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by Diane Burroughs September 29, 2021 7 min read 6 Comments

Why do birds bite their feet?

It is scary when your parrot is biting its feet or legs until they bleed. Any kind of self-mutilation is cause for alarm.  But, a birds' feet are especially prone to infection simply by perching on bacteria-infested perches.  Plus, many species eat with their feet.  

Birds may bite feet for either medical or emotional reasons. Anytime that a bird is tearing into its skin, you should seek veterinary consultation. 

As a prevention measure, make sure to routinely check your parrots' feet and legs for sores or wounds. You'll want to inspect both the top of the feet and the pads.  Also, make sure that you rotate and clean all perches on a routine basis. 

Medical causes of why parrots bite their feet

There are a number of medical causes for a parrot biting its feet. First things first. Make sure to get a good workup at your avian veterinarians' office. Bacteria, fungal or viral Infections could be one of the reasons for a parrot biting its feet. 

These infections normally cause the feet of the parrot to become inflamed, leading to the parrot biting its feet. The irritation caused by inflammation and infections is one of the main reasons why parrots excessively bite their feet as a reaction to the irritation.

Avian herpesvirus is one of the common causes of infections. This disease is highly contagious among birds and is transferred through physical contact.  

Papilloma is a warty growth on the legs of the infected birds. This is another disease caused by a herpesvirus infection. It usually appears in Cacatua species of birds. Another type of papilloma disease can cause a loss of color in the macaws’ feet.

BIRD BUMBLEFOOT
Light case of bird bumblefoot parrotforums.com

 

Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection occurring on the feet of the parrot. It normally causes painful sores on the feet. This condition is caused by several factors that you can easily manage. The good thing is that bumblefoot is not contagious among birds. 

You can manage the condition by ensuring that the parrots' perch is properly sized, that you feed your parrot a healthy diet and that its cage is frequently and properly sanitized.

Pododermatitis or “Bumblefoot” can result in many health issues and the severity is rated by “grades.” The causes of the various grades of pododermatitis are often correctable by the avian caretaker.  

Birds challenged with obesity, and lack of perch rotation are most certainly prone to bumblefoot condition. Other causes include diets low inVitamin A & E, excessive use of grooming perches, lack of exercise, and exposure to cigarette smoke. 

Get some vitamin-rich UnRuffledRx Red Palm Oil to relieve deficiencies.

Dermatitis is a common skin allergy that affects parrots and it is cause for a veterinary consultation. It usually involves itchy, dry skin or a rash on swollen, reddened skin. Or it may cause the skin to blister, ooze, crust or flake off. 

Parrots may be allergic to some of the following substances; nicotine residues, soap residues, perfumes or hand lotions. Some parrots have allergies to the items that their feet come into contact with causing inflammation and irritation.

Arthritis is a disease that is miserable due to the constant agonizing pain. It affects the joints around the feet, spine, wings, and beak. It also affects the soft tissue between your birds' toes and foot joints to become inflamed and swell.  It may even cause sores on the feet. 

Affected birds may turn to biting their feet in effort to stop the pain. Arthritis can be treated with bird-safe anti-inflammatory medications. Pau 'd arco may also relieve inflammation and swelling. CBD oil and hemp seed have gained popularity because of their anti-inflammatory, pain relieving effects.

Try to make some accommodations to your bird’s cage. Buy some variable diameter perches.  A heated perch can also bring much needed relief. Warm and / or swollen joints. 

  1. If the toes become unnaturally shaped or appear disfigured.
  2. Your bird has a hard time moving around the cage and frequently loses its balance.

Emotional Causes Why Parrots Bite Their Feet

Like humans, parrots are affected by certain emotional/psychological factors that cause them to develop harmful or repetitive behaviors, such as feather plucking and parrot chewing feet. 

Parrots get stressed out if their physical, social, intellectual, or social needs are not met.  A stressed out parrot can appear anxious or aggressive.  An anxious bird may begin to self-mutilate an effort to relieve the anxiety.  Once a parrot learns that its own pain-relieving brain chemicals quickly relieve anxiety, the parrot becomes addicted to self-mutilation.

More on anxiety, parrots are flock animals that rely on their flock for safety.  Your pet is prone to developing anxiety when its social needs are not adequately met.  To deal with emotionally related parrot foot biting, reduce any stressors including stress caused by lack of enrichment and socialization.  

Try to replicate your birds' natural environment as much as possible. Wild bird’s experience a ton of environmental enrichment all throughout every day. Find ways to offer your parrot enrichment in this blog post and video.

Some easy solutions include

  • Offer your bird a variety of toys, switching them out each week
  • Teaching your bird to forage for its food 
  • Providing sensory enrichment by playing music or the television
  • Encouraging exercise
  • Getting your bird out of its cage for at least a couple of hours a day

Correcting Parrot Biting Feet

Take your bird to an avian veterinarian to identify if the biting is due to a medical problem, an emotional problem or both. After you identify the cause of the behavior it becomes easier to figure out a treatment plan.

When correcting any type of foot infection, the first step of action is to rush to your avian vet who can diagnose the issue and provide medication. Once you get your bird home, make sure to disinfect all perches and keep them clean while your bird's open wounds are healing.  

Consider running the perches through the dishwasher for a deep clean. Just make sure all of the detergent is rinsed off. If your bird has trouble perching, lower perches inside of the cage and line the bottom of the cage with thick, fluffy towels to cushion falls.

You may wish to consider placing your bird in a hospital cage until it is capable of perching well.

 

 parrot biting its feet

 

Parrots get stressed out if their physical, social, intellectual and social needs are not met, resulting in high levels of anxiety.

 

Correcting emotional causes of bird feet biting

We outlined boredom, fear, and anxiety as some of the emotional factors that lead to your parrot biting feet. It is important to note that the cage is not a natural habitat for your pet so you must take measures to make the cage safe, comfortable, clean and enriching. 

Try to create a cage that has as many characteristics of a parrots' natural habitat as possible. This will allow your parrot to be comfortably enriched.

Supplies that help you protect your parrot from biting feet

If you or your vet feel that your parrot is biting itself due to anxiety, consider a parrot calming supplement such as UnRuffledRx Parrot Calming Formula, UnRuffledRx Parrot Calming Tea or fresh hemp seeds.

UnRuffledRx Bird Collars can provide a safe barrier between the beak and feet. A thick neck collar restricts neck mobility and makes the feet hard to reach, while allowing your bird to eat, play, climb and otherwise enjoy life. 

The UnRuffledRx line is the first line of defense and is offered at  Avian Veterinary clinics throughout the US, or they can be purchased here.

Parrot Biting Feet

Photo Source: Talk Parrots

If you or your vet feel that your parrot is biting itself due to anxiety, consider parrot calming medications such as UnRuffledRx Parrot Calming Formula, UnRuffledRx Parrot Calming Herbs or simply brewing up some Chamomile Tea.

UnRuffledRx Bird Collars provide a safe barrier from your bird inflicting pain to her feet. It is affordable, durable, easy to use and customized to the size of your bird. A traditional bird collar may not be the best choice because if it is large enough to keep your bird from its' feet, it may inhibit activities of daily living such as eating, drinking, climbing and play.

A Thick Tube Collar or soft neck collar restricts heavy neck movement while allowing your bird to eat, play, climb and otherwise enjoy life. The UnRuffledRx line is the first line of defense.  Avian veterinarians have access to hard plastic neck collars or bubble collars that offer more restriction of neck movement. 

Parrot Biting feet

Parrot Feet Biting Collar

Promptly Treat Parrot Foot and Leg Wounds

Leg and foot wounds are painful and especially prone to infection since they are so close to perching areas that harbor bacteria.  Keep the wounds clean and bandaged. We recommend that you check on the wounds at least daily.  Rinse the wound with Vet Aid Spray.  Cover with sterile gauze and hold the gauze in place with vet wrap. Make a short tab in the vet wrap as a deterrent for your pet to chew.

You may wish to get some pain and inflammation medications from your vet.  If you prefer over the counter medications such as Medihoney Wound Dressing orVet Aid Spray make sure that you keep a close eye on the wounds. Secondary infections can get nasty fast so antibiotics may be required. 

In conclusion, there are a number of reasons why your beloved parrot may be biting its feet.  Always seek avian veterinarian advice, treat the underlying cause, and discuss solutions with your avian vet.


Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #WhyIsMyBirdBitingItsFeet #BirdSelfMutilation

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6 Responses

ketki
ketki

September 29, 2021

Yes my quaker bird is biting his feet . Once he stuck some where and we took out he broke his nail . After couple of months later again hi bit his feet and blood came . Right now we put bandage, but still he try to bit . May be he fills irritated, so biting . What to do . Bandage he try to pull out and blood coming . I do not have any bird Dr .near my house please help me . I am in NY .

Ara hemin
Ara hemin

September 29, 2021

Please i need help my parrot is chewing his feet for about 2 months we used many medical thing to treat but now he is addicted what do i doo 😭

Girl
Girl

September 29, 2021

What if i dont have enough money for toys, vet and a bigger cage? I’m still waiting till I turn 15 but I’m scared it would be too late by then :(

My family aren’t willing to pay for more stuff so I have to do it, what do I doo

Rachel
Rachel

October 08, 2019

My parrots are biting their feet very often. It slightly started bleeding. What’s the treatment for it

Odette Birle
Odette Birle

February 13, 2018

My friends bird bit off a toe on each foot, it’s one eye is swollen it’s nostrils is getting bigger and draining. Breaking my heart to see. There isn’t money for vet. Anything I can do to help. She needs a bath w/distilled water I red. She had been fed junk food I can bring her better and fix the cage but I worry she need medicine we can’t get? Any help please

 Bobby
Bobby

January 15, 2018

Bird my bird looks like it has a boil or something on his leg African Grey Parrot what should I do about it

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