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why is my budgie thin?

Why Is My Budgie So Skinny?

Since budgies are covered in a thick layer of feathers, you can be sure it’s much smaller underneath if one appears overly thin. A skinny budgie isn’t a matter of body type.

Once it’s visibly thin, it is underweight. Budgies have little in the way of fat reserves, so weight loss can quickly cause a sharp downturn in health.

Budgies lose weight when unwell or being fed a diet lacking in nutrients. Social issues between budgies can also lead to resource guarding, where one bird prevents another from eating or drinking.

Proventricular dilatation disease, psittacosis, and respiratory infections can also cause weight loss. Injuries to the beak can also make it physically painful for the budgie to eat like normal.

Budgies have fast metabolisms, and it can be difficult to tell when they’re losing weight. The ideal weight range for your budgie depends on its breed (English, American, or Australian) and its size.

Weigh-ins three times a week are useful for monitoring your budgie’s weight for any drastic fluctuations.

Identifying An Underweight Budgie

Weight loss in budgies is difficult to notice at first. They’re already small in size and covered in feathers that add bulk to their overall appearance. To determine if your budgie is losing weight, you’ll often need to:

Weigh The Budgie Using Scales

It’s almost impossible to determine if a budgie is underweight visually. Unless its chest and sides are barren of feathers, you cannot see its ribs nor spot any difference in its muscle tone. Instead, you can weigh the budgie on kitchen scales. Compare its weight to that of its breed, which is covered in the chart below.

Feel The Keel Bone

If your budgie is hand-trained, you can also attempt to feel the keel bone in your budgie’s abdomen. Do this by:

  1. Holding the budgie gently with one hand
  2. Lightly pressing a finger under its collarbone and feeling down towards the belly
  3. Feeling for a ridge of bone running lengthwise between these two areas
  4. Gently moving your finger back and forth over the bone

A prominent edge indicates that the budgie is underweight. If you can feel the bone, but not a sharp edge, this usually means the budgie is of a healthy weight. Being unable to feel the bone means the budgie is overweight.

It is best to have an avian vet make an official diagnosis if you suspect that your budgie is losing weight. This method is not 100% accurate.

weight loss in budgies

Why Is My Budgie Losing Weight?

For the most part, underlying health problems are the primary cause. Weight loss in budgies can occur faster than most realize. Budgies have high-paced metabolisms and small fat reserves. They will experience health complications quickly. Deal with this issue soon, and monitor the budgie for any other symptoms.

Resource Guarding

One underweight budgie in your flock can mean that more dominant members of the group are bullying it. Budgies are normally quite chipper, but they do have social conflicts, especially in overcrowded cages.

One defensive budgie might pick on another member of the flock to establish itself as the top bird. Depending on your cage setup, this may evolve into resource guarding.

The dominant budgie will prevent the other budgie from eating or drinking. It will ward the other budgie away with vocalizations and aggressive acts. It may even bite as a way to keep the food and water for itself.

Resource guarding can be a difficult problem to solve if you aren’t able to separate the budgies into different cages. Providing a larger cage and multiple food and water dishes can help end the social issue. This can be paired with adding more perches and toys. However, if it doesn’t work, then rehoming the budgie may be the only solution.

Illness

If your budgie has little interest in eating and is losing weight, an illness is likely. A lack of appetite is a common symptom of many diseases and infections that budgies can be afflicted with. Carefully monitor it for any other symptoms, like:

Potential diseases that result in weight loss include:

  • Psittacosis
  • Respiratory infections
  • Beak and feather disease
  • Yeast infections

Budgies are good at hiding signs of weakness, illness, or injury. Noticeable weight loss and lack of appetite are two of the earliest signs you can recognize. The budgie will need a treatment plan and medication to recover.

Injury

Injuries to the beak, mouth, or throat can make eating difficult or painful. This can escalate to the point where the budgie cannot eat enough (or at all). Thus, it loses weight. There may only be certain types of food it can eat, too, so it picks around everything else.

A budgie’s beak can even grow abnormally due to trauma, nutritional deficiencies, or liver disease. This can make it very difficult for the budgie to eat. Beaks can grow in all manner of directions, causing jaw issues from forced misalignment.

According to Nature, abnormal beaks don’t always prevent a budgie from behaving normally. However, it does raise the chances of eating-related problems later on. As such, closely look at your budgie’s beak for any abnormal growth.

Is the tip too long? Is there a chip or crack? If so, take it to a vet ASAP. Budgies should also be given chew toys, grooming perches, ladders, and mineral blocks to interact with. Aside from entertaining and enriching the budgie, this encourages it to use its beak frequently and keep it trimmed.

Pickiness

Budgies can be picky about their food. Suddenly changing their diet can create anxiety that results in them refusing to eat. It is recommended to gradually transition a budgie from one diet to another by mixing the two.

Stubborn budgies may choose to pick out only the food they are interested in and ignore the rest. That’s true, even if it means going hungry. Letting this go on for a week or more will result in the budgie losing weight.

Budgies can starve to death within 48 hours. Completely swapping their food in one sitting is not recommended. Sometimes, they will willingly starve themselves to death in response to this. It isn’t uncommon to see this happen in budgies that are fed seed-based diets.

Consult an avian vet if you are struggling to transition your budgie to a healthier, more balanced diet. This will ensure its health doesn’t ironically suffer in the meantime.

Budgie Eating But Losing Weight

There are times where your budgie has a healthy appetite but still loses weight. This can be worrisome since its health will deteriorate no matter how much food it eats. A vet can examine and diagnose the problem quickly:  

Parasites

Parasites survive by leaching nutrients from their host. As the population in the host increases, the parasites take far more nutrients than before. This will progress until the host withers, eventually succumbing to health complications and even death.

Parasites that infect the digestive tract aren’t as common in birds as they are in cats or dogs. In part, this is because parasites infect new hosts through fecal matter. Budgies interact with their waste far less than other pets.

Budgies can still contract parasites, however, and should be wormed regularly. The most common parasites to infect the digestive tract include:

  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Gizzardworms
  • Hairworms

Proventricular Dilatation Disease

Wasting illnesses are the fear of many owners, especially those keeping macaws. For this reason, PDD is often called Macaw Wasting Disease. According to the Virology Journal, however, proventricular dilatation disease threatens all members of the psittacine family, including budgies.

PDD is a disease that affects the nervous system and the digestive tract by infecting the proventriculus. This is the true stomach. Here, the food is digested before passing into the gizzard. PDD prevents food from being properly digested by the proventriculus. This also means that the gizzard is similarly affected.

Once these organs are rendered unable to digest food properly, all meals become empty calories. The budgie will not glean any vitamins, minerals, fiber, or other nutrients from that food. It doesn’t matter how high-quality it is. The budgie will start to waste away, hence the nickname for PDD.

PDD is treatable, but it’s difficult. The disease is fatal if left unattended, so always consult with a vet.

why is my budgie thin?

Low-Nutrition Food

A diet lacking in nutrition will eventually lead to various illnesses and a steady decline in weight. Even if the budgie eats hefty portions in its meals, it will not receive the essential vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients its body requires. As such, it will waste away.

Budgies are often mistakenly given all-seed diets. The birds love it, but this isn’t a balanced meal plan. It’s essentially feeding the budgie junk food all the time. As you can expect, this diet won’t lead to a healthy parrot.

The ideal diet for a budgie is largely a formulated pellet diet supplemented with fresh herbs and vegetables. Millet, seeds, and fruit can be given as occasional treats.

Gradually changing the budgie’s diet to a healthier, more balanced one will allow the budgie to recover and return to a healthy weight. Nutritional deficiencies may require supplements to prevent further degradation and ensure a smooth recovery.

How To Tell If A Budgie Is Not Gaining Weight

Since weight loss is an early symptom of many health problems in budgies, it should be monitored carefully. Weigh the budgie at least three times a week, or even daily, to monitor how much its weight fluctuates. Ideally, weigh the budgie at the same time every day. While you do so, be sure to watch for other symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite and a lack of interest in food
  • Labored breathing
  • Tail bobbing
  • Wing drooping
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Lethargy
  • Huddling and fluffing up

It is natural for minor fluctuations in weight to occur in healthy budgies. A few grams more or less than what is healthy for a standard budgie is fine. However, it is critical to remember that budgies have very slight fat reserves.

More than 3% weight loss is abnormal and something to carefully monitor. More than 5% weight loss demands immediate action; the budgie’s life is at risk.

The ideal weight for your budgie depends on its breed and size. Typically, American budgies are smaller than their English and Australian counterparts. There are always outliers, though. The weight chart below is a guide for the average weight range of the three variants.

BreedAverage WeightUnderweight
American Budgie25-39 grams>25 grams
English Budgie42-60 grams>42 grams
Australian Budgie30-40 grams>30 grams

Treating Rapid Weight Loss In Budgies

Budgies can usually recover from weight loss with the right plan.

Parasites can often be treated and removed within a few days, while diseases and nutritional deficiencies may require longer treatments.

During recovery, ensure that your budgie has fresh water and food every day. Your vet may prescribe specific foods to help boost your budgie’s nutritional intake.

Helping your budgie regain the weight doesn’t mean giving it lots of treats. That won’t actually help in the long run. The best approach is to place it on a balanced diet of formulated food with a small serving of fresh vegetables or herbs every day.

Monitor the budgie’s weight by weighing it each day during recovery. This will ensure that it remains on track. If your budgie is not gaining weight, another visit to the vet is in order.

Why Is My Budgie Thin?

Budgies lose weight due to illness, improper diet, injury, social issues, or an overgrown beak. Weight loss and low appetite are two early warning signs that a budgie has a problem.

A vet will determine your budgie’s ideal weight range, treat any issues, and create a diet plan to aid recovery. Consult an avian vet if your budgie presents other symptoms or has lost a lot of weight.