Budgie very quiet, fluffed and lethargic, but eats a lot

by Mel
(New Hampshire)

Our budgie - which is between 7 or 8 years old - has been very off in his behavior for the last two to three months. Normally he is very chatty and sociable and would come out to visit with the family early in the morning before work and in the evening as we settled in after dinner.

Sometime in October or November (approximately three months ago) his behavior started to change. At first we noticed that he spent a lot of the day sleeping, or at least resting with his head tucked under his wing; this was new behavior, but we though it might just be because he was getting older.

Then he stopped coming out of his cage much. Previously he would come out of his cage to fly around and visit, or just to scamper around on his cage, at least a dozen times a day. Now if he comes out once or twice it's an unusual event.

Then we noticed that our usually chatty budgie, who had quite a wide vocabulary, had stopped making much noise at all. He'll still occasionally chatter or burble, but he almost never talks.

When he's not sleeping, he spends most of his time hunched up and fluffy near the back of his cage. His droppings are runny and green. What's odd is that he hasn't lost his appetite. The time I see him most active is when I go to feed him. He descends on his seed dish like a starving man. He spends much more time eating now than he did prior to becoming ill; and not just his seed. Any food we give him -- millet, molting conditioner, his cuttlebone -- he gobbles like mad. He also drinks more water now than he used to.

We've taken him to the avian vet twice. They took blood and found nothing wrong. Then they took x-rays and found nothing wrong. At his initial visit, when they took blood, they found that he was a little dehydrated and had slightly elevated uric acid, but nothing extreme. He'd also lost a little weight since his last checkup earlier in the year. He's clearly not a well budgie, but they don't know what is causing it.

Since he clearly still has an appetite I keep wondering if it's something missing from his diet, but I don't know what it could be. Despite his appetite, he's always been a picky eater. He won't eat anything sticky, like fruit, or leafy, like lettuce. I've considered sneaking some egg food into his seed to give him some more protein, but I'm scared he'll notice it and stop eating entirely rather than eat something he doesn't want.

I hope you can help!

Comments for Budgie very quiet, fluffed and lethargic, but eats a lot

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Sep 20, 2016
Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thanks to this thread I was able to save my parakeet! He WAS malnourished, and I was able to intervene.

Nov 25, 2014
re my previous plea for help
by: val cotton

The budgie I had written about eventually died. I had a post mortem done and this showed Macaws wasting disease
Val Cotton

Nov 08, 2014
More on, Budgie very quiet, fluffed and lethargic, but eats a lot
by: Anonymous

Budgies eat different foods they can find every day from place to place and from season to season in the wild. Therefore, there will be nutrition problems if we feed them with a mixture of seeds at home. Because they would select the kind of seed they like (for example, may be just one kind, the millet) to eat and leave the rest of them behind, consequently, they would suffer malnutrition (imbalanced diet). They may try to regain the strength by eating a lot like mad but that won’t help them (by eating just one kind of seed). Frequently, they eat so much that they end up spitting out or vomiting out some of the food they ate. By checking the food being spit out one may see they are just one kind of seed (again, millet). There are signs of malnutrition before a budgie is very quiet, fluffed and lethargic such as weight loss, colder feet than before, can no longer fly as far as it used to be, fly like a butterfly (no momentum), wings drop down etc. The fact that they can still eat a lot suggests they are not really sick but weak. Therefore, the vet visits may turn out nothing. The thing to do is let them eat pelleted food that homogenously contains balanced diet in each grain (they can no longer selectively pick what they like). If your budgie won’t accept pelleted food immediately, you may add some powered milk (KLIM or similar products), protein egg food and pelleted food (crash pellets finer for budgies) on top of seed mix first and do the conversion gradually after they have recovered. Give them regular potato chip occasionally. They eat or lick salt from the potato chip when they feel the need. Another importance thing is the room temperature. Keep the room around 25C but never blow a heater (or draft) at the bird. A budgie may retract one leg (standing on one leg) simply to conserve energy and keep warm, not necessary due to sickness. Give them meditation music with nature sounds (birds, water, wind etc.) to help them relax. They may sing alone softly, even with their heads tug behind their necks.

Nov 06, 2014
Most likely malnutrition
by: Anonymous

An active budgie needs to eat about 20% of its body weight daily. Therefore, "a budgie is very quiet, fluffed and lethargic but eats a lot" is an indication of malnutrition rather than sickness. Other than quiet, fluffed and lethargic it may loss a lot of weight despite it eats a lot. Do two things immediately. First, feed the bird with Pelleted Foods and Protein Egg Foods. Secondly, keep the room temperature warm (around 77 degree F or 25 degree C) otherwise it may become ill such as diarrhea. It may take several weeks for it to recover but one may see the improvement in a few days. Pelleted foods may have to be grounded finer for smaller birds such as budgies. Add some regular seed mix to the pelleted foods so they can still work on seed husk. Add a little bit of Powdered Milk such as KLIM is also helpful (not needed after recovery). This is just my experience. Hope, it helps.

Jun 02, 2014
Budgie eatin like mad
by: Anonymousmick

When my budgie came out of his cage he kept flying down onto the work tops in the kitchen looking fo food he would eat anything on return to the cage he would tuck his head in his feathers and fall asleep,for his normal seed that would be scattered all over the place,Sadly he Died last night when I looked at his beek it was a little bit longer than normal we were wondering was he starved to death last 3 days he was kept in his cage.Always keep an eye on there beaks and if you notice a change in there behaviour seek Advise.

May 19, 2013
African grey tumor
by: Becky

Last October, My 9 yr old African grey presented with these same symptoms. First, he was diagnosed with PDD, but after all negative results, including a crop biopsy, they began looking elsewhere. After a barium x-ray, they found what they thought might be a tumor. We took him to UT Knoxville for an MRI and he has a tumor between his proventriculus and ventriculus. It is non treatable. I have been syringe feeding him every hour, since October and his weight fluxuates daily. Recently, he is eating double the amount he has been, but there is no weight gain. I work every day just to do what I can for his weight. He is on metacam, which helps. I'm telling you all this, so you can let your vet know, as it seems they do not know much about this tumor, as I'm sure most don't spend $5,000 for a correct diagnosis. We could have stopped at PDD, but we felt like that just wasn't right. The barium study at least put us in the right direction. Other than his weight, he seems fine! You would not even know he was sick!

Mar 02, 2013
fluffed up and eating a lot
by: avcotton

Only just seen this article when lookin for help for my own budgie. He has exactly the same symptoms and for 3 months now. The avian vet has not found out why and I just wondered what had become of the budgie in the article. I would be most grateful if you could reply. Thanks. Val Cotton

Jan 21, 2012
Fluffed up bird
by: The Avian Vet

Always the first indication of disease or illness is a behavior change. Your bird should have been seen by an avian veterinarian immediately after noticing these changes.

These are serious signs of illness. When you see these the first thing to do is put a heating pad on the cage to get the temp to 90-95F. The second thing to do is to call an avian veterinarian. Find an Avian Vet

Not talking is a significant symptom and should not be ignored. Your bird is very sick and may not survive unless you get immediate attention.

More diagnostics are needed. You also need to be providing supportive care including heat, fluids, and antibiotics. There is something there that is not normal and you need to continue looking until it is found.

No doubt that nutritional deficiencies and imbalances can contribute and even cause these symptoms. If you are not feeding a pellet diet, then nutritional problems are going to be a primary differential. Budgies should eat 70% high quality pellets like Harrison's or Roudybush and 30% treats (no more than 10% seeds).

Dr B

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