Parakeet Kicking Food Out of Bowl — What to Do?

Most people who take care of parakeets have witnessed a scene something like this:

One moment, your parakeet is sitting quietly on its perch. Then she races over to her food dish and furiously kicks all the food out.

Or maybe your parakeet knocks food out of his dish as soon as you put it in, as if to tell you “No! I don’t want that!”

A budgie can crawl into its seed cup so deep that all you see is tail feathers, only to kick all the food out. You give them a dish of food at the bottom of their cage, and they kick that food out, too.

What makes a parakeet kick food out of its bowl? Are you doing something wrong?

Reasons Why Your Parakeet is Kicking Food/Water Bowl

There are four common reasons budgies kick food and water out of their bowls, none of which are their owner’s fault:

  • There’s too much food.
  • Your parakeet senses contaminated food.
  • Your budgie doesn’t like the food, or doesn’t recognize it.
  • Your budgie is taking a bath in the water dish.

Let’s look at each problem and its solution.

Too Much Food

When parakeets have an abundance of food, they will look for the seeds they like best.

Many parakeets are especially fond of nyjer seed. Tiny nyjer seeds will sink to the bottom of the food dish.

Your budgie may kick other food out of the way to get to them.

Or your parakeet may not be familiar with nyjer seed, so it kicks it and everything else in the bowl away to get rid of it.

Parakeet seed blends can contain a large number of sunflower seeds with the hulls still attached.

Your parakeets will pick the seed out of the hull and leave the hull on top of their food. When so many hulls accumulate that your bird has difficulty getting to edible food, it may kick the hulls away. Edible food gets kicked away with the hulls.

And although parakeets need the beta-carotene and related compounds in dark green, red, yellow, and orange vegetables and orange, and yellow fruits, not every parakeet likes every fruit and vegetable.

Your bird may have had a bad experience with a particular fruit or vegetable, and kick it out of its bowl.

Contaminated Food

Parakeets sometimes sense that their food is too old.

Seeds and grains of all kinds can be contaminated with a kind of mold known as Aspergillus, which makes a potentially fatal poisonous chemical known as aflatoxin.

Parakeets will kick moldy seed, which may have mold on it that you cannot see, to avoid coming in contact with this common contaminant,

Unrecognized Food

Budgies don’t handle sudden changes in their diets very well.

If a bird has been fed only seeds while it was hand-raised at the breeder’s, it may not recognize seed pellets as food when you take it home.

If your parakeet has been fed seed pellets only (not a nutritious choice for your bird), it may have to be coaxed into trying something new.

There have been parakeets that starved when their diets were changed suddenly because they didn’t realize what was being put into their bowl was food.

Always make changes in your parakeet’s diet slowly. If you want to switch from seeds to seed pellets, give your pet 90% seeds and 10% pellets the first week.

If all the pellets are getting eaten, decrease the proportion of seeds to 75% the second week. Then try a 50-50 blend the third week.

Give your budgie time to adjust to changes in diet. Let it figure out that the new foods in its bowl are delicious and healthy.

Also read: What Do Parakeets Eat in the Wild?

Bathing in the Water Dish

Budgies need a constant supply of fresh, clean water. This is harder to supply when they kick the water out of their dishes while they are taking baths.

The solution to this problem is to give your budgie both a bird-bath and a water dish.

The water dish can be small, with an opening just large enough for your bird to put its head in and take a sip.

The bath should be large enough for your parakeet to walk in and wash off its feathers, or cool off when the air conditioning in your home is off.

Another way to give your bird a bath is to let it take a shower with you.

You’ll need to keep it clear of soap and shampoo. Don’t let it land in standing water (it can’t fly if it gets drenched), and don’t let it stand too close to the drain.

Secrets to Success at Feeding Time

Now let’s consider some rules for success in choosing your budgie’s food and water dishes:

Cups and Bowls

When you buy a cage for your parakeet, or for your parakeets, you will usually get a couple of cups for food and water. That’s a good start, but you will need a few more cups to complete your set.

There are different kinds of cups for parakeet cages. Mess-free cups have little hoods that keep most of the bird-seed in the cup, not on the floor of the cage.

Mess-free cups can save you a lot of cleaning time.

However, it’s important to use them just for food, not for water. If you fill a cup with a hood with water, your parakeet may climb inside to try to take a bath and not be able to get back out.

Stainless Steel Cups/Bowls are better

Plastic isn’t the best material for food and water cups. Birds will inevitably scratch the surface of plastic bowls and cups, creating places for bacteria to grow. 

Scientists have confirmed that plastic is also a safe harbor for bird flu viruses as well as the viruses that cause colds and flu in people.

Stainless steel is the best material for bird cups. Stainless steel is more resistant to the biofilms that bacteria create to glue themselves to surfaces.

It’s easy to clean, and it’s durable. And cups will usually last the life of your bird.

Ceramics are also a good choice. Both stainless steel and ceramic feeding cups can be found with hoods that keep parakeets from kicking out the seed.

Keep More Cups/Bowls in the Cage

It is a good idea to have six dishes for your parakeet’s cage. Keep pairs of hooded food dishes, unhooded water dishes, and bath dishes, six in all.

Keep one clean dish ready to swap out when you do your morning cage cleaning dishes. Then clean and sterilize the dirty dishes later.

This way you don’t risk exposing your bird to antiseptics or cleansers, which can be hard on its respiratory tract.

Some Important Dos and Don’ts for Feeding and Watering Parakeets

It’s never a good idea to cut corners when you buy dishes for feeding and watering your parakeet.

It may seem obvious not to plan on your parakeet sharing a food or water dish with your dog or cat, but don’t do this.

Some dogs, like terriers, regard small birds as lunch. Poodles and retrievers were bred to kill and bring birds back to hunters. These dogs and parakeets don’t mix.

And it’s never a good idea to have a cat and a parakeet in the same space.

Even if your cat only scratches your parakeet, the bacteria on its claws can give your bird a fatal infection called campylobacteriosis.

One of the first symptoms of this infection caused by cat scratches (that is seen in birds, not in people) is severe diarrhea.

Sometimes Kicking Is a Sign Your Parakeet is Stressed Out

If you give your parakeet fresh food and water daily in no-mess bowls, and you keep your parakeet separated from your carnivorous pets, and it still kicks its food out of its bowl, the problem may be stress.

Parakeets are sensitive creatures. They can act out for a number of reasons:

  • Change in schedule. If you have to change your parakeet’s feeding and playtime schedule to deal with family obligations or a change in your working hours, it may experience stress.
  • Moving. When a parakeet’s humans move to a new home, it may need several days or even several weeks to adjust to the new environment.
  • Color changes. Painting the room where a parakeet stays can upset it. So can changing the furniture.
  • New family members. Parakeets have trouble adjusting to new babies and new pets. They especially have difficulty adjusting to new toddlers who do not know how to hold them.
  • Noise. Thunderstorms, construction, and traffic noises may stress out your bird.
  • Chemicals. Air fresheners, chemicals in tobacco smoke, detergents, carpet cleaners, and dust removers irritate your bird’s air sacs and make it more sensitive to other disturbances.
  • Daylight savings time. Changes in your bird’s cleaning, feeding, and play schedule due to changes from standard to daylight saving time and back are stressful to the birds, not just for people.
  • Wild animals seen through a window. Parakeets that see feral cats or other wild animals staring at them through a window suffer severe stress.

Kicking food out of its bowl is a reliable symptom of stress, but there are many others.

You can safely conclude that kicking food out the bowl is a symptom of general stress when:

  • Your parakeet loses interest in eating, and won’t even eat special treats.
  • Your parakeet normally enjoys being handled, but becomes fearful of human contact. Sometimes the problem is a change in hairstyle, growing a beard or mustache, or changing a style of clothing.
  • Your parakeet starts picking at or even picking out its feathers. Some birds will take self-mutilation even farther, breaking the skin or even piercing skin and bone.
  • Your parakeet becomes aggressive. While parakeets don’t usually scream like their larger cousins in the Parrot Family, they may hiss, lunge at their owners when they approach the cage, or try to bite.
  • Your parakeet voice changes. It becomes unusually loud, or it stops talking altogether.
  • Your parakeet develops stress bars. These are small lines that run horizontally over the shafts of a parakeet’s feathers.

Sometimes all you need to do to treat stress in a parakeet is to remove the source of the stress.

If there’s a feral cat that comes up to a window and stares in, shut the blinds or close the drapes.

If road noise is stressing out your parakeet, put it in a quieter room. If children are too rambunctious with their pets, teach them gentler ways of handling their budgie.

If it is not possible to remove an obvious source of stress, remember these rules:

  • Don’t stress out over your bird’s stressing out. Don’t yell at your bird, or punish it for “bad” behavior. You don’t want to teach your bird that undesirable behavior gets more attention than desirable behavior.
  • Move slowly. If your bird seems to be stressed, approach its cage slowly. Take your time when you reach into the cage to pet your parakeet. Avoid sudden moves and loud noises.
  • Try stick training if your parakeet reacts negatively to being handled. Offer it a place to perch or climb rather than holding it in your hand.
  • Keep female parakeets in separate cages. Don’t mix parakeets and larger birds in the same cage. Keep parakeets and larger pets in separate rooms.
  • Don’t let your bird get bored. Give it some source of mental stimulation when you are away during the day.
  • Give your bird safe out-of-cage time every day. Sometimes parakeets stress out because they are stuck in a small cage 24/7. Every bird needs a safe place to fly. (You may want to consider training your bird to come when called and trimming its wing feathers before you let it fly around the house.)

Parakeets are creatures of habit. They like to get nearly the same food every day. They like to have the same routine every day.

They like to see their humans on a regular schedule.

If your parakeet is throwing food out of the bowl (or Kicking the food bowl), it can be one sign that something is wrong in your bird’s world.

But dealing with the problem gently will help your budgie recover its usual lovable nature.

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