budgies and popcorn - is it safe

Popcorn and budgies – an update and note of caution

Last week, I published a post about the budgies experiencing popcorn for the first time. In response, a kind reader commented that recently in a budgie group, someone recounted the experience of having their budgie choke to death while they desperately tried to save her. The culprit was, of course, popcorn. I am so grateful to the person who let me know about the situation.

First, my heartfelt condolences go out to the person who lost their pet in a tragic and traumatizing manner. Second, I would hate to ever espouse any course of action that might lead to a budgie being injured or worse.

I wondered whether popcorn is a frequent choking hazard, or if this was a one in a million incident. Writing this blog, even for a relatively small audience, I’m aware of a responsibility not to publish harmful or misleading information. At the same time, I’m just a budgie parent, not a vet or avian specialist, and I’m learning as I go along too.

In order to gather some more data about a possible link between popcorn and choking, I posed the question on a FB page called Feathered Friends. This page provides an incredible resource, with nearly 80,000 fans who are parrot enthusiasts and owners it’s an excellent place to post a question and get a ton of well-reasoned answers.

What I gleaned from the many responses was that a budgie choking on popcorn is not a common occurrence. Also, it confirmed my concept that, much like humans, a budgie could choke to death on anything they ate and it would probably not be possible to eliminate all dangerous foods.

I was also called ignorant (yay internet!). As I’m sure we all know, asking questions is the way we conquer ignorance!

Some folks did feel that popcorn is inappropriate for smaller parrots. So, before you decide to try popcorn as enrichment, weigh the risks versus the reward, but also know that we can be the best informed and the most well-intentioned bird owners, and tragedy may still strike.

As a best practice, make sure to remove all kernels from the popcorn you provide your budgies. I mentioned in the original post, the popcorn should be free of salt and butter. You can also remove any hull-like kernel pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

I think you can easily keep popcorn off the menu for your budgies and they won’t know the difference. I think you could give popcorn once a month for the next ten years and most likely nothing bad would happen (except you’d be cleaning up shredded popcorn once a month!).

The thing that’s important to me as someone who is concerned with honesty and transparency is that I let my readers know what I’ve found out about the possible dangers of popcorn. That way you can make a better informed decision for your budgies.

As far as things go for our flock, I will give Toby, Kelly and Kevin the chance to explore popcorn as often as we make it, which is about 4 times a year. While I understand there may be a risk inherent, I also don’t want to dwell in the fear of what might happen.

6 thoughts on “Popcorn and budgies – an update and note of caution”

  1. From what little I’ve read, it seems like what you feed your birds and how is a more violently debated subject online than anything political, which I don’t understand. It is impossible to remove any and everything that may potentially pose a danger from our birds’ environment. All we can do is our best, know our animals, and make the best decisions we can.

    Condolences to the person who lost their budgie!

    1. Yes! Every time feeding comes up it’s a total war, people are intensely passionate about the subject!

      I completely agree that all we can do is our best. And that’s a great point about knowing our pets, what’s dangerous for one would be totally safe for another.

  2. Sounds like perfectly reasonable advice. If we were to constantly worry about what MIGHT happen, we would lose out on so many wonderful experiences.

  3. Well people will try to say you can’t feed this, you can’t feed that but most people haven’t bothered to look up how to perform the Heimlich on a bird in case they DO choke. Honestly, can’t you potentially choke on anything? My parrotlets eat popcorn (mini popcorn from the pet store) with no problem at all. But after seeing in a group on Facebook that someone’s choked to death, I’m probably going to avoid it anyway. Regular popcorn, I’m sure, poses more of a risk though.

    1. I totally agree, it’s good to be cautious, but it can get excessive and I know I want to weigh caution against making sure they have enriching experiences and get to try new things!

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