Parrots can become constipated due to an inappropriate diet (low in fiber), dehydration (not drinking enough water), a lack of exercise, cloacoliths, or gastroenteritis due to poor husbandry.
Constipation is uncommon in birds. The signs a parrot is constipated include lethargy, straining to defecate, irritability, fluffed-up feathers, hard and sticky droppings, and dry mucus membrane.
Constipation can be confused with egg binding (when females strain to release fertilized and unfertilized eggs). Both conditions are life-threatening, so contact a vet if you observe a parrot straining.
How Many Times Do Parrots Poop a Day?
According to Wiley, birds have an entirely different digestive system from humans, which means they poop many more times per day than us.
It’s normal for a large parrot like a macaw to poop 10-20 times per day, whereas a small bird like a budgie can poop 40+ times per day.
This is a significant medical concern if a parrot has stopped pooping (there’s no waste in its cage).
Why Is My Parrot Not Pooping?
If a parrot isn’t going to the toilet, the explanation could be constipation. While constipation is uncommon in birds, it’s certainly possible. What causes constipation in parrots?
The main reason for constipation in birds is a poor diet. A lack of dietary fiber is the main culprit, so if you haven’t fed the parrot enough fruits or vegetables, it’ll be low on fiber.
Parrots need soluble and insoluble fiber to add bulk to their stools. The stool will absorb water, which aids digestive transit. That’s why dehydration can also stop a parrot from going to the toilet.
Another cause of constipation is cloacoliths, which comprise hardened uric acid and can obstruct the rectal opening, making it difficult and painful for a parrot to poop.
According to ABVP, excess water consumption can be due to traumatic neuropathy, brooding behavior, etc. Although poorly understood, cloacoliths are most prevalent in macaws and Amazon parrots.
If a parrot isn’t getting enough exercise, this increases the likelihood of constipation.
Also, parrot constipation could be secondary to gastroenteritis due to a dirty cage or bacteria in food.
How To Tell If A Parrot Is Constipated
Since constipation is rare in parrots, owners aren’t usually taught to be vigilant.
The clearest sign that something is amiss is if a parrot is pooping less frequently than usual. However, a reduction in pooping frequency does have other explanations.
If the weather is cold, you’ve been playing with the parrot less, or the bird has recently matured, you should expect it to poop less frequently.
Parrots poop more when they’re excited, so if they’re engaged in fewer activities (or have recently matured), they’ll be less excited and poop less. However, all parrots should poop occasionally.
Consult a vet if you observe the following warning signs of constipation in pet parrots:
1/ Straining to Defecate
If a parrot is straining to defecate, this is a clear sign of constipation. You’ll instantly realize a parrot is straining if it takes much longer to poop than normal, yet nothing or little emerges from the vent.
Parrots sometimes wag their tails when straining and may whimper when trying to defecate.
A parrot may also try constantly to poop to relieve its considerable discomfort. Although a constipated parrot produces less poop, it’ll spend more time trying to go to the toilet.
2/ Very Irritable
A constipated parrot won’t want to be petted, especially on the back. It’ll seek to avoid interaction.
If a parrot is nipping more than usual, this intolerance could be due to constipation. A constipated bird won’t want to play and lark around because it’ll feel unhappy and preoccupied with its issue.
You can determine if a parrot is lethargic by determining if it experiences joy from activities it previously enjoyed (e.g., seeing its mate, playing, talking, performing tricks, and eating.)
It’s normal for parrots to want some quiet, and wanting alone time isn’t necessarily a sign of lethargy. Some species, like Rosellas, spend more time alone. It all depends on what’s normal for that bird.
If a parrot is unusually lethargic and reserved, this could be a sign of constipation or illness.
4/ Fluffed-up feathers
Fluffed-up feathers have various explanations. Usually, it signifies the temperature is too hot. An overheated parrot may become dehydrated, which can cause constipation.
Alternatively, parrots often feel cold when sick, fluffing their feathers to insulate themselves.
Regurgitation can happen in the latter stages of constipation. However, it’s also a mating behavior practiced by male parrots. Males regurgitate food for females, often when incubating their eggs.
How can you tell if regurgitation is a sign of constipation? If a parrot displays natural mating behavior, it’ll only regurgitate food in front of its mate or favorite person.
You should be concerned about constipation if a bird’s regurgitating in private for no reason.
6/ Refusing Food
Another sign of constipation is food refusal. If a parrot can’t go to the toilet, it’ll be disinterested in food. Many illnesses and diseases have inappetence as a symptom, and they’re all life-threatening.
Parrots, especially smaller species, rarely survive for more than 24-72 hours without food.
7/ Dirty Vent
If a parrot has constipation, it may have a dirty vent. You might notice poop stuck to the vent or dirty hind feathers. Wipe the parrot’s vent with a clean, damp cloth to remove the risk of bacterial infection.
8/ Sticky Droppings
A constipated parrot may still eliminate, but there could be changes to the poop’s consistency.
For example, extremely dry poop shows that a parrot is dehydrated, while very small and sticky droppings can be a symptom of gastroenteritis.
According to MSD Manual, sticky and green droppings are a sign of Psittacine herpesvirus (PsHV-1), which can cause Pacheco’s disease and mucosal papilloma disease in parrots.
According to Bio-One, unhappy vocalizations while straining can signify cloacolith. As mentioned, cloacoliths are obstructions that can prevent a parrot from passing waste properly.
Cloacoliths are often formed from uric acid. Once the condition is identified and treated, most parrots return to producing normal bowel movements shortly afterward.
A dry mucus membrane is a sign of parrot dehydration, which can lead to constipation.
Other signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, tenting skin, panting, and spending time on the cage floor. Parrots, especially if sick or elderly, rarely survive more than 24-72 hours without water.
Things Mistaken for Constipation in Birds
A medical concern that resembles constipation in parrots is egg binding (dystocia).
Egg binding occurs when a female can’t release her clutch of eggs. Egg binding is often caused by a calcium deficiency, old age, too-large eggs, and a lack of sunlight (for vitamin D3 synthesis).
The signs of egg binding in birds include:
- Straining, yet nothing emerges.
- Distended stomach.
- Sleeping more than normal.
- Leg paralysis (one or both legs).
- Puffed-up feathers.
- Tail bobbing.
- Not using perches.
If a parrot is male, it can’t become egg-bound because only females have an ovary.
Can A Parrot Die from Constipation?
Parrots defecate and lay eggs through the vent. A parrot must eliminate to remain healthy because a prolonged blockage can lead to premature death.
If a parrot is egg-bound, this is even more troubling. If a parrot has dystocia, it’ll need urgent medical intervention to help her lay. Don’t wait for the condition to clear up.
What To Do If A Parrot Is Constipated
You can do things for a parrot while awaiting a vet appointment. These include:
- Wipe the parrot’s butt using a damp cloth. This is important if you can see that poop has built up because it can cause a bacterial infection.
- Provide clean and fresh water in an easily accessible location.
- Provide fiber and moisture-rich fresh fruit and veg, like berries or melon, in small chunks.
- Apply a few drops of vegetable oil with a dropper to the bird’s cloaca.
Constipation can be prevented by providing more dietary fiber. About 15-20% of a parrot’s diet should comprise fruits and vegetables. Reduce the number of pellets temporarily if a bird is constipated.