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I have 4 baby budgies. We had decided to hand feed them at 3…

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Hello, I have 4 baby...
Hello, I have 4 baby budgies. We had decided to hand feed them at 3 weeks. We moved them to a nurse cage and are spoon feeding every 4 hours. After one day the youngest has picked the feathers off of the three older sibling at their chin/neck where food may have been dried. I had been cleaning the formula off but only with a dry cloth. I'm sure there was residue that interested the little one. I now use a wet warm cloth and a gentle clean. I have been watching them closely. The youngest still continues to do this.For all four birds, Droppings are normal, exploring the cage and nibbling at new foods here and there, crop fills and empties normally.My questions are: Will these feathers grow back? Is this a bad habit now and does the youngest need to be separated from the group to end this feather plucking? Is it possible something else is going on?
Submitted: 2 months ago.Category: Bird
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Answered in 9 hours by:
12/19/2017
Bird Specialist: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 2 months ago
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 32,324
Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply. Please be patient. This may take a few minutes.

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Bird Specialist: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 2 months ago

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. To answer you directly, yes, feathers will regrow as long as there's adequate building blocks for feather growth - protein, calcium, and vitamin D3, mainly. Yes, this behavior can become habitual and, yes, something else going on is likely. Please see the following for more...

You've described cannibalism which is defined as the pecking and killing of birds by their cagemates. This is a behavioral problem that often develops into a vice. It becomes a pattern of behavior that usually continues within the flock even though all known causal environmental, nutritional, and husbandry conditions have been corrected.

Cannibalism often starts as feather picking while the birds are but a few weeks old. Any combination of stressors serve as the trigger leading to serious feather picking and cannibalism. The stressors include crowding, bright light intensity, high room temperature, poor ventilation, high humidity, low salt, trace nutrient deficiency, insufficient feeding and drinking space, nervous and excitable birds (hereditary), external parasites, access to sick or injured birds, stress from moving, and boredom or idleness.

In young birds, crowding within the cage or at the feeder and drinking source is often the problem. There should be enough feeder space so that all birds can feed at the same time. When all stressor conditions are corrected, other procedures to stop cannibalism include correcting the diet**, darkening of the room, and removing the aggressor(s).

**This is a good time to wean them on to well-balanced diet. Seeds should compose less than 20% of their diet. A diet of mainly seed and nuts has excessive fat, carbohydrates, and phosphorus; marginal protein; adequate vitamin E, and are deficient in amino acids, calcium, available phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, iron, vitamins A, D3 (necessary for efficient absorption of calcium), K, and B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, choline, and available niacin. Ideally, a balanced pelleted diet such as can be found here: www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com or here: www.lafeber.com/pet-birds should be fed as well as hard boiled egg yolk, pancakes and cornbread, the tops of fresh greens, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, fresh fruits such as apples, pears, melon, kiwi, and berries, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, beets, asparagus, cabbage, sweet potato, and squash, and even tiny pieces of meat.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
Thank you for responding. I had been combing the internet for evan a picture of another bird with this issue for comparison and couldn't find even one. I'm glad I found this website. I'm sure it is the move stress and added action around the birds that has caused the little one to do this. I have few more questions.
1. Why do the slightly older birds just sit and allow the little one to do this? I would think they would be trying to get away or at least squawking in defense. At first I thought the little one was trying to preen them.
2. What is the average age for a parakeet to wean itself? Sounds like your recommending abundance weaning? I feel that would be a route I would choose.
3. Once I correct this problem, if it is cannibalism, I'll separate them until after weaned, when I return them together will it start again?We were not planning on breeding. Long story short, we have seven parakeets and a toy provoked this. I thought it was a chew log only to reread the package later in the store to find it was a nesting item. Good Grief! We will only be keeping two of the four baby birds. Two already have homes at eight weeks of age. I wanted to see if we could get them tame quickly. Nothing like a crash course in breeding at Christmas time.
Bird Specialist: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 2 months ago

1. They haven't developed defense mechanisms at such a young age. Instead, the young one's behavior might be construed as normal preening by mom.

2. 5 - 6 weeks or earlier when other foods are readily available. Yes, I encourage pelleted rations as early as possible. Establishing bad eating habits early in parakeets is all too common and nigh impossible to correct when they're older.

3. Not necessarily. The older birds aren't likely to sit for the abuse when they mature. One peck back at the younger one can correct that behavior quickly.

That's funny. Many caretakers can't get their pairs to breed come hell or high water and you were successful serendipitously! Please continue our conversation if you wish.

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Customer reply replied 2 months ago
No kidding, I really didn't think those eggs would amount to anything. Surprise!
Thank you for your advice.
Bird Specialist: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 2 months ago

You're quite welcome. I can't set a follow-up in this venue so please return to our conversation - even after rating - with an update at your convenience. You can bookmark this page for ease of return.

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Bird Specialist: Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian replied 2 months ago
Hi,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

DrMichaelSalkin
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Experience: University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience

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