If you have noticed your cockatiel doing this, you will likely wonder why does my cockatiel bite its feet? There are various reasons for that. Sometimes, it’s an act of grooming, but sometimes this behavior can signify a health or behavioral issue.
Why Does My Cockatiel Bite Its Feet? The cockatiel usually bites its feet when it has itchy, dry, or painful skin. This can be due to mites, bumblefoot, dermatitis, arthritis, gout, or a vitamin A deficiency. Also, a cockatiel may bite its feet to self-soothe due to stress and boredom. Negative emotions encourage repetitive, self-mutilating behaviors.
If your cockatiel is doing this and you want to learn more about why this happens, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you will find out why your cockatiel does it.
8 Common Reasons Why Does My Cockatiel Bite Its Feet
It’s totally normal for your cockatiel to chew its feet as part of its grooming regimen. However, if this often becomes and causes the feet to become sore, swollen, or inflamed, a behavioral issue or health is likely to blame.
So, let’s look at the causes in more detail:
Bumblefoot is one of the most common conditions, and it affects cockatiels in captivity. It is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction that causes sores and legions on the surface of the feet. It is caused by:
- Vitamin A deficiencies
- Improper perches
- Long periods of perching
- Overgrown toenails
Bumblefoot occurs when harmful bacteria get inside a small cut or graze on your cockatiel’s foot. Once the bacteria get into the wound, it can cause injuries, abscesses, and painful and itchy scabs.
2. Avian herpesvirus
Various infections can cause your cockatiel’s feet to become infected, causing your cockatiel to chew on its feet to relieve. Avian herpesvirus is one of the most common explanations for that.
It is highly contagious and spreads quickly between cockatiels or other birds through direct physical contact. Once infected, cockatiels carry the virus for the duration of their lives, shedding the disease at any time and infecting others.
There are several different strains of the avian herpes virus, but the amazon tracheitis strain causes papilloma lesions or outward-growing lumps on their feet. However, these lesions are bothersome, causing cockatiels to chew on their feet.
3. Mites infestation
Scaly feet mites also affect cockatiels. They spend their life cycle on cockatiels, infesting the nose, mouth, beak, eyes, legs, and toes.
Once they feed, cockatiels experience intense itchiness, causing them to chew and bite their feet. Also, they usually do this to remove the mites from their skin manually.
Feather mites are also an issue for the feet and toes. Science directly explained how cockatiels live on the skin’s surface or feather follicles. When they emerge to feed, they cause itchy and scabby skin that causes soreness.
Cockatiels are prone to arthritis, which commonly occurs on the digits due to standing on poorly-sized perches for too long. Elderly cockatiels are more likely to have it, but it can develop at any age. Here are the symptoms of arthritis:
- Swollen or warm joints
- Decreased motion range
- Feather plucking
- Falling off perches
- Unpleasant vocalizations
However, cockatiels with arthritis have swelling and sores between their toes and foot joints, causing affected them to peck at their feet. Some treatments are available, but improving your cockatiel’s living conditions is the best way to ease the symptoms and prevent arthritis from getting worse.
Dermatitis is a common skin allergy that involves dry, itchy or reddened skin. It can cause the cockatiel’s skin to blister and flake off in severe cases. Dermatitis is often the result of allergies, including:
- Nicotine residues
- Beauty creams and hand lotions
If their feet contact these items, they can become itchy and sore, so the cockatiel bites itself.
This renal disease is a common form of gout affecting cockatiels. Healthy cockatiels excrete urates with mucus through their urine. However, this process is hampered by renal problems, resulting in excess of urates in the blood.
When cockatiels can’t eliminate the uric acid properly, it forms into monosodium urate crystals, creating stones in the urinary system. They can also build up in the tissues and joints.
Gout is where uric acid deposits on the tissue surface or joints, causing pain and swelling. If this occurs on their feet, it causes rigid toes and swollen joints. Cockatiels also have difficulty perching. As a result, they ease their discomfort by pecking and chewing on their feet.
7. Vitamin A deficiency
Cockatiels without enough vitamin A in their system develop hyperkeratosis, where the skin of their feet thickens.
The foot scales become overgrown, making it uncomfortable for your cockatiel to stand and perch. Adding more vitamin A and beta-carotene into your cockatiel’s diet can reverse the symptoms.
Health conditions are not always the only thing to blame for cockatiels to bite their feet. Also, behavioral problems are an issue. For example, boring cockatiels chew their feet to keep themselves entertained.
Cockatiels are intelligent, social creatures that require more frequent mental stimulation. In the wild, cockatiels spend around 6 hours a day foraging and searching for shelter, so they have plenty to do. However, cockatiels don’t get the same chances to be busy in captivity, and they soon become bored.
To reduce your cockatiel’s boredom:
- Provide toys and rotate them
- Frequently interact with your cockatiel
- Teach your cockatiel tricks
- Leave the radio on
- Choose a bigger cage
These will keep your cockatiels entertained and will stimulate them mentally.
Stressed cockatiels indulge in self-mutilating behaviors because they lack social enrichment and socialization. As a result, cockatiels become nervous and agitated, sometimes becoming aggressive.
Not only cockatiels bite on their feet to relieve stress, but they develop a range of health issues, including:
- Reduced appetite
- Lowered immune system
- High blood pressure
- Sleeping difficulties
- Heart complications
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty processing nutrients
- The onset of age-related disease
Stress is unlikely to resolve itself without positive changes to your cockatiel’s living environment.
Why Do Cockatiels Bite Each Other’s Feet?
If you notice how your cockatiels bite each other’s feet, you will want to stop it.
Here are some reasons why it happens:
1. Due to dominance
Cockatiels are territorial and will bite or peck at each other’s body parts, including the feet, to fight for dominance. However, this behavior should not last long, as asserting dominance over each other is not that important in the cockatiel world. Overall, this will become a way they interact with each other.
It is also likely that your cockatiels could be fearful or jealous, so they bite each other’s feet.
2. Due to aggression
While cockatiels might get on with each other most of the time, all are susceptible to bouts of aggression.
During their aggressive behavior, cockatiels may peck at their cage mates. However, your cockatiels may never get along with each other, no matter how hard you try to socialize them. If your cockatiels constantly peck at each other’s feet, it is time to separate them.
Why Does Your Cockatiel Bite Your Feet?
Sometimes a cockatiel bite can be slightly painful, mainly on a sensitive body part, such as your feet. There is no definitive answer to why cockatiels bite their owner’s feet, but it is likely because they are:
- Afraid of you and haven’t built trust yet
- Only young and are using their beaks to explore new things
- Overly excited and overstimulated
- Playing and don’t mean to hurt you
If this behavior continues, you might consider training your cockatiel to leave your feet alone.
However, try to keep your feet hidden with socks or slippers and distract your cockatiel’s attention from your feet whenever it attempts to bite. Also, you can use different toys to play with your cockatiel and keep your attention away from that.
While foot biting sometimes may look harmless, it can signify a health or behavioral issue. Check the length of the claws and ensure that you crate the right living environment for your cockatiel.