Increase Appetite In A Sick Bird

Because all birds tend to conceal signs of ill health–an instinctive reaction in order to avoid being targeted by predators–it’s not always obvious when they’re sick. Some indicators they can’t conceal. Along with ruffled feathers, watery stools, and lethargy, a lack of appetite–and the resultant weight loss–is a classic sign of stress or sickness in a bird that must be immediately addressed. Birds have rapid metabolisms; they need ten times the amount of food per body weight that humans do, and they can’t go very long without food. If your bird hasn’t eaten anything for 48 hours, this is an emergency, and requires veterinary intervention. Whether you want to simply stimulate a bird’s decreased appetite so it can get crucial nutrients, or need to provide emergency sustenance until veterinary care is available, there are steps you can take to help.


1. Immediately remove all grit from the cage–sick birds tend to over-consume it–and move the birdcage to a warm, quiet part of the house. A heat lamp nearby is good for extra heat, but make sure it is not too hot; around 86 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit is desirable. If your bird holds her wings out from her body and pants, it is too hot. Also make sure that there is lots of fresh water available in the water cup, as dry heat can hasten dehydration. If a bird goes long enough without eating, body tissue begins to be metabolized. By providing her with extra heat, you’re sparing her the extra energy involved in trying to keep warm, and slowing this process.

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2. Make sure the room is quiet, as well as warm. Don’t remove familiar toys or perches from the cage, unless they are soiled; this is not the time to add that new mirror or swing. You want your bird to feel safe, and you want to remove distractions. Even the barking of a family dog that is usually well tolerated by the bird can be a stressor when she is sick.

3. Utilize your bird’s flock instinct to help her eat. Sit next to her cage and let her see you eat something, while you talk softly and offer favorite treats by hand. Fruit is ideal, if your bird will eat it. The fluids in it may cause your bird to feel better quickly, and cause food to be more appealing. Move her feed cup so that it is close to her as possible.

4. If your bird suffers from a decreased appetite but is still eating, you can offer alfalfa, either sprouted or in the form of crumbled leaves. For some birds, it acts as an appetite stimulant. Vitamin B supplements for birds can also increase well-being, leading in turn to more food consumption.

5. Call a veterinarian if your bird approaches 48 hours without eating. It’s possible to do an emergency force feeding with an eyedropper; start by cradling the bird in a soft towel, making sure not to press on her chest. Fill the eyedropper with room-temperature fruit juice or a pediatric solution, and tilt the bird’s head back at a 45-degree angle. Gently insert the dropper into the beak, and squeeze in one drop, then rub the bird’s throat to stimulate swallowing. Give seven drops for a finch or canary, and 10 to 15 drops for a parakeet. Parrots will require a tablespoon and a half.

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