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The main part of a budgie's daily diet
is a bird seed mixture which contains different
grains and seeds.
These seeds need to be peeled before the budgies can eat them. The beak is a perfect tool
for peeling the seeds and therefore guarantees the survival. It is necessary that the beak
is intact; else the bird is not able to eat enough. In case the beak gets hurt in an
accident or fight with another bird, the budgie is in trouble because this could mean he
is no longer able to eat and he would soon die from starvation. Such birds need help to
survive until the beak is healed and they can peel their seeds again.
Consequences of an injury
When a budgie peels the seeds the lower mandible which is rigidly coupled to the skull is used for fixing the grains. The upper mandible can be moved by the bird and the edge of the lower one separates the glumes from the grains. When the upper mandible is broken or seriously injured the affected bird is no longer able to use the beak for peeling the seeds. Since budgies do not swallow seeds that still are covered by their glumes the loss of a part of the upper mandible often causes starvation. Even pellets can't be swallowed when the upper beak is seriously injured because toughing the wound hurts - and while a bird is eating the pellets would of course touch the wound edge.
But losing a part of the upper mandible doesn't always mean starvation for a budgie. Sometimes the remaining part of the upper mandible is long enough to enable the bird to fix the seeds between the upper and the lower mandible and peel the glumes off after the initial wound has healed. The blue budgie who is shown in the photos above is an example for a lucky bird who was still able to eat seeds after the upper mandible broke. Here you can visit Kiki's website.
Regrettably it is not very likely that a budgie whose upper mandible has broken off close to the cere will ever be able to peel seeds again. Such injuries do heal but often the beak won't regrow to its natural size. Even though it is a hard decision one has to take sometimes it is better to put the poor patient down. The only way to save such a bird from starvation is feeding it by hand several times each day for the whole rest of the life. This is not easy because the special food is soft and many birds don't like to swallow mashed grains and seeds. If you have to feed a bird who is not tame it is a torture for you and the budgie. Therefore you should discuss the particular case with an avian vet and find out what is best for the bird: a torture every time you feed him or being put to sleep.
But don't worry, I have also heard about budgies who have learned to take their special soft food from a spoon. They soon started to trust their owners and it became quite easy to feed them.
The first days after the accident
Another way to help is peeling the seeds before handing them to your injured bird. Put the seeds between two pieces of cloth and then use a rolling pin to crack the glumes. The seeds should not break, only the glumes should be removed from the grains. From time to time take away the upper piece of cloth and softly blow the glomes away. Repeat these steps until the seeds are ready to be handed to your injured bird. Tip: Most health food stores offer peeled or cracked millet that can be used as a special diet food for a bird whose beak is hurt. And by the way, most injured birds prefer to eat presoaked millet/grains. Please do not feed your budgie on millet only for more than one week. Birds need a variety of different grains and seeds to stay healthy. An unbalanced diet with only one component (=millet) will soon lead to deficiency symptoms! And of course you should discuss this special diet with your avian vet.
As soon as you notice that the edge of the broken beak doesn't seem to hurt anymore you can offer your bird presoaked seeds (seed mixtures). You should carefully watch your bird to make sure your budgie won't suffer anorexia. Many budgies learn to eat with a broken beak. Even though often it won't regrow to the full natural length the birds will be able to lead a good life with their handicap. You should check your bird's weight at least once a week. Budgies should not be lighter than 35 to 45 grams. If you are not sure about your bird's nutritional condition you should talk to your avian vet who will sure help you to learn how to find out whether a budgie is underweight or not.
A remarkable case
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