Is my parakeet brain damaged?

by Lisa

We brought home a parakeet last December, and her behavior seemed to be pretty normal. She skittered around the cage, trying to get out, squawking and doing all the things a new bird would normally do. It took her a couple days to get used to being here, and then for a while she seemed okay but I sensed she was really on edge (we maintain a fairly peaceful house, no other pets, very safe).

Then, one day she let out an incredible screech and has never been normal since. She's very, very quiet, only chirping occasionally and rarely moves or plays. She's friendly enough. She'll "step up," and will sit on our shoulders. We took her to our vet, who said that she might be "slow." She eats, sleeps, drinks, and poops, but she won't bathe on her own. Her vent always looks dirty, sometimes with poop stuck in clumps to her feathers. We took her to the vet to be checked out and the vet found nothing wrong (other than the "slow" diagnosis). We have to put her in the shower, or she'd stay dirty.

The man we bought her from apparently clipped her wings WAY too short because she can't glide at all. If she jumps down, she falls like a rock (we now place pillows under all of her perches). She shows no signs of molting or growing new flight feathers. When she walks around the house, she uses these little hops and her wings stay close to her sides. She won't even use her wings to help balance herself. We've had to set up a series of ramps and ladders for her to get around, almost like a handicapped setup.

We bought another parakeet to keep her company and to, hopefully, model normal parakeet behavior. He's very friendly, noisy and fun, and is a wonderful companion to her and she did perk up a little. They're obviously very fond of each other. But she still won't do much more than eat, sleep and poop. Her feathers still aren't growing in, even though he's already grown a new set of flight feathers after only a couple months.

He has taken to grooming her because she won't/can't do it herself. Problem is, he seems lately to be getting a little domineering about it. He puts his foot on her all the time when he stands next to her, as if to hold her down. This morning I saw him biting at her toenails, pulling on her foot, several times. I don't want to project human emotions on the birds ... maybe this is normal bird behavior. But I really don't understand what's going on here. I don't know who else to ask, so I hope you can help me.

Thanks in advance, and my birds thank you as well!

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Oct 27, 2009
Male is Amorous
by: Anonymous

The male bird is trying to induce your female to mate with him. For this, he stands on her back after she arches it with her tail up. I am surprised a vet would not be aware of this. One of my males also tried to "help" his female with her footwork when her toenails were too long and hooked.

Editor's note: Dr B was addressing the issue of the bird having a dirty vent all the time. The bird could die from having a health issue, THAT is what he addressed.

Sep 11, 2008
Budgie with problems
by: The Vet

A dirty vent is usually related to diarrhea, which can be caused by poor nutrition and stress. Also commonly seen with bacterial infections and Polyoma. Has she been vaccinated for polyomavirus?

The other infection that is common in budgies is Avian Gastric Yeast (AGY). AGY is difficult to diagnose and should be looked for specifically when doing fecal testing.

Also consider Giardia, which is also difficult to find in droppings. What do you feed her? Is she eating only seeds? You should switch her to a mostly pellet diet, like Harrison's adult lifetime super fine; this should be 65-70% of her diet, with the rest being seeds and treats.

Most bacterial infections come from water bowls. Does she drink from a bottle or a dish? If not a bottle, then switch her to one. These are more sanitary. (Tracie can help you with instructions on switching.)

Bad wings clips can cause many health issues, particularly stress. You should let her wings grow out and allow her to regain some of her confidence. Then have her clipped properly by a professional. Bad wings clips should be considered mutilation and punishable just as any animal cruelty issue would be.

Giving her a companion was a good idea, but keep in mind that this is not going to tame her, but make her less tame. They will want to be with each other more than with you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but will affect your relationship with them.

Do you have a full spectrum light for them? This could really help them. (You want to purchase Full Spectrum bulbs for birds and pets. Look and see what Tracie carries here on her site and purchase something like that.) There could serious health problems with her. For example she could have congenital developmental problems, or even have a deficient thyroid.

Be sure that your cage is large enough for two birds, 20 x 20 minimum size. Be sure to have at least two or three food bowls far apart in the cage. Be sure that there are two perches that are the highest in the cage and at the same height. These things will reduce the dominance aggression you are seeing.

Hope this helps.

Dr B

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