Can parakeets die from cold?
Parakeets' exotic nature and vivid colors make them alluring pets. But as they've migrated away from their native tropical and subtropical environments, it's left them vulnerable to the elements of colder climates. So when the temperature drops below even 60 degrees it's a major adjustment for these delicate petite-sized creatures whose feathered exterior doesn't retain heat like the fur coat of a dog.
Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinarian who works with birds and exotic animals, says parakeets are at a biological disadvantage.
"They can't relegate their body temperatures because they're so tiny. So parakeets can easily die from cold weather."
She recommends being aware of some common symptoms that your bird is suffering from cold, which include puffing up into his feathers, crouching, loss of appetite, lack of movement, lethargy, heavy breathing, not flying, and fluid from the eyes and nose. And if he has trouble breathing or is gasping for air, or sitting at the bottom of his cage and not getting up, take him to the vet immediately.
Ochoa says a budgie's ideal temperature range is 70-75 degrees, although it's possible for them to tolerate colder temperatures for about the first six hours or so. But hypothermia can set in after 12-24 hours.
With a little extra TLC, your budgie can survive even the coldest climates. Here are some tips to winter-proof your feathered friend's environment.
While your parakeet may enjoy having a view to the outside world, if your windows aren't properly sealed they will let in too much cold air. It's best to move his cage to a warmer winter home away from windows. An interior room away from the kitchen is best (cooking fumes from nonstick cookware can be irritating to your budgie's delicate lungs). Avoid areas near or under an air vent even if it's warm air.
While you may rely on space heaters or your fireplace (smoke can irritate your bird's lungs) to keep warm, your budgie needs his own regulated heat system. And the best way to do that is to keep the temperature in his environment as consistent as possible all year round. When the temperature drops, a small warmer like the Snuggle Up Bird Warmer that attaches to the side of his cage will stabilize the temperature and keep him comfortable. While not adjustable, the Snuggle Up Bird Warmer is thermostatically controlled to help maintain a bird's ideal body temperature.
If you've already furnished your bird's cage with multiple perches, which are ideal for stimulation, amusement and foot limbering, you may want to swap in a thermo heated perch during the winter months.
Ochoa says it's best to keep parakeets inside during the winter months, especially in very cold climates. “I don't recommend keeping parakeets outside even in warmer climates but especially not in temps as cold as a Minnesota winter. They should at least come inside at night or when it's below 60 degrees. Forty-degree temps are too dangerous."
But if you happen to be caring for wild parakeets or if your bird enjoys a supervised daily dip, the outdoor birdbath de-icer with a built-in thermostat will ensure your birdbath never freezes over.
Invest in birdhouses for wild budgies and stock them with plenty of hay to help them build a warm cozy nest. This will give them more protection than sheltering behind a tree or bush or burrowing in the limbs of a tree.
The constant use of dry heat to warm your home during the winter can dry out your budgie's skin and lungs, which can lead to a respiratory infection. If you notice that your little guy is experiencing dry flaky and itchy skin you may want to invest in a humidifier, which mimics his native climate. Make sure to position it in an area far enough away from your bird so he's not tempted to investigate it and with plenty of room to provide for even distribution. Alternatively gently misting him a few times a day is another easy way to help him retain moisture.
If a simple cotton sheet is your “go-to" nighttime cover-up, switch to a fleece blanket in the wintertime. It keeps the warmth in and the cold out.
Parakeets can thrive in colder temperatures. Ochoa says it just takes a little proactive effort. “The best thing to do for them is to mimic their native climate as closely as you can and keep the temperature level consistent year-round."