Does your parakeet (aka budgie or budgerigar) puff up his feathers?
While puffy, fluffy feathers may look cute, there are a few serious health and behavioral reasons your bird may be putting up.
Here are some of the most common.
Your Parakeet Is Sleepy
Sometimes parakeets puff up their feathers when they are ready to go to sleep for the night.
Seeing puffy feathers is a good sign that it is time to cover your bird’s cage to allow it to sleep undisturbed.
Light is extremely important to a parakeet’s ability to sleep. A parakeet’s instinct is to wait for the sun to go down, or for the lights to go off before it settles down for the night.
When darkness finally arrives, a parakeet will spend 10 to 15 minutes hopping around its cage, deciding the best place to sleep for the night.
Parakeets may fall fast asleep while hanging upside down from the tops of their cages.
They may circle the cage around and around until they decide to plop down on the floor of their cage to sleep.
Parakeets have been known to fall asleep while clinging to the side of their cage.
Parakeets also take naps during the day. For napping, they will usually find a perch on a dowel or on the grating at the floor of their cage and fall asleep standing up.
When your parakeet puffs up its feathers and grinds its beak, it’s ready for a long bout of uninterrupted sleep.
At night, if you were to watch your parakeet sleep (with the lights off!), you would notice a drooping head, deep rhythmic breathing, and muscle twitches, punctuated by brief awake periods of a few seconds.
Most parakeets will get up at least once in the night to visit their food cups.
Parakeets don’t usually puff up their feathers to take a nap during the day.
They will become drowsy, disinterested in their toys, and take a snooze, but they won’t go into a deep sleep.
Parakeets only sleep 30 minutes to an hour during the day, while they may sleep as long as 12 hours at night.
You want to make sure young budgies get plenty of sleep at night. Sleep is the time their brains form memories of new songs and new words.
Sleep is also the time parakeets consolidate what they learned during the day. Budgies spend even more time in REM or dream sleep than people.
If you keep the lights on all night, your parakeet will get worn out. It will lose interest in climbing.
It will lose interest in playing with its toys. It won’t learn new words or new songs.
All a sleep-deprived parakeet forced to live in light 24 hours a day will want to do is sleep.
So, when you see your budgie’s feathers puffed up at the end of the day, put the cover on the cage and turn out the lights.
Letting your parakeet sleep every night gives you a happier bird.
Your Parakeet Is Cold
Parakeets will yawn when they feel too warm. They will puff out their feathers when they feel cold.
Puffing out feathers is a way for birds to conserve body warmth. Birds puff out their feathers to trap as much air as possible to serve as insulation.
When you see your budgie puffing its feathers in the middle of a day, on a cold, winter day, or when its cage is next to the AC, chances are that it is feeling chilly.
What’s too chilly for a parakeet?
Parakeets are a lot like people in the temperatures they prefer. Parakeets are most comfortable when the air temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 26 degrees Celsius).
They can stand temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) overnight, but they will puff out their feathers to deal with the chill.
Parakeets suffer in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
They suffer when they are exposed to temperature changes of more than about 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 8 degrees Celsius) in 24 hours.
Hypothermia is a real danger to parakeets because their bodies are so small that it’s hard for them to generate warmth and keep it inside.
Signs that your budgie is hypothermic include puffing up feathers, loss of appetite, lack of movement, lethargy, not flying, not climbing, and fluid dripping from its eyes and nose.
The later stages of potentially fatal hypothermia include trouble breathing or gasping for air, and sitting in the bottom of the cage, unable to get up.
Parakeets can develop hypothermia in just six to twelve hours of exposure to temperatures more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit lower than they are used to.
There are several ways you can protect your parakeet from the ill effects of cold:
A simple cotton sheet is fine for covering your parakeet’s cage at night in the summer.
In the winter, fleece will keep cold air out and warm air in.
Your budgie may enjoy having a view of the outside world, but it’s not a good idea to place its cage next to a drafty window, or worse, a window left open in cold weather.
It’s also best not to place the cage in any kind of draft, or too close to the air conditioner vent in the summer.
An ideal location for a budgie’s cage in winter is in the interior of the home, away from the kitchen. Parakeets react to cooking fumes, cleaner fumes, and natural gas.
Every parakeet needs multiple perches for play, stimulation, and keeping its feet limber.
As we mentioned earlier, parakeets may use their perches for taking naps and sleeping. In the winter, a heated perch will help to keep your parakeet warm.
It’s OK for humans to rely on a fireplace or space heaters to keep warm, but these methods don’t work for parakeets in their cages.
Radiant space heaters, in particular, tend to create hot and cold spots in a room, so your parakeet is never at the right temperature.
Fireplaces generate fumes that are toxic to birds.
If you don’t have central heat, you can outfit your budgie cage with its own heating system.
A small heater attached to the side of your bird’s cage will keep your budgie warm and comfortable.
There are cage heaters that are thermostat-controlled to keep your parakeet’s body temperature at a safe level.
Forced air heating dries out the air. Parakeets exposed to constantly dry air can develop irritation in the throats and air sacs that opens the way for infections.
A humidifier or even a vaporizer in the room with your birds will prevent this problem.
It’s not necessary to run the humidifier or vaporizer 24 hours a day. You don’t need to run it when your parakeet’s cage is covered.
If there is enough humidity in the air that you don’t get a shock when you walk across a carpet, there is enough humidity in the air for your budgie.
Birdhouses and Deicers
Some budgies grow accustomed to cold conditions.
If you live in a warm-winter location and keep parakeets outside, provide them with a birdhouse and a layer of hay to keep warm on the coolest nights.
And if you let your bird outdoors for a few minutes in cold weather, a deicer to keep the birdbath warmer helps your bird avoid the chill.
Your Parakeet Is Upset
Another reason parakeets may puff out their feathers is they are upset.
You can confirm that the reason your parakeet is puffing out its feathers is by looking for additional signs.
Each parakeet has its own likes, dislikes, and personality, but some kinds of body language in parakeets have universal meaning.
Dancing Behind the Door of the Cage
It’s not hard to understand what your parakeet is trying to tell you when it dances behind the door of its cage:
“I want out! I want out!”
A parakeet making a ruckus at the door of its cage wants to come out and play.
Head Bowed Forward, As If in Prayer
Parakeets bend their heads down when they want a gentle scratch.
But this gesture in combination with puffed-out feathers is a sign of some kind of illness. (We’ll discuss that point in more detail in the next section.)
Backed into a Corner, Wings Stretched Out, Beak Open
A parakeet that backs itself into a corner is ready to fight to defend its territory.
Or it may be frightened of something, like a cat staring back at it through a window, or another indoor pet that got too close to its cage.
Puffing up its feathers makes a budgie look bigger than the other bird in its cage. This position may be a prelude to a fight between two or more birds.
Wings Fluttering, Crouched Position, Staring at You
When your bird crouches like it is getting ready to take off in flight, and it is fluttering its wings, looking straight at you, it’s ready to get out of its cage to fly around for a while.
Puffed-out feathers and take-off position may mean that something has frightened it so much that it is ready to fly away for safety.
Banging Toys Around
A budgie that is banging its toys against the side of its cage may be feeling amorous.
Alternatively, it may be telling you it wants to get out and play.
Wiping Its Beak
Parakeets often wipe their beaks after they eat. Wiping the beak and puffed-out feathers early in the evening means the parakeet is ready for bedtime.
Healthy parakeets preen their feathers to keep them clean.
Preening puffed-out feathers may be a signal that your bird has feather mites.
Parakeets may preen each other’s hard-to-reach places.
A parakeet that isn’t interested in feather maintenance is a sick bird that needs to be seen by the vet.
Puffing, Fluffing, and Shaking Feathers
Parakeets puff, fluff, and shake out their feathers just before they take a nap to burn off excess energy.
Or they puff, fluff, and shake out feathers after preening to make sure any loose debris falls out.
Puffing Up Feathers and Regurgitating, or Regurgitating and Puffing Up Feathers
In the budgie world, regurgitation is a sign of intense affection. Regurgitation is how adult parakeets feed their babies.
A parakeet that throws up on you is telling you that you are loved.
Male parakeets may regurgitate on their owners, on their toys, or on their mates.
It’s natural for the recipient of this token of affection to shake off its feathers (if it is a bird), puffing them up and shaking them down to get them clean again.
A parakeet that doesn’t do this after being regurgitated on is probably ill and needs to be seen by the vet.
A male parakeet that struts back and forth on its perch and scratches its face wants some love that only a female parakeet can provide.
But scratching some other part of the body without a potential mate present is a sign your male budgie may be sick.
Tucking the Head in Puffed-Up Feathers
Your parakeet will probably sleep with its head tucked into its puffy back feathers.
This position when your bird isn’t seeping is a sign of illness.
Your Parakeet Is Sick
Parakeets do a good job of hiding their illnesses. After all, they are small birds that can easily get swallowed up by a predator.
Their instinct is to act like they are healthy so some raptor or cat won’t decide they would make an easy lunch.
But if your budgie keeps its feathers puffed up throughout the day, there may be a health problem.
This is especially true when keeping the room warm doesn’t make a difference, you are making sure your bird gets fly time, when your budgie has plenty of toys, and it isn’t threatened inside or outside its home.
Pulling puffed-out feathers is a sign of a serious health issue, like mites.
Puffed out feathers are also a signal something is seriously wrong when there is also diarrhea or a breathing problem.
When puffed-out feathers are part of a pattern of alarming symptoms, take your budgie to the vet right away.
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