Parakeet Health

Always keep a close eye on your parakeet's health. A healthy parakeet has bright clear eyes, a shiny non-flaky or crusty cere and beak, strong glossy bright feathers, and should chatter and fly about happily. If your parakeet is huddled and fluffed up on the floor of their cage, get them to an avian vet immediately. Parakeets are prey animals and will conceal any sign of illness for as long as possible so they will not be cast from their flock or picked out by predators because they look weak and sick. If they are showing signs of illness - you know it's very bad.

Be sure to weigh your parakeet occasionally, for weigh loss is the easiest way to know your parakeet is sick.

When you bring a new parakeet to your home and YOU ALREADY HAVE BIRDS, try to put the new bird in a separate cage for a minimum of 15 days to be sure they are not carrying any illnesses that could be passed on to your current birds. Keep them in a different room and always wash your hands before and after handling them.
If your parakeet had been caught by another animal (such as a cat or a dog) get them to an avian vet ASAP.


    Emergency: If your parakeet:
  • Ingested/inhaled poison
  • Fell into water (toilet, filled sink, etc.)
  • Got an electric shock (bit electrical cords, etc.)
  • Got stepped on
  • Had a door closed on
  • Got hit by ceiling fan
  • Flew into window really hard
  • Was bitten/clawed by another pet
  • Was burned
      Parakeet Signs/Symptoms of Illness
  • Change in poop, runny/lack of droppings
  • Decrease in talking/chirping/activity
  • Plucking feathers (not regular preening)
  • Feathers are dirty/stuck together/ratty
  • Discharge from eyes/nose/beak
  • Abnormal breathing (Look at your parakeet's tail to see if it's bobbing up and down irregularly)
  • Dull/swollen/runny/cloudy eyes
  • Falling off perches
  • Hunched over or sleeps with head tucked in
  • Lumps/bumps/sores or swelling
  • Weight loss
  • Not eating/drinking
  • Weak/fluffed up
  • Bleeding
  • Convulsing
  • Runny/inflamed cere
  • Vomiting (not the regurgitation they do as part of bonding)
If your parakeet shows any of the following symptoms, get them to an
avian vet.

The most common diseases in parakeets are respiratory problems and mites.


A group of parasites that feed on dead skin cells are called the burrowing mites. In parakeets, mostly the head is affected (especially the beak, the cere, and the eyelids). The legs and feet can also be affected and in severe cases the area around the bird's vent.

Scaly Leg Mites
 As the name suggests, these mites affect bird legs. Male scaly leg mites have an orbicular body that is about 0.25 millimeters long. The females are approximately 0.5 millimeters in length. Scaly leg mites burrow into the skin of the host animal and reproduce there as. An infestation of the scaly leg mite affects only the legs. The legs of a diseased bird become dry, very scaly and show white plaques early on that later turn into encrustations. Scaly leg mites can severely irritate the skin and result in itching, swelling and often skin rashes. Swellings caused by mites can lead to extremely dangerous constrictions and the birds are in danger of losing their affected legs!

Scaly Face Mites
The females of this mite species are round-shaped and measure about 0.4 millimeters x 0.3 millimeters. Like scaly leg mites, they are invisible to the naked eye. Unlike scaly leg mites, however, they affect not only the legs but also the beak, the eyes and the area around the vent. In parakeets, scaly face mites affect chiefly the beak. In most cases, an infestation originates there and spreads to the legs and the area around the vent later on.

If an infestation of scaly face mites has occurred, the bird will experience severe itching if the mites are not limited to the upper mandible. In the initial stage, an infestation with burrowing mites is hardly visible and hardly affects the general condition of the diseased bird. There are initially crusty plaques in the corners of the beak and on the beak itself.

In the early stages, they have the appearance of a bright white deposit that becomes thicker and crustier over time. The upper mandible becomes increasingly cavernous since the burrowing mites dig subtle tunnels. If the skin around the eyes, on the legs, or around the vent is also affected, this is accompanied by strong itching. The bird appears restless and is scratching itself perpetually.

If the infestation progresses untreated, serious complications usually occur that are not only extremely painful for the parakeet but often result in its death! In especially serious cases, the mites punctuate the beak so intensely that it ultimately falls off and the bird either starves or suffers such an immense blood loss that it dies. You have to consult a veterinarian if an infestation with burrowing mites is suspected!

This is a pretty minor infection of scaly face mites. It could get much worse.

In an Emergency

Key: Stay calm.

Gently restrain your bird with a small towel or washcloth. If bleeding, gently apply pressure to wound with a sterile gauze square. In case of broken/fractured bones - place bird in stockinette to keep wings still.
Place bird in small hospital cage with a heating pad or hot water bottle under half of the cage. Cover cage with warm blanket.
When transporting bird to the avian vet, make sure the hospital cage is secure and covered for warmth and darkness.

How to Remove a Broken Blood Feather

Once again, STAY CALM. Restrain your bird, careful not to restrict breathing by constraining around the chest. With tweezers, firmly grasp the broken bleeding feather at the base and pull in one swift motion in the direction of feather growth. After the feather has been removed, apply moderate pressure with a sterile gauze pad to stop bleeding for one minute then apply flour or corn starch.

How to Clip Your Parakeet's Feathers By Yourself

You'll need a regular pair of scissors (or a small pair).  If your budgie isn't tame, you'll need a face wash cloth, gloves, or a small towel of some sort to restrain the bird.  When restraining a bird, you have to make sure you don't hurt it (squeezing it too tight that it dies, snap its neck, etc.). To keep from being bitten, with the bird's back in the palm of your hand and the beak facing out, place your thumb on one side of the face and your index finger on the other side of the face (don't smash it's eyes!).  You can hold the bird's head and neck straight like this so it can't bite you or hurt itself.  You'll have to pull the wing out carefully and gently from behind the bird to clip.  If the bird trusts you and is tame, you shouldn't have to do this.  Have some baking flour or blood coagulant of some sort (styptic powder) available in case you accidentally clip a blood feather.  Be sure the scissors are clean.     

The goal is to clip the longest 3-4 feathers on each wing.  These would be the ones at the end of each wing when you spread the wing...not the feathers closest to the body.  The number of feathers you'll need to clip depends on whether you want the bird flightless or partially flighted.  If you want it to be completely flightless (I don't recommend this because parakeets love to fly. They may become frustrated and won't be able to get around easily in its cage), clip the first 6 feathers. If you want your parakeet to be partially flighted, you can clip the longest one (the one at the very end), and probably the second one, too, but leave the rest alone.  A bird only needs the longest one or two, in order to be able to fly.  Sometimes you have to experiment a little, depending on the bird, because a strong flier might still be able to fly when another won't.  

When you clip the feathers, only clip them up to the point where they meet the second row of feathers.  In other words, you don't clip a feather all the way up to the bird's body.  If you look closely at a parakeet's wings when they are spread, you'll see 3 main rows of feathers:  the row closest to the body (lesser coverts), the next row (primary coverts), then the long primaries (feathers 1-10), and the secondaries (the remainder of the feathers on the outer row).  Feather 10 is the longest primary and feather and 1 is the shortest primary.  So, you are going to clip primary feathers 10 - 5 up to where they meet the primary coverts (you'll be clipping each feather about half way up the wing).  Do not clip the remainder of the feathers in this row (the secondaries).

To begin, you'll have to hold the bird either by hand or by using gloves or a towel (gloves are easiest).  Once you have the bird restrained, gently spread the first wing like you would a deck of cards- grasp the wing gently and fan the feathers out so you can see the feathers you need to clip.  Look first at the wing structure and where the primaries meet the coverts.  Look to see if there are any blood feathers where you want to clip.  Blood feathers are feathers that are still growing.  You don't want to clip a blood feather because it will bleed (which is what you use the baking flour or blood coagulant for).  A blood feather will not be grown out completely (like the ones next to it) and the feather shaft close to the body will be dark inside (indicating the presence of blood).  The feathers you should cut will have white feather shafts.  These are often hard to see on parakeets because their feathers are so small, so I wouldn't worry much about it as long as you can stop any bleeding.  Take the scissors and cut each feather (10 - 5 or 10-6 or whatever you decide) to the correct point.  Cutting the feathers does not hurt the bird in any way.  Do the same thing on the other wing.  ALWAYS clip both wings.  If you only clip one wing, the bird will fly in a circle, become disoriented, and could injure itself.

Couple of things to remember:  You need to try to accomplish clipping your bird's wings as quickly as possible because the bird will become overheated by your 98.6 degree body temperature against it's body temperature (which is elevated due to the procedure causing some stress).  If you run into problems where it is taking longer to perform this procedure than usual, and the bird is open-mouth breathing or showing any signs of overheating, let the bird have a break to cool down, relax a bit, regroup, etc. (offer it a drink of water).  After the wings are clipped, see the effect of your clipping by holding the parakeet about 3-4 feet off the floor or above a bed or couch...something where your bird will have a soft landing, and let the bird fly/soar/fall down onto the soft area.  Remember...the bird may not be used to not being able to fly and will expect to be able to fly the same as he or she did before the clipping!  If you did a real good job, your parakeet should hit the soft area hard (this is why you want to use something soft), or glide down at an angle!  Next time, you might not want to clip as many feathers. If the bird can fly straight, you probably need to clip another one or two.  If the bird can gain any height, you didn't clip enough feathers.  

After a while, the feathers will need to be clipped again.  You can tell when this is needed when your bird can gain altitude when flying.  You can also see the long primary feathers extending down the back at the base of the tail when they need to be clipped.  You can also spread the wings to see what's going on.


Nails and Beaks 

Overgrown Claws:
In wild birds, nail growth and nail wear balance naturally. But the nails of caged birds are seldom exposed to the same abrasive wear as their wild counterparts. Consequently, the nails grow excessively long, unless you keep them trimmed properly. Long nails make it difficult for the bird to perch or climb, and the nails can get caught on various things and cause injury. When trimming the nails, it is best to trim off a little at a time, so that you do not cut into and expose the nail's blood and nerve supply that grows partway down the nail. In tight-colored nails, the blood and nerve supply is easily seen, but black nails hide it completely. If this is cut, the nail will bleed profusely and cause the bird pain. The bleeding must be stopped immediately because birds cannot tolerate the loss of much blood.

Claw Detail

In older and frail birds the toenails sometimes grow excessively long, in extreme cases even curling like a corkscrew. The usual explanation is that the claws do not get enough wear on artificial perches that are smooth and too thin and do not allow for enough exercise. A bird with claws that grow too long needs steady care and high-quality food and should be watched closely. Since claws that are too long hamper and endanger a bird (catching in textiles or in a chain, getting stuck in cracks, or impeding grooming). The toenails have to be cut periodically with nail scissors, or possibly a nail file. For this procedure, as well as for any other treatment, the bird has to be caught and held properly. Don't try to catch a bird in flight, you could easily injure its wings or shoulder joints. Also avoid needlessly chasing your parakeet back and forth in its cage. This would scare the bird half to death. If all else fails, darken the room and reach for the bird from above while talking soothingly. Hold it loosely but properly in your hand. The bird's back should be in the palm of your hand with its head between your thumb and forefinger, your middle finger encircling its abdomen, and the toe being treated held gently but firmly between your ring finger and little finger. Don't turn the bird upside down so that it lies on its back. Now hold the toe up to a bright light so that you can clearly see the dark blood vessels in the horny tissue of the claw. Trim the overgrown claw close to the end of the vein, cutting at an angle to leave the upper and outer tip longer than the inner part of the nail. If you should nick the vein a drop of blood will form but it causes hardly any pain to the bird. If the cut continues to bleed press styptic cotton against the end of the claw until the bleeding stops. Timid bird owners can ask a bird breeder, pet dealer, or avian veterinarian for help with this chore.

Excessive Growth of the Beak:
Periodically thin splinters will chip off the tip of a parakeet's beak. This is a normal part of the renewal of the beak's tissue. But in older parakeets, the beak sometimes grows too fast in spite of frequent whetting. Usually only the upper mandible is affected, but more rarely the upper and lower mandibles cross each other because they both grow too long simultaneously. In either case the bird is hampered in its intake of food. If nothing were done to help, eating would eventually become impossible, and the excessively long beak would injure the skin of the crop region. Don't let things get that far. The best thing to do is to take the bird to an experienced avian veterinarian, breeder, or pet dealer to have the beak trimmed with proper clippers.

Overgrown beaks are well known among adult like adult parakeets. Most develop because of an incomplete diet.

Cure consists of proper care and feeding. In some cases birds respond well to a balanced diet, in other cases overgrowing of the beak persists and must be constantly trimmed. Sometimes, if given a piece of wood to bite on, the bird breaks off the extra length of beak but in most cases it is necessary to trim back the beak regularly. A budgie should be taken in the left hand, his head steadied by placing the thumb and forefinger against the cheeks, then the long tip of the beak should be cut with strong nail scissors and the sides trimmed.

Parakeet with a severely overgrown beak.
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