Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Carrie Stephens
You’ll be concerned if your pet parakeet isn’t eating, especially if it’s new to your home.
Eating makes parakeets more vulnerable to predators. It takes time for a parakeet to trust its owner and living environment, so it’s likely eating and drinking when you’re not around.
Parakeets feel safer eating in secrecy, even if it causes concern for you and me.
If you’re unsure if a parakeet is eating, measure the food levels in the bowl. Are they going down? Also, birds poop often, so check if the parakeet is pooping and the consistency.
Of course, there are occasions when parakeets refuse to eat. If so, you need to find out why.
Reasons for inappetence and anorexia include stress, nearby distractions, bullying and hoarding from cagemates, food preferences, low energy levels, parasites, and various medical issues.
Start by offering millet spray, feeding each parakeet in a separate cage (or relocating the enclosure to a more suitable room,) or changing the food bowl (or its material).
If a parakeet refuses to eat, it’s unlikely to survive more than 24 hours. This means a veterinarian MUST medically assess the parakeet. It may also need to be fed intravenously to keep it alive.
How Often Parakeets Must Eat
Parakeets must eat twice daily, with nutritious mid-day snacks (fruits, vegetables, etc) for energy.
Some owners prefer ‘free-feeding,’ always leaving food in the cage for the bird to eat at leisure. Other owners offer two meals: one after waking up and one about an hour before sleep.
The more controlled approach enables you to assess whether a parakeet is eating, when, and how much.
Prognosis for A Parakeet That Doesn’t Eat
If a parakeet can’t or refuses to eat, it will starve. Many parakeets won’t survive more than a day.
Starvation differs significantly from malnourishment. The latter occurs when the body doesn’t receive enough nutrients despite eating regularly.
Malnourishment occurs due to insufficient nutrients. Intas Polivet stated that avoidable malnutrition is a leading cause of illness and disease in pet parakeets.
It’s Normal for A New Parakeet Not To Eat
When you first bring a parakeet home, it’ll feel unsettled, stressed, and afraid.
This anxious state will be reflected in its behavior. An American parakeet (budgie) may not feel comfortable eating heartily because it isn’t secure in its surroundings.
While feeding set meals is advised, free feeding enables a parakeet to settle in. Place some seeds in a bowl inside the cage and go about your day, leaving the bird to adjust to its environment.
Bird Populations warns that seeds are high in fat, which can lead to obesity and fatty liver disease in parakeets. Seeds also lack certain nutrients, like vitamin A (retinol).
While a parakeet is new, seeds are a favored snack because they encourage them to eat. Until a parakeet has adapted to life as a pet, having food in its stomach is better than eating nothing.
Mark a parakeet’s food and water bowls to check if it has been eating and drinking.
Why Parakeets Won’t Eat
If a parakeet is established within the home and suddenly stops eating, something is amiss with its health, lifestyle options, or living environment.
While you must convince a parakeet to start eating again, you must identify the cause of appetite loss. Possible explanations for inappetence include:
Parakeets can be stressed, which affects their willingness to eat. Stress has many triggers, including:
- Loud noises around the cage.
- Wrong temperature (too hot or cold).
- Unsuitable humidity level.
- Other pets, especially cats, due to their stalking behaviors.
- Unreliable feeding schedule.
- A lack of sleep.
- Altering room decor and colors.
Bonded parakeets form deep and lasting friendships. However, if unbonded parakeets are forced to share a cage, they may clash over territory and resources.
Monitor the parakeets from a safe distance when they don’t know they’re being observed. You may notice that one bird guards and hoards food resources, refusing to allow others access.
All pet birds must undergo an introduction process. Unfortunately, some parakeets never get along.
Dislike of Food
Parakeets can be stubborn and picky eaters, even to the extent of starving themselves.
If you’ve suddenly changed a parakeet’s food type or supplier, don’t be surprised if it refuses to eat. They’re neophobic animals and distrustful of all things new.
Avoid sudden changes. Instead, gradually transition a pet parakeet to a more nutritious diet.
If a parakeet is surrounded by noise, movement, bright lights, and distractions, it may refuse to eat. Birds feel vulnerable when eating, so a perceived environmental threat will lead to appetite loss.
If you can’t identify a reason why a parakeet has stopped eating, there could be a medical explanation:
- Intestinal parasites, like worms.
- External ectoparasites, like fleas or mites.
- Beak overgrowth or misalignment.
- A blockage in the crop.
- Pain caused by fractured wings or other injuries.
- Respiratory infections.
There are many reasons why a parakeet may stop eating, so a veterinary assessment is essential.
How To Get A Parakeet To Eat
A starving parakeet’s life is in danger, so you must convince it to start eating again.
Follow these steps, seeking urgent medical counsel if a parakeet still hasn’t eaten as 24 hours approaches. A parakeet will be near death, so don’t delay any further.
If a parakeet refuses to eat, offer an alternative so it consumes something. You can work on longer-term food training solutions once the parakeet’s life is no longer in imminent danger.
To transition a parakeet to a new diet, do so steadily. To exchange one brand for another, feed 90% of the old food and 10% of the new food. Over the next 14 days, gradually adjust the ratio.
A suspicious parakeet may reject unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Eat these foods where a parakeet can see, making it clear that you enjoy the taste to pique its curiosity.
The problem may not be the food you offer but the eating vessel.
A parakeet may dislike its food dish for many reasons, including:
- An allergy to the bowl’s material. For example, a plastic allergy.
- The dish has been soiled, rendering its contents tainted and unappealing.
- Food in the dish rotted, leaving a lingering scent or foul taste.
- The dish is attributed to a negative experience.
- Dish accessibility problems.
Consider switching the food receptacle and see if this intrigues the parakeet sufficiently to eat.
You can introduce individual food bowls if you have several birds in a cage. Each parakeet will gravitate toward its food dish if you color-code the bowls.
Consider whether the cage’s location is a problem. However, a wholesale change of location can leave a parakeet bewildered and stressed, leading to starvation.
Consider getting a second cage exclusively for feeding. Again, this approach can work if several parakeets share a cage, leading to mealtime guarding and conflict.
As the deadline for convincing a parakeet to eat approaches, seek a veterinary consultation. A parakeet that refuses food must be medically assessed and fed intravenously.
Note the parakeet’s demeanor. How does it behave outside of mealtimes? Is it uncharacteristically aggressive, lacking energy, hyperactive, or displaying an awkward gait?
A vet will run tests to identify a medical explanation for the refusal to eat. Of course, you know the bird better than anybody. Identifying uncharacteristic behavior can guide diagnosis.
A parakeet’s refusal to eat is never something to ignore. Avoid a wait-and-see approach. A parakeet must eat twice daily (with mid-day snacks) to sustain its fast metabolism and double circulatory system.