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Discover the essential factors contributing to your bird's itching and scratching behavior with expert insights. From identifying common causes like mites and nutrient deficiencies to understanding the impact of environmental factors such as humidity, this blog post offers actionable advice for pet owners. Learn how to address preening issues, allergies, and potential household toxins to ensure your feathered friend enjoys optimal skin health.

Why Is My Bird Scratching

7 Common Causes of Bird Scratching

If your pet bird is scratching excessively, it may indicate an underlying issue. Here are seven common reasons why birds scratch:

  1. Poor Diet: Birds on inadequate diets lacking essential nutrients like vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids can develop dry, itchy skin.

  2. Mites and Parasites: Infestations of mites, such as scaly face mites, can cause intense scratching and discomfort in birds.

  3. Dry Skin: Low humidity levels in your home or improper bathing routines can lead to dry skin, prompting birds to scratch excessively.

  4. Allergies: Birds can develop allergies to certain foods, pollens, or environmental factors, resulting in itchy skin and other allergic reactions.

  5. Preening Issues: Problems with the preening gland or improper preening techniques can lead to skin irritation and itching in birds.

  6. Toxins: Exposure to toxic substances like Teflon™, aerosol sprays, or certain plants can cause skin rashes and itching in birds.

  7. Underlying Health Conditions: Diseases such as fatty liver disease or infections can manifest as itching or scratching behaviors in birds.

Improving Your Bird's Diet for Optimum Skin Health

Actionable Steps

Enhancing your bird's diet can significantly improve their skin health. Here are three actionable steps:

Incorporate a Balanced Diet: Offer a variety of foods, including approximately 50% pellets and 50% plant-based foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, and seeds, as recommended on

Supplement with Nutrient-Rich Foods: Include foods like red palm oil, hemp seed, and flax seed, which are rich in vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc to support skin health. 

What to Do If You Suspect Your Bird Has Mites or Parasites


Seek Veterinary Treatment: Consult an avian vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Follow Professional Advice: Implement treatment as recommended by the vet for the best outcome.


Avoid Self-Treatment: Do not attempt to treat mites or parasites on your own.

 Don't Use Over-the-Counter Products: Refrain from using OTC products or home remedies without professional guidance.

Effects of Humidity and Diet on Dry Skin

Dry skin in birds can be influenced by both environmental factors and diet. Low humidity levels in your home can lead to moisture loss in your bird's skin, causing it to become dry and itchy. It's essential to maintain optimal humidity levels in the bird's living area to prevent skin issues. Frequent bathing is a great way to moisturize dry bird skin.

In addition to humidity, diet plays a crucial role in skin health. A diet lacking in essential nutrients like vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to dry skin problems. Ensure your bird's diet includes a balanced mix of pellets, fresh vegetables, fruits, and nutrient-rich foods to promote healthy skin.

Bird Allergies and Sensitivities

Just like humans, birds can develop allergies or sensitivities to certain foods and environmental factors. Common allergens for birds include certain foods, pollens, molds, cleaning supplies, fabrics, and more. When a bird is allergic or sensitive to something, it may experience symptoms such as scaly, itchy skin, swollen eyes, or respiratory issues.

If you suspect your bird has allergies, it's essential to consult an avian vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. The vet can help identify the allergens causing the reaction and provide guidance on managing your bird's allergies effectively. Avoid exposing your bird to potential allergens and create an environment that minimizes triggers to keep your feathered friend healthy and comfortable.

Consult an Avian Vet: Seek professional advice and guidance from an avian veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment of your bird's allergies.

Identify Potential Allergens: Keep a close eye on your bird's environment and diet to identify potential allergens causing the reaction. Remove or minimize exposure to these triggers to alleviate symptoms.

Preening Issues in Birds

Preening is a natural behavior in birds that helps maintain feather health and appearance. However, certain preening issues can arise, affecting your bird's overall well-being.

 Observe Preening Behavior: Pay attention to how your bird preens. Abnormal preening behavior, such as excessive plucking or rough handling of feathers, may indicate underlying issues.

Ensure Optimal Environment: Create a stress-free and stimulating environment for your bird to minimize preening problems. Provide enrichment activities and toys to prevent boredom and excessive preening.

Household Toxins That May Induce Itching in Birds

Household toxins can pose serious health risks to birds and may induce itching or skin irritation. It's important to be aware of potential toxins in your bird's environment to ensure their well-being.

Identify Common Toxins: Familiarize yourself with common household toxins that can affect birds. Even slight exposure to toxins such as Teflon™, aerosol sprays, cleaning supplies with strong odors, heavy metals, cigarette smoke, nicotine, and marijuana smoke can adversely affect your bird.

 Create a Safe Environment: Take proactive measures to eliminate or minimize exposure to toxins. Keep your bird's living area well-ventilated and free from harmful substances. Consider using bird-safe cleaning products and avoiding smoking near your bird.

Underlying Health Conditions and Fatty Liver Disease in Birds

Some underlying health conditions, including fatty liver disease, can contribute to itching and skin issues in birds. Understanding these conditions is crucial for maintaining your bird's overall health.

Recognize Symptoms: Be vigilant for signs of underlying health issues in your bird, such as bald spots, red skin, abrasions, or cracked skin around the feet, flaking skin around the face, or a bobbing tail indicating breathing difficulties.

Address Fatty Liver Disease: Fatty liver disease, prevalent in species like cockatiels, budgies, lovebirds, and amazons, can cause itching and discomfort. Ensure your bird's diet is balanced and includes regular exercise to prevent this silent killer disease.

Other health conditions that can cause excessive itching

  • Eczema
  • Folliculitis
  • Dermatitis
  • Parasites

In conclusion...

understanding the various causes of itching in birds is crucial for maintaining their overall health and well-being. From environmental factors like low humidity to dietary deficiencies and potential health conditions like fatty liver disease, there are several factors to consider when addressing your bird's itching and skin issues.

By implementing the actionable steps outlined in this blog post, such as seeking veterinary treatment for suspected mites or parasites, improving your bird's diet for optimum skin health, and creating a safe environment free from household toxins, you can help alleviate your bird's itching and promote healthier skin.

Remember to stay vigilant for any signs of underlying health conditions and consult with an avian vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. With the right care and attention, you can ensure that your feathered friend enjoys a happy and itch-free life.

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Merck Veterinary Manual. (n.d.). Skin and Feather Disorders of Pet Birds. Retrieved from

Vogelnest, L. (2007). Itchy Exotics. In World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2007. Retrieved from

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.

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