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Scott Perry
Scott Perry, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
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Experience:  DVM
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I house three female cockatiels in the same cage but they

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I house three female cockatiels in the same cage but they are all starting to lose feathers on their heads and face. I've never seen this happen to any of my birds before. One of my canaries (separate cage) had a severe feather lose, but seems to have since recovered. What should I be doing for my cockatiels?
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. What is the bird's name and age?
Customer: Piper and Penelope - both about 2. Then I have Phyllis, who is about 6 years old. Her feather loss is minimal
JA: What is the bird's name?
Customer: See above
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about your bird?
Customer: All of the females laid a LOT of eggs in the spring - none of them fertile. Only Phyllis had a mate; however, he was abusing her (pecking her crown bare and another time her orange spot bare - so he is no longer with her.) I do have a parakeet who came in April as a baby. He lives in both the cockatiel cage and one of the canary cages. I hate to say, but the rogue cockatiel is in that canary cage.

Hello. My name is***** and I am an avian veterinarian that can answer your question. I understand that 3 of your cockatiels are losing feathers on their heads and face. There is a parakeet who splits time living in the cockatiel cage and canary cage. Is that a correct summary? Can you please tell me if the parakeet is losing feathers in any places?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
No I have not seen any feather loss on him.

The main causes of feather loss on the head is from trauma. Other possibilities include mites or bacterial/fungal infection, but I would suspect a dominance pecking to be the first possibility.

Feather picking is a bit unusual in a cockatiel and more likely to be medical than what we see in many other parrot species. However, with a parakeet in the mix then I would strongly suspect a cage mate picking. Poor nutrition can also be a factor if the diet is primarily a seed based food, which is typically deficient in vitamin A and other essential nutrients needed for proper feather growth.

Is it possible to keep the parakeet separated from the cockatiels?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
There is no pecking going on since the male cockatiel is no longer in the cage. What can I do to treat a bacteria or fungal infection?

Either a bacterial or fungal infection would require topical and/or oral treatment. That is also the case for a feather mite, although a mite is not expected in this location (usually with flight feathers). A culture of the area will help to determine if this is a factor. Does the diet appear to be a factor - is it a seed based diet?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I can separate him. Also, I have tried foods other than seed but they simply WON'T eat them.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
it is all seed. I feed them pellets but they don't eat those very well.

That is a common problem once they get hold of the seed food. A diet change will need to be done in a gradual manner and usually forage toys are needed to help make this transition (http://hari.ca/our-products/toys/foraging/foraging-toys/). Birds are taken to a separate cage where there is a foraging toy (start with an easy toy first and gradually work up to more complicated ones) to mimic what is done in the wild. Cockatiels, parakeets, etc. will travel long distances where they will forage for the day and then travel back to roost. A separate cage where they are left to forage and interact with the food (start with seed/pellet mixture and gradually transition to pellet) is recommended and then no food in their roosting cage. That is the recommendation for the transition, but it is a difficult process in birds. It takes months (i.e. 2-3 or more sometimes) to make a transition, so patience is an absolute necessity.

Regarding the feather loss, if the one that is possibly doing dominant head pecking has been removed then the diet and infectious/parasite issues need to be addressed next.

Please let me know if you have any other questions. I am here to help. If you have no other questions, I would greatly appreciate a positive review. You may leave up to 5 stars when ready. Your review helps connect Experts with other customers, so your input is highly appreciated. Thank you!

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Okay. I'll try the diet changes first. I have time and an extra toy so they can work on eating the pellets. Thanks so much for your help and advice.

You are most welcome. All the best to you.

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