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 Cockatiel "Dandruff"

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PostSubject: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:47 pm

Cockatiels are pretty dusty birds, especially when they molt. Tiny pieces of feather sheathes that cover the growing feathers get picked off or fall off when the feathers get long enough. So, during a molt you will see all these scaley looking dusty particles on the bird.

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There are feathers all over the cage. What’s going on?

Despite knowing in theory that their birds will molt new owners are often shocked and startled by suddenly finding the cage floor covered in feathers. The fact that their cockatiel may be lethargic, grumpy, and out of sorts during the molt may either worry the owner into thinking that the bird is ill or cover up an actual illness. A molting bird is not ill, though it needs a bit of supportive care. You will want to mist it a bit more frequently, add some extra protein to its diet (feathers are almost pure protein), and respect its need for extra rest. Bean mix and hard cooked egg are both good sources of protein. You should watch a molting bird carefully though. The stress of the molt can cause a latent illness to flare up. Don’t hesitate to call the vet if you think you have reason to suspect illness.

A young cockatiel molts at about 6 month, at about a year, and then about once a year thereafter. The molt usually lasts between 4 and 6 weeks. Sometimes environmental conditions cause variations in the pattern of molting. Tiels kept in warm climates with little seasonal variation may have a subtle molt where they drop a few feathers at a time throughout the year. Birds in more temperate areas with more pronounced seasons usually have a more pronounced molt. Sometimes a molt doesn’t seem to go right. There are several diseases that affect feather growth and birds experiencing an abnormal molt should see the vet.

The quality and condition of the feathers is strongly influenced by several factors. Diet is probably paramount. My rescued tiel, Rocky, came to me pale-colored, ratty-looking, with feathers that were crossed with stress bars (improperly developed areas due to stress, malnutrition, etc.), and broke easily. After three years of a good diet with plenty of protein during molts and lots of vitamin A sources he wouldn't be recognized as the same bird. His grey is dark and velvety, the pale top of his central tail feathers is a lovely silver, the yellow of his face and the underlying yellows beneath the grey elsewhere are rich and bright, and the orange cheek patches are deep pumpkin orange (in fact the high levels of carotene in his diet are betrayed by the bleeding of his cheek patch feathers into other parts of his face -- a bit too much of a good thing which will be corrected next molt). The feathers are strong and flexible, he hasn't broken a single feather in 2 years.

Another critical factor for feathers is access to either natural sunlight or full spectrum lighting. Birds kept only under ordinary artificial lights become dull-feathered and pale. This may be due to the production of vitamin D by the interaction of sunlight and the preening oil on the surface of the feathers. Since birds inevitably ingest some of this oil as they preen they supply their own Vitamin D in exactly the correct form and amount. (Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that can build up to toxic levels in the body when supplements are overused. I would NOT recommend giving a bird vitamin D supplements unless proscribed by a vet).

Finally, bird need regular baths to keep their feathers at their best. I mist my birds daily with plain water and often offer a bath dish in the cage. Tiels have definite preferences about there baths. Some like misting (use a clean plant sprayer that has never held any chemical), either a soft fall from above or a firmer spray from the sides or below while others only enjoy still water. A soaking from the dish sprayer will delight some and terrify others. Many enjoy a lukewarm shower with their human friends. Water temperature is a matter of individual preferences. Some like lukewarm, others like quite warm. Never use truly hot water -- even if it doesn't actually burn the bird will strip the natural oils from the feathers. My Dandi actually prefers truly cold water (not ice water, but as cold as a New England well will run in early summer. I either have to give her mate his own warm dish or he will wait until the water warms up. Bath dishes run the gamut from glass loaf pans to metal pie plates to terra cotta plant saucers (disinfect carefully since they are porous), to Dandi's favorite -- a crisp outer cabbage leaf set concave side up with about a quarter cup puddle of water in it. Anything big enough, safe, and not too slippery or hard to clean will do.

Help! My bird has dandruff!

There are 2 things that new cockatiel owners may mistake for dandruff. One is the feather sheathes that cover the growing pinfeathers and flake off as the feather matures. Tame birds appreciate it if their humans gently preen these away in areas the bird can’t reach such as the back of the head and neck. Be gentle, a pinfeather that is still growing is sensitive. Your bird will let you know in no uncertain terms that you’ve done something wrong in you hit one of these. Don’t be intimidated though -- paired birds scold their mates just as violently when they make a preening error then immediately beg for more preening.

The other "dandruff" in cockatiels is the powder down. Powder down comes from special feathers that are designed to disintegrate into a fine dust which cockatiels, cockatoos, and African greys use to waterproof and condition their feathers. These birds are always rather dusty and the powder will get all over your belongings. Daily misting with plain water will help keep this at a bearable level. In extreme cases an air cleaner is helpful. Don’t use the feather conditioning sprays -- nature never intended a cockatiel to have oil on its feathers. A cockatiel in good feather condition will have a soft gloss, not a hard shine.

Info Credit:
The National Cockatiel Society
http://www.cockatiels.org
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PostSubject: Re: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:40 pm

i made this a sticky because it will come in handy!Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:40 pm

It sure will.Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:49 pm

Cockatiels are just dust bombs waiting to go off!!! Be prepared to vacuum and/or sweep a lot when you get a tiel! Try cleaning up after 4...

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PostSubject: Re: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:22 pm

Wow! It's a god thing no one in my family has allergies!
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PostSubject: Re: Cockatiel "Dandruff"   Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:23 pm

I know! Shocked

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