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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 7938
Experience:  35 years in practice
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my cockatiel should have lost its winter feathers by now but

Customer Question

my cockatiel should have lost its winter feathers by now but has not now they are looking dry and he keeps pecking at them
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 3 years ago.
Hello, I'm Dr. Bob. I understand your concern, but I must have a bit more information to be able to give you a good answer. How old is your cockatiel, (name?) and what do you feed him?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

my cockatiel is 4 year old male cockatiel mix from local pet store vitakratf nature dinner

Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 3 years ago.
Okay thank you. I must take my dogs out for their walk right now, (they're whining at the door), but I'll get back to you in less than one hour. Sorry for the delay, but nature is calling them!
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 3 years ago.
Hello again. Molting is a stress on the bird that makes big demands on their bodies. If their diet is not exactly right, it can prolong the process as well as have other ill effects on their health. I think the diet is at least a large portion of the problem, in fact, we may have found the source of your bird's problem right here. His diet could use some fairly major adjustments. Most pet birds eventually succumb to dietary deficiencies, in fact, the vast majority of pet bird health issues are diet-related, either directly or indirectly. Avian experts have determined that 90-95% of pet bird health issues are diet-related, and the proper proportions are every bit as important as what you feed them. To give some idea of how important, consider the following facts: Normally on an all-seed diet, budgies live an average of 5-7 years; with seeds and some other foods about 10-12 years; with pellets alone about 15-20 years, and with properly balanced proportions of pellets, seeds and other fresh foods, particularly dark leafy vegetables, about 25 years and even longer. The statistics are similar for cockatiels.
Compare what you're feeding your bird to what professional aviary keepers feed their birds: 70% high quality cockatiel pellets, such as those made by Zupreem, Harrison's, Lafeber, or other reputable manufacturers like Kaytee (these may be purchased from better pet stores or online), 20% dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, cilantro, collard, turnip or beet greens, cooked sweet potato, squash, or pumpkin, carrots with the tops attached, dried chili peppers, yellow, green and red fresh peppers, and only 10% or less, seeds and nut foods. Sunflower seeds are very high in fat, not balanced in regard to calcium and phosphorus, and should be avoided as birds, like small children, tend to pick out and eat what they like, rather than what is good for them. Although it is green, lettuce is practically all water, of no food value whatsoever in the diet, and shouldn't be fed to birds. Fruit is okay as an occasional treat, but unless fed in a dried state, fruit contains 90% water, and quickly fills the bird up without providing many nutrients by weight. Grit is no longer considered necessary to the healthy upkeep of pet birds, and to make matters worse, grit impactions can actually be fatal.
Fresh nutrients in balance with one another help prevent not only prolonged molting, but skin, respiratory, nerve, and organ problems including diabetes, as well as behavioral problems like over-zealous preening, self-mutilation, excessive or changed vocalization, excessive egg laying in females, aggression, and actually eliminate the need for vitamin supplements or tonics in most cases.
It may not be easy to get older birds (as opposed to starting out with a baby at weaning time) like yours, to switch to a better diet, or to eat the proper amounts of the different foods, but you can read an excellent article about how to teach him to eat more properly online here: This article was actually written for cockatiels, but it works as well in budgies. Commercial diets like Hartz and many pet store or supermarket brands of seed-based foods, must be baked to kill insect eggs and larvae before shipping. This process also kills the germ in the seeds, destroying many of the heat-sensitive components in the food. In addition, these foods are rarely shelf-dated, and may be months or years old when actually fed. The result is often that the bird fills itself up on foods that contain mostly empty calories. Although your bird may not improve immediately in spite of the dietary improvements, more than likely he will in time, and the chances that he will live out his life as a happier healthier bird will be tremendously increased. If the condition is due solely to his diet, he may straighten out very quickly to be a normal beautiful cockatiel.
In addition to an excellent balanced diet, proper rest is essential to help birds release stress. 12-14 hours of sleep in a darkly covered cage in a quiet part of your home, away from T.V. radio and human conversations will greatly increase their ability to handle stress. Stress is another factor that affects their health.
Yet another thing you can do to help entertain and distract him is to offer new toys, changed frequently (you needn't buy new ones continually, you can simply rotate them!) to combat boredom. You may also want to consider placing natural tree branches in the cage for the distraction, interest, and safe chewing exercise which is beneficial in maintaining their beaks. Be sure to use non-toxic branches only, a list can be found here: This is called "environmental enrichment" and is often helpful in stimulating, entertaining, and distracting them from bad habits and irritable moods, and helps correct for the lack of exercise, and this, in turn, is good for their overall health, giving the changes in diet, rest periods and environmental enrichment a chance to help them build up their resistance to stress and disease. If your bird's molting problem is due to a diet-related condition, the dietary adjustments, along with whatever other changes are needed and made, may be all that is needed to resolve the problem; but if the molting continues longer than several weeks, or if he seems to be developing other symptoms, a trip to an avian specialist would be recommended. You can locate avian specialists closest to your home by going online and searching for "avian veterinarians + the nearest large city".
If you should have further questions, please let me know.
Kind regards,
Dr. Bob