If your bird is constantly gnawing on the bars, tearing out feathers, running back and forth on a perch or reacting aggressively to you or other birds, you should act! All of these are clear signs that your bird is suffering from a behavioral disorder and is not feeling well. But don’t worry: by taking a close look and analyzing the situation and the environment, you will be able to determine and eliminate the causes of the fault, so that your darling gets better quickly!
What are behavior disorders?
Generally speaking, behavioral disorders are actions or movement patterns that deviate from “normal”, species-specific behavior. For example, all birds clean their feathers, gnaw on objects or chirp. However, if these species-specific behaviors turn into excessive cleaning or even feather plucking, excessive gnawing or hours of screaming, this is called a behavioral disorder. Your bird is showing you clearly: Something is wrong with me, I’m not feeling well, I don’t feel well.
Constant crying is also a behavioral disorder. Parrots in particular often cry out for their partner constantly, for example if they are kept alone.
How do behavioral disorders express
There are different types of behavioral disorders, which can also have different degrees of severity. The most commonly observed are:
- Compulsive cleaning
- Spring picking and other self-injurious behavior
- Aggression towards conspecifics or people
- Misprinting on humans or other animals
- Stereotypes (repetition of same movements like running back and forth on the pole)
- “Feeding” a mirror or plastic bird
- Increased laying of eggs
- Lack of breeding behavior
These symptoms can occur in isolation, but also in combination. They can go so far that the bird develops serious health problems. Plucking feathers, for example, often leads to large areas of baldness and (bloody) inflammation of the skin. In addition, behavioral disorders weaken the immune system, as the bird appears to be suffering from severe stress and discomfort. It is therefore also more susceptible to other diseases.
Feather picking is a typical behavioral disorder that occurs in both large parrots and smaller birds such as budgerigars or canaries. It does not always have to be as massive as in this rainbow lorikeet. Plucking usually begins almost unnoticed, but quickly leads to massive plumage and skin injuries.
What are the causes of behavioral disorders?
One thing should be made very clear: behavioral disorders such as those mentioned above should never be lightly accepted as a bird’s “peculiarity” or even ridiculed. They are clear signs that the bird is suffering and does not know “what to do with itself”. They are therefore to be taken seriously without exception.
The most common cause of behavioral disorders are poor posture, specifically:
- solitary attitude (loneliness)
- Lack of exercise (cage too small, no free flight)
- Stress (quarrels in the group, wrong partner, death of partner, change of location, etc.)
- Boredom (no toys, no employment opportunities, low-stimulus environment)
- Misprints (hand rearing)
- Equipment errors (mirrors, plastic birds, etc.)
- Unsuitable environment (too low humidity, too little daylight)
- Feeding errors (non-natural feeding such as pellets)
One of the most common causes of behavioral problems is keeping birds alone. Mirrors or other “partner substitutes” lead to massive psychological problems.
Birds are smart, active, and extremely social animals. They need contact with other dogs, they need to be able to fly, they need employment opportunities and variety. They therefore place high demands on the attitude that must be met in order to prevent behavioral disorders and other diseases. Even small mistakes can have fatal consequences. For example, tropical birds need high humidity. If it’s too low, the skin will itch, and they’ll try to nibble and bite for relief. But without eliminating the cause, there is no improvement in sight, so bloody eczema and infections quickly develop, which also makes the itching worse. A vicious circle develops and the scratching and biting takes on a life of its own.
Treatment of behavioral disorders
First of all, a physical illness, such as a parasite infestation, should be ruled out by means of a veterinary examination. If the bird is physically healthy, the underlying problem, the cause of the behavioral disorder, needs to be identified and remedied as soon as possible. Birds kept alone must be socialized. Boredom can be remedied by giving the birds more stimuli and employment