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Why Do Parakeets Puff Up? [Causes & Meaning of this Behavior]

If you own a pet parakeet, you may notice some interesting behaviors that they exhibit. One of which that is quite fascinating is when they puff up. What does this mean and why do parakeets do this? I decided to conduct some research into the topic. I would like to share this information with you here today.

So, why do parakeets puff up? Parakeets puff up to primarily control and regulate their body temperature. It is a normal behavior and parakeets (and other birds) are known to do this regularly. However, if your parakeets is puffed up for a prolonged period of time, or general appears weak, tired, anxious or is sitting at the bottom of the cage, it is likely your parakeet is sick. In this situation you should visit a vet at the earliest opportunity.

Let us now explore the topic further to see the reasons behind the ‘puff’ and what it means for your parakeets. We will also consider when it could indicate something is wrong and medical attention is needed. So be sure to read until the end so that you can confirm whether or not your parakeet is healthy.

What Does It Mean When Parakeets Puff Up?

All birds, including parakeets, are known to ‘puff up’. This is essentially where they ruffle their feathers and move in a particular way. It also is accompanied by alignment, and its easily observable when they are doing it. You’ll notice a dramatic change in their appearance and nature.

Its important to first note that this is very normal and expected behavior. Parakeets do this for a reason. Here are the main reasons why they do it and what it can mean in each circumstance.

Positive Signs

  • Temperature Control and to Keep Warm
  • In response to cleaning and preening
  • Showing signs of happiness and excitement

Temperature Control: puffing up a great way to retain heat and to control and moderate their temperature. This is particularly true if they are in a colder environment than they have been historically used to. They are wild birds after all and thrive in exotic conditions.

When a parakeet keep their feathers puffed, and slightly open, it helps to trap air underneath. This air then becomes trapped and warms, which in turn helps to warm their bodies. This acts in a similar way to how us humans wrap up warm by covering ourselves in extra layers – whether that be with clothing or a blanket.

Adequate temperature is essential for all small birds, notably parakeets, as a lot of energy is required to produce it. Therefore, ‘saving’ heat is a lot more economical.

This self-regulated technique allows your parakeet to closely control their body temperature and if accompanied by the tucking of one of their feet inside their chest, and eyes closed, indicates that they are in a calm and relaxed state. They generally like to do this when they are ready for or during sleeping.

Nonetheless, you should be attentive and monitor the temperature of where you parakeet is housed. If it is too cold, you will need to adjust the heat accordingly as you do not want your parakeet to puff up due to coldness in excess.

Cleaning and Preening: Sometimes you can even observe shaking which a parakeet does to help remove any dirt or feathers. They also like to do this when they are comfortable.

Parakeets are are known to puff following and during any bath, which appears to be used as a method to manipulate the water and clean or dry themselves.

Happy and Excited: Interestingly, puffing up can also be a clear sign that your parakeet is happy and excited.

They are very social birds and use puffing as a way to display their emotions. This is usually accompanied by certain sounds A good way to confirm if your parakeets puffs through happiness and excitement is if it follows being fed a treat or given a new toy.

Negative Signs

  • Illness and Sickness
  • Anxiety

A puffed parakeet is not always a good thing, nor does it always indicate that things are well with them. When parakeets become sick, they will also turn to puffing and ruffing up their feathers.

Unfortunately, this looks very similar to a healthy and relaxed parakeet, so it is hard to distinguish from observation alone. Moreover, because birds are prey animals in the wild, they are renown for hiding illness/and other signs of weakness to prevent being the feed of predators.

In order to effectively identify if all is well with your parakeet, you will need to pay close attention to their general behavior and look for other signs and symptoms that something is not quite right.

So how can you tell if your parakeet is in a healthy state or is in fact sick?

To start with, you need to try to understand if your parakeet is aware of, or even responds to you being around. Parakeets are normally very alert to external stimuli, they generally tense up their feathers and change their behavior when you walk in the room, come close or try to pet them. When parakeets are sick, they simply do not respond and are generally a lot more lethargic. In this case it is important you take them to a vet sooner rather than later.

Other signs of ill health include sitting at the bottom of the cage, hiding in a corner, runny eyes/nose, diarrhea, a lack of chirping and being quiet and excessive sleep.

Sleeping peculiarly can also suggest sickness. Sleeping on both feet (instead of having one tucked up in their feathers) and sleeping with their head facing forwards (instead of tucked back over their shoulder) are the ones to watch out for.

If you cannot visit a vet imminently, then it is important that you place your parakeet near a bird lamp as soon as possible. This is very important as you need to keep them warm at all times, particularly when in distress.

Sick birds actually require more heat, and they need this to combat any disease or bacteria that could be harming them.

Why Is My Parakeet Always Puffy?

If your parakeet appears to be puffed up the majority of the time, its worth checking the temperature of the room in where their cage resides. Both at night-time and at night. Parakeets need to be in the right temperature as they can suffer from heat-stroke or hypothermia at each end of the extremes.

With heat-stroke, you do not have much time to rectify the situation. 30 minutes is usually all you have. With Hypothermia, you have a little more time, around a couple of days before it can become fatal.

Parakeets do best with moderate temperatures (60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Any more or any less will cause issues.

If your parakeet is getting too hot, it will start to breathe very quickly and start to flap its wings as a way to try and cool down.

Alternatively, if they are too cold, you will see excessive puffing as discussed within this article.

Interestingly, fatter birds find it more difficult to naturally manage their body temperature as the fat automatically provides insulation. This makes it even harder for them to cool down if they was to experience too high a heat. So, it naturally follows that a bigger bird will be worse off in hotter temperatures. On the other side, a smaller bird will also struggle more in cooler temperatures.

It is therefore imperative that you ensure your home is the right temperature; even if it differs from one room to the next.

If your home or the room you house your parakeet is naturally cold, you can always get a bird cage heater. This is an effective strategy used by a lot of parakeet owners.

K&H Pet Products Snuggle-Up Bird Warmer Gray Small 3 X 5 Inches
  • Protect exotic birds from the harmful effects of air conditioning and cold drafts
  • Thermostatically controlled to an optimum body temperature
  • Uses harmless
  • 12-volt, low voltage electricity to heat the perch
  • Safe, consistent source of warmth, stabilizes the bird's environment

In Summary

Parakeets puff up for numerous reasons; mostly positive but it can also indicate more severe circumstances.

Like any pet, it is imperative that you closely monitor your parakeets, optimize their environment and ensure that your home is best suited to their needs and circumstances.

If you are ever in doubt as to whether your parakeet is puffing due to ill-health – see a vet. Do not hesitate as this can prove fatal. Sometimes you do not have much time.

Otherwise, consider a heating lamp as they are a sure-fire way to keep a moderate temperature in which a parakeet needs to thrive. Just make sure it is not positioned too close or on too high a power. Heatstroke is also possible and deadly.