Eating one’s own feathers, or that of another cockatiel often puzzles bird owners. It looks painful and can even leave unsightly skin exposure. I consulted a few of my veterinarian friends, and here is what I learned.
Cockatiels may bite their feathers off because they are stressed, as a nesting behavior, or due to a lack of fiber. They even pluck its feathers if they face any skin discomfort. Plucking small amounts of feathers is a natural cockatiel behavior.
Observe your bird’s behavior, and find out why they behave this way. There will be a physical, medical, or emotional explanation. Once you know what this is, you can react accordingly.
Let us take a closer look at each of the potential causes so you can learn to limit this behavior in your birds.
Why Does My Cockatiel Chew His Feathers?
There are several common reasons why cockatiels might chew their feathers.
In some cases, this problem will be caused by a physical issue. For instance, your cockatiel might be suffering from some skin infection.
Or, if you have a female cockatiel, she may be pregnant or experiencing a false pregnancy, prompting nesting behaviors.
Sometimes, the ‘feather-chewing’ behavior can result from mental health issues, such as stress or boredom.
And, in some cases, you may not be giving your cockatiels something they need. Cockatiels bite their feathers off because of dietary imbalances or insufficient grooming.
Now, let us understand these causes in detail.
Boredom Or Stress
Cockatiels are social birds. They crave company and struggle when left alone for long periods. If your bird grows bored, it will become lonely and anxious.
If your cockatiel is biting its feathers, they’re likely bored. Filling your cockatiel’s cage with toys is not enough. Birds always need new entertainment and engagement.
Getting your bird a companion is a great way to provide this goal.
Once your birds have bonded, they’ll be constant companions. You’ll find that they rarely leave each other’s side and care for each other.
If your cockatiel has a flea infestation, they’ll be in discomfort.
If you suspect your bird has fleas, it’ll need immediate treatment. Feather plucking and biting will follow as soon as the infestation takes hold. They’ll be itching, so they’ll try to relieve this by biting. Also, the discomfort will cause stress.
Act quickly if you suspect your bird has a medical skin discomfort. Although pet stores stock specialist medication, these are not always effective.
Therefore, you’ll need a vet for an appropriate and effective solution in such cases.
Cockatiels love to groom themselves and keep themselves clean. They groom themselves for various reasons, and display dominance, stress, boredom, physical pain, and accidental overgrooming.
Furthermore, cockatiels groom each other for several reasons. It’s an activity that keeps them occupied and entertained and helps establish their social hierarchy.
Female cockatiels that chew on their feathers may do so as a nesting behavior. If you know that your bird is pregnant, this is likely the reason for feather biting.
You will notice that the female cockatiel takes its feathers and creates a lovely warm nest from it.
However, there is a chance that your bird is experiencing a false pregnancy. In such cases, speak to your vet if you believe this is what’s happening.
Your vet can help you through this time and recommend the best way to care for your cockatiel until she is back to normal.
Lack Of Fiber In Its Diet
Yet another cause of cockatiels chewing their feathers is a lack of fiber in their diet.
Cockatiels need adequate nutritional and fresh food daily to fulfill their fiber requirements.
If you are not providing your birds with adequate or appropriate food, they might start biting on their own feathers.
Try providing your birds with fresh, nutritious food to see if it solves the problem.
Is It Normal For A Cockatiel To Pluck Feathers?
If you are a new bird owner, you may be worried if you see your cockatiel pulling out its feathers.
However, feather pulling or plucking is usually regular, predominantly seen in female cockatiels.
If you suspect the problem is much more severe, I would advise you to visit the vet as soon as possible.
Cockatiels Pulling Out Feathers Of Another Cockatiel
Many times, even bonded cockatiels can turn on each other and start to pluck feathers off each other.
If your birds are bored or maybe trapped in too small of a space, they may turn on each other.
Most of the time, you will notice that one bird is more likely to pluck the feathers of another. This is a sign of dominance.
In such cases, separate the two birds temporarily, and let them cool off.
After a while, reintroduce them and let them bond once again. If things are acceptable, it will all be ok.
If not, then the bond may be lost. Sometimes it gets difficult to re-bond two cockatiels once they fall out. They will likely need to live in separate cages from now on.
How To Stop A Cockatiel Biting Its Feathers?
A cockatiel continuously biting its feathers can sometimes be scary.
There are a few things that you can do on your part to stop your bird from biting its feathers:
- Identify the source. It is probably the essential thing that you can do. It is crucial to understand the root cause of the problem. Prevention is better than trying to find a cure.
- Avoid unnecessary changes. If your cockatiel has started to chew its feathers due to changes in its cage, cage-mates, food, or location, then you need to reverse the change. If you have added something new to your bird’s cage, it might stress your birds, which can lead to feather-chewing behavior.
- Deal with the medical problem, if any. Many times, a cockatiel biting its feather is a sign of illness. It might bite its feathers due to stress or internal health complications. You must take your pet to the vet to check for health problems.
- Offer toys to divert your cockatiel. You can get your bird some interactive or engaging toys from a pet store to prevent feather-chewing behavior. Chewing branches work wonders as well. Keep rotating the toys so that your bird does not get bored with them.
- Split your birds. You can split your cockatiels for a while if your birds tend to pluck each other’s feathers. However, make sure that they remain in social contact through nearby cages.
If you have more than one cockatiel housed together, it would be best to determine if your bird is chewing on another or doing it on itself.
Spend some time observing your birds. Does the ‘feather-chewing’ behavior. Does it happen all around the cage? Or in the same place? Is the dominant bird the aggressor, or is it something else?
Furthermore, you must understand that modifying a cockatiel’s behavior will take time and patience, so you must be prepared for it.
If anything is done too soon or incorrectly, it might worsen things and lengthen the behavior modification process.
Therefore, staying calm and patient is essential and consistent with any training process.