What Does it Mean When Parakeets Puff Up?

  • Time to read: 10 min.

Having a companion pet can be fun and exciting. Once they have been around for a while, you may notice new behaviors like puffing up. We have prepared this comprehensive guide to determining whether this is a good sign or cause for alarm.

Budgies puff up when they are feeling cold. It is because their feathers trap air that keeps them warm. However, if they are constantly puffing up, this may signify feeling unwell.

When Parakeets Puff Up and Shake: What does it Mean?

Parakeets puffing up could be a positive or negative sign. Therefore, keeping a keen eye on them to monitor such changes in behavior is necessary.

It is common to observe parakeets puff up and shake just before or while they take a bath. Bathing patterns differ from parakeet to parakeet. While others prefer taking a shower regularly, others are completely against it. The puffing-up gesture is in an attempt to remove any dirt present.

Owners should ensure their pet birds get adequate UV rays and fresh air. According to research, this is a great way to boost vitamin D3 production, which is necessary for calcium absorption and prevents egg-laying difficulties and metabolic bone diseases. 

Additionally, D3 deficiency has been linked to better social patterns in birds, aiding their daily cleaning and preening.

Unfortunately, detecting an ill parakeet may be difficult. It is because the birds have evolved to hide it. If they were in the wild, this would expose them to predatory threats from larger birds such as falcon species. At times, fluffed up feathers, accompanied by shaking, are a sign of illness. Nutritional disorders in the parakeet such as deficient vitamin D3 and hypocalcemia are often the culprit (1)

Why Do Parakeets Puff Up Their Cheeks?   

It can be a charming sight watching your parakeets puff up their cheek feathers. Usually, this is an indication of contentment. 

You may also notice this reaction when they hear particular sounds. The puffing of their cheeks signifies an interest in the sound or that they like what they’re hearing.

Why Do Parakeets Puff Up Their Feathers?

Animals achieve thermoregulation behaviourally and physiologically. Such behaviors include hiding feet and puffing feathers during cold days (2).

It applies to birds such as parakeets as well. They have to behave in various manners to control their body temperature. It applies to both cold and hot days or environments. 

Parakeets puffing their feathers can be compared to human beings stacking up on several blankets to keep warm. When these birds puff their feathers, they trap air underneath. This trapped air acts as insulation and keeps their body warm. 

Another sign your parakeet is cold is when they find spots to hide or sit in a corner. Also, they scrunch over their feet and huddle to keep warm (3).

On the other hand, when the weather or the environment is hot, you will notice them spreading their wings out. Since birds don’t sweat, they use other avenues to release heat from their bodies. You will also see them panting, and both their beak and feet will be hot. 

Keep in mind that hypothermia can threaten parakeets’ lives. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep them warm. It includes using a cage cover, cage heaters, or heated perches.

While humans can use fireplaces to keep themselves warm during cold seasons, doing the same for parakeets would do more harm than good. It is because fumes generated by fireplaces are harmful to them.

How Do I Know My Parakeet Is Happy?

How Do I Know My Parakeet Is Happy?
Cute young happy Green yellow factor budgie parakeet perched by the window

People bring pets such as cats, dogs, and birds home to provide companionship. They bring joy and happiness to the house, particularly after becoming accustomed to their surroundings. But other than making you happy, is your pet happy?

For cats, you can tell they’re happy when both their faces and bodies are relaxed. It may be accompanied by purrs and closing of eyes. Sometimes, these companion pets rub their bodies and faces on their owners to indicate joy or calmness (4).

Parakeets being the third most owned pets globally, after cats and dogs, identifying their state of mind is essential. While they may be fearful towards humans, they get very cozy after taming and training. So much so they outwardly express their emotions.

One of the ways they do this is by hanging upside down. Generally, this position leaves these birds vulnerable; when parakeets do this in your presence, it’s an indicator of feeling safe and happy around you. 

Sometimes parakeets flap their wings when their owners are around. While wings are mostly considered flight instruments, they are also used to display emotion. In this case, indicating both joy and contentment (5). 

Budgies tend to be very high energy compared to other caged birds such as cockatiels. It means they are more adventurous and playful. Placing toys in their cages will keep them happy and occupied. 

You will notice that they puff their feathers when interacting with their favorite toys or a new toy. It shows they are excited and happy. 

Sometimes the puffing up is accompanied by particular sounds. One of the ways to be sure that the puffing is a happy response is when it is accompanied by treats such as millet.

Ensuring birds are emotionally and physically enriched goes a long way in making sure your relationship with them is happy and healthy. For social birds like parakeets, it keeps them from feeling lonely and unhappy. To avoid any behavioral or physical problems from arising, designate time for social interaction and playtime (6).

What Do I Do If My Budgie Is Puffed Up?

The action one takes when budgies puff up is dependent on why they are doing this. It’s possible to tell because other actions usually accompany puffing up. 

When budgies are cold, for example, they also hide their feet. You notice that they keep away from shady areas where temperatures are low. You can attach a cage heater to the budgie’s cage. It will keep them comfortable and warm. 

Budgies like to nap a couple of times a day and have about 10-12 hours of sleep at night. Other than their cages, budgies also like sleeping on perches. A budgie sleeping on its chest on a perch could be feeling exhausted or cold. Heated perches during cold seasons will ensure the budgie stays warm (7).

Alternatively, one can opt for cage covers to keep the birds warm. Other than keeping the birds warm, it is a sign that its night time and they should sleep. 

Birds puffing up can also be an indicator of illness. Research conducted on companion birds and humans in U.S households indicated that their relationship continues to thrive. More homes consider them family. However, few are informed on the complexities and importance of their care (8).

In 1924, there was an outbreak that left 200 captive birds badly infected and resulted in the death of 70 birds. More breeders around the city also suffered losses. While what caused the infection was unclear, the first symptom was the birds puffing up (9).

Other symptoms included diarrhea and greenish droppings. It speaks to how detrimental such infections can be. Therefore, keeping an eye for other signs and symptoms when parakeets start puffing up is essential. A vet should be visited or contacted in case of other alarming signs.

The loss of many birds could be because birds rarely show symptoms until they are very sick. Wild birds, in particular, behave this way because they are prey. Exhibiting weakness and other signs of sickness makes them a target.

The same applies to domesticated birds such as parakeets. While no one is hunting them, they naturally keep it to themselves when they feel unwell. 

Determining whether puffing up means your parakeet is unwell requires monitoring their behavior. A lethargic bird, for example, may be sick. Being unmotivated, unenthusiastic, and keeping to themselves could be a warning sign, especially if the birds are ordinarily energetic and positively respond to other people’s presence in the room. 

While sleeping in budgies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, excessive sleeping could be something to take seriously. How they sleep is also an indicator to look at. Budgies enjoy sleeping with one leg tucked in the feathers. When both feet are being slept on, it might be time to visit the avian vet (10).

Other signs of illness include weight loss, changes in temperament, sneezing, and heavy breathing.

My Budgie Is Puffed Up And Sleepy

During their quiet time, just before they sleep, you may notice budgies puffing up their feathers. It is an indication they are ready to call it a night. 

It isn’t uncommon to find budgies hanging upside down from their cage and in a deep sleep. Others sleep with their leg clinging to the cage side. 

The puffing up should be a cue for you to cover the cage, turn off the lights, and ensure the budgie gets undisturbed sleep. Beak grinding often accompanies the puffing.

Well-rested Budgies are naturally happier birds. Their 10-12 hours of sleep at night, together with their short naps during the day, are sure to accord them this. 

Puffing doesn’t occur during their daily naps. They simply become drowsy and sleep lightly.

According to a publication, budgies process what they hear and learn during the day while they sleep (11).  

Lack of adequate sleep can be detrimental to parakeets. They may become disinterested in playing with their toys, learning new songs and words, or even climbing. They will also be sleepy all day. 

In their natural habitat, parrots roost and sleep in holes found in trees. These holes, also known as nest cavities, are ideal because they are dark and keep the birds safe. It is here that they lay their eggs and raise their young. 

It means that cages do more than provide parakeets with a secure enclosure when alone and unsupervised. They also act as a safe environment to play, relax and wind down. Cage covers mimic the nest cavities during the night (12).

Cage covers keep the budgies warm and protect them from ambient light. Any drafts from air cleaners or air conditioners can’t reach the bird. It also averts night frights.

Night frights cause birds to create a great commotion in the night as they try to escape their cages. These sounds can startle owners in the middle of the night. 

When birds feel threatened, they react this way. Various things can elicit reactions, from lights flashing suddenly to noise outside.

Why Does My Parakeet Fluff Up When I Talk to Him?

When parakeets puff up in the presence of their owners, it could be because they are happy and excited. 

As mentioned earlier, these birds also puff up when they are cleaning and preening, feeling cold, or when they are feeling ill. Parakeets, however, fluff up for other reasons. These include;

  1. Anxiety

Budgies, like other birds, will puff up when they feel anxious or stressed. It is usually in response to a predator around them. They will do this to look bigger to try and ward off threats.

Other times, puffing behavior is due to loneliness. Being social birds, parakeets require attention and company once in a while. Complete neglect can cause them to get anxious and puff up.

  1. Attracting mates

When male budgies are trying to get the attention of a mate, they puff up. Loud noises accompany it. Other times, this involves regurgitation. It is the process that budgies feed their young ones. 

When budgies regurgitate on their mates or even owners, this is a sign of affection. You notice that puffing up happens either after regurgitation or before (13).

Female budgies take care of their young ones in nest cavities in the wild. Because they can’t leave the nest, male budgies find food and bring them to the female budgies. The female budgies then feed the young ones. The birds accomplish this through regurgitation.

Summary

Generally, parakeets puffing up could be a positive or a negative sign. It ranges from happiness and excitement to being critically ill. You must monitor them closely when they start exhibiting new behaviors. By doing this, you can tell the emotional state of your budgie. Also, it will assist in getting quick medical help before the situation escalates further.

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  1. Clare Jones, Vet Times, https://www.vettimes.co.uk/app/uploads/wp-post-to-pdf-enhanced-cache/1/care-of-psittacines-basic-principles-part-2.pdf, Accessed 9th February 2022
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