Parakeets can puff up for a variety of reasons; some totally benign, others a potential cause for concern. Usually, puffing up is a simple sign of some basic emotion such as being tired, happy or excited. It could indicate your parakeet is cold, or in the worst case, it could be a sign your parakeet is unwell.
Puffing up is a common behavior for parakeets, and it’s usually nothing to worry about.
It is something you should be aware of, though, as if it is puffing up to show discomfort of some kind, you need to address that as soon as you can.
Let’s find out more.
Why is my parakeet puffing up its feathers?
There are a few reasons your parakeet might be puffing up its feathers.
Let’s start by covering the most common reasons.
Most parakeets will puff up virtually every night, and this is simply a method for keeping warm.
If you have several parakeets, you’ll often notice them puffing up close together at night.
By doing this, they give more surface area to their feathers and thus more space for warm air to become trapped.
Many species of parrot do this, even when you’re providing an adequate temperature for them.
It’s just a natural nighttime behavior.
Not only does this keep them warm, it also aerates their feathers and allows them extra breathing room for their skin.
Even if you notice the same behavior during the day, it still isn’t necessarily automatically a problem.
As I mentioned, parakeets will also often puff up their feathers out of excitement or happiness.
When they see you after you’ve been out for a while, they may puff up their feathers out of excitement to see you.
They may do it any other time during the day when they are happy.
It’s also part of grooming themselves. They’ll puff up their feathers so they can give them a clean—this is something they’ll typically do daily.
Sometimes, they may also simply puff up their feathers during the day due to being tired.
This isn’t necessarily a long term issue, but you should consider whether they’re able to get a good night’s sleep in the environment you’ve given them.
Excessive light and noise can disrupt their sleep and long term sleep deprivation can be a serious problem for them.
You should be able to put this right fairly easily.
However, if it seems to be just puffing up during the day habitually, there may be a problem.
When is a parakeet puffing up its feathers a bad sign?
The simple rule of thumb will be how much time your parakeet is spending with its feathers puffed up.
As I’ve said, this is a very common behavior that they can exhibit for a wide range of reasons.
If you notice it at night or for brief periods of excitement, then there’s most likely nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, if your parakeet is sitting puffed up for many hours of the day, then there is probably something going on.
The simplest explanation is usually that it is just cold. Parakeets need a temperature in the 70s to be comfortable.
Anything below 65 is potentially dangerous to their health.
The puffing up could be a sign your parakeet is too cold.
You’ll need to adjust the temperature accordingly.
Usually, happy feather puffing is paired with closed eyes.
Try to read your parakeet’s body language.
Puffing up can also indicate fear and aggression.
If it puffs up and looks right at you, makes a lot of noise, and seems to rear from your touch, then it’s not quite warmed to you yet.
This is very common when you’ve first brought them home.
Be sure to give them plenty of space at first, and find ways to build its trust with you.
Equally, even when you’ve had them for a long time, they may not always want to be handled.
Be sure to give them space when they want it and don’t force interactions.
If your parakeet has suddenly started puffing up its feathers during all hours of the day, and you’re sure it’s warm enough and happy to see you, then it could be ill.
If you’ve noticed other symptoms alongside the feather puffing, such as lethargy or even weight loss, then it’s a good sign that your parakeet is unwell.
What should I do if my parakeet puffs up?
Assuming you have eliminated all the general explanations for why your parakeet is puffing up its feathers, there are a few things you can do.
If your parakeet is suddenly being more hostile to interactions, puffing up its feathers when you try to come near it or handle it, then this isn’t necessarily anything to worry about.
Give it space; let it be alone when it wants to.
Usually, it will get over this and will enjoy the interactions again.
Sometimes, though, their temperaments can change, especially when they are coming out of adolescence.
There’s not much you can do to change this, unfortunately.
Some parakeets are more standoffish than others, although this is fairly rare if they’ve been properly raised.
Again, though, it’s not necessarily anything to worry about if it’s only doing it when you come near it.
The other most common explanation is the temperature, as I mentioned. Day and night, parakeets need 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turn the temperature up if it’s below this.
If you’ve covered all these bases and your parakeet still does not seem to be comfortable and is always puffing up, it’s time for a visit to the vet.
Whatever the issue may be, even if there’s none at all, the vet can tell you for sure and give you some peace of mind.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, as whatever is causing your parakeet to puff up could be fatal.
Such cases may be rare, but unattended illness is not going to be good either way.
Other signs of stress are useful to look out for, too.
What does a stressed parakeet look like?
There are many signs that a parakeet is stressed.
When paired with puffed up feathers, any one of these signs could indicate something serious going on.
Excessive biting can be one of the biggest signs of a stressed parakeet.
Again, especially when this behavior is at odds with what you are typically used to from the parakeet.
If they suddenly start biting a lot, this can indicate stress.
Hissing is another sign of stress. If they are hissing at you a lot when previously this wouldn’t be something they did, then this is a good sign that they are stressed about something or other.
This stress could certainly be the result of illness.
Lunging is another one, and often these three behaviors will go hand in hand.
Finally, excessive screaming, screeching and otherwise making lots more noise than they normally would, then they are most likely stressed about something.
You’ll often notice your parakeet puffing up at the same time that it does these things, in which case the puffing up is definitely a sign of stress.
Again, the important distinction is if you’ve suddenly noticed this behavior out of the blue.
Not all birds are all that friendly, but once they’ve matured to adulthood their temperament should stay the same.
If it suddenly changes, then they are stressed or ill, undoubtedly.
What does it mean when parakeets ruffle their feathers?
Feather ruffling is typically a completely benign habit.
It generally just means that your parakeet is grooming itself.
This again is a habitual behaviour for parakeets and most parrots, indeed most birds.
Keeping feathers clean can be a chore, and so it can take daily maintenance to keep up with it.
Still, though, excessive feather ruffling and grooming can be yet another sign of stress.
Often, they will constantly groom out of stress over an illness or even simple boredom.
Make sure they’re well entertained and stimulated throughout the day, and be sure to play with them a lot if they don’t have a companion of their own.
Take them to the vet if you have any doubts.
It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on, then, but in general, puffing up is a very normal behavior for a parakeet.
Make sure that you’re maintaining a comfortable temperature for it, and that it isn’t puffing up because it is excessively cold.
On the other hand, if it is puffing up for long hours of the day when it cannot be cold, then it may be time to get the vet involved.
There’s no point taking the chance—make sure the parakeet isn’t suffering in some way.