isn’t because it’s incapable of doing so. If your budgie can’t eat, it’ll quickly lose weight, and its life may be in imminent danger.
If your budgie shares a cage with conspecifics, ensure that one bird is not bullying others. Budgies can be territorial, so there’s a risk of one dominant budgie guarding and refusing access to food or water.
Ensure your budgie doesn’t experience any pain or injury in the beak. Nature explains how the beak can become overgrown, especially when not filed.
Refusal to Eat
A budgie unable to eat is a concern, but so is a bird that refuses to seek nourishment by choice. Sometimes, budgies will choose not to eat due to intense feelings of stress and anxiety.
Your budgie may go on a hunger strike because it’s angry with you. This will be coupled with other behaviors, including turning its back on you or hiding when you enter a room.
Don’t assume that a budgie will eventually cave into hunger. Budgies can be stubborn, to the detriment of their health. Identify what is causing your budgie to reject food and do all you can to resolve the issue.
If your budgie stubbornly refuses to eat, it may be due to fussiness. If the bird has developed a taste for human food, it may reject nutrient-dense meals.
A budgie may be unwell, with various potential illnesses leading to sudden and unexplained weight loss. Look out for common signs of sickness in a budgie. Aside from lack of appetite, these include:
- Lethargy and depression
- Diarrhea or watery droppings
- Hydrating to excess
- Losing feathers
- Struggling to walk, climb, or fly
Let’s review some of the more common ailments that impact domesticated budgies:
|Psittacosis:||This zoonotic bacterial infection is colloquially known as parrot fever. Psittacosis is comparatively common and can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.|
|Respiratory Infections:||Budgies can suffer respiratory infections, which will leave them with a sore throat and reluctant to eat. Oral antibiotics will usually resolve the concern.|
|Psittacine Circoviral Disease:||Also known as beak and feather disease, this autoimmune disorder is invariably fatal. A bird’s immune system is steadily weakened, making secondary infections considerably more impactful.|
|Proventricular Dilatation Disease:||PDD attacks the nervous system, making it impossible for a budgie to digest food. Virology Journal explains that PDD has no cure, but drugs reduce inflammation and make a budgie more comfortable.|
Never ignore the warning signs of illness in a budgie, especially if they include a weight loss.
Your budgie should be regularly wormed as part of your care regime. While budgies don’t venture outside and are unlikely to develop intestinal parasites, they can present themselves in the feces.
If your budgie eats its own poop, it may attract roundworms or tapeworms. Apply a treatment to your budgie every six months at a minimum. Ideally, increase the frequency to three months.
Your budgie may be experiencing an intestinal blockage, which arises when the budgie attempts to eat something non-digestible. Food can’t make its way into the intestines.
The Association of Avian Veterinarians Australasian Committee explains how budgies have an efficient digestive tract that can process most items.
Intervention is essential if your budgie swallowed something that refuses to be ground down.
As budgies are so small, surgery is invasive and risky. Consequently, most specialists prefer to remove the blockage using an endoscopy.
This procedure has a comparatively high survival rate if the blockage is identified early enough.
How To Make My Budgie Gain Weight
Diet will play a significant role if you’re trying to encourage your budgie to gain weight.
Ordinarily, foods that are high in fat should be avoided. As per the American Journal of Epidemiology, consuming fatty foods can lead to obesity. If this is your intention, these concerns are irrelevant.
The best way to feed extra fat to a budgie is through sunflower seeds. Birds adore sunflower seeds, but they’re usually provided in small servings to manage weight.
If weight gain isn’t a concern, increase the distribution of sunflower seeds in meals and snacks. Chia seeds will serve the same purpose, or you can hard boil an egg and mix it with fresh vegetables.
Underweight budgies are rarely happy and won’t live for long. If your budgie looks skinny, take steps to increase its mass, as there’s nothing to gain by allowing a budgie to become emaciated.