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why is my parrot biting its feet?

Why Do Parrots Bite Their Feet? (Foot Chewing in Birds)

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2023)

If you’ve observed a parrot biting its feet, you’re likely wondering what’s responsible. Occasional foot biting is normal, but this behavior indicates a problem if it becomes frequent or obsessive.

Parrots bite and chew their feet when they have dry, itchy, or painful skin. This can be due to avian herpesvirus, bumblefoot, mites, dermatitis, arthritis, gout, or a vitamin A deficiency.

Parrots chew their feet to self-soothe, possibly due to boredom and stress. Negative emotions encourage repetitive, self-mutilating behaviors in pet birds.

Parrots also bite their nails when they’re too long to shorten them. Overgrown nails are a problem because they prevent parrots from perching, walking, landing, climbing, and grasping food.

Why Is My Parrot Biting Its Feet?

It’s normal for parrots to chew their feet as part of their preening and grooming regimen.

However, if foot or nail biting happens near-constantly and causes the feet to become swollen, sore, or inflamed, a health or behavioral issue is likely to blame.

Amazon and African greys are most prone to chewing their feet.

The most common causes of foot biting are as follows:

1/ Avian Herpesvirus

Avian herpesvirus (Pacheco’s disease) is highly contagious and spreads through contact between psittacine birds. Once infected, parrots carry the virus for life,

There are different strains of avian herpesvirus, but the Amazon Tracheitis strain causes papilloma lesions (outward-growing lumps) on the feet. These lesions cause parrots to bite at their feet regularly.

2/ Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis) is a common foot condition in captive parrots.

Ulcerative pododermatitis is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction that causes sores and legions on the weight-bearing surface of the feet. This condition is caused by the following:

  • Extended periods of perching.
  • Vitamin A deficiencies (hypovitaminosis A).
  • Improper perches.
  • Splinters.
  • Overgrown toenails.
  • Obesity.
  • Wire flooring.

Bumblefoot occurs when harmful bacteria get inside a small cut or graze on the parrot’s foot. According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, poor husbandry is commonly to blame.

Once bacteria enter the wound, this can cause painful and itchy wounds, scabs, and abscesses. So, parrots will peck and bite at the feet to alleviate the discomfort.

why do parrots bite their nails?

3/ Mites

Scaly-leg mites affect parrots, especially small species like budgies (American parakeets). Mites spend their life cycle on parrots, infesting the beak, nose, mouth, eyes, legs, and toes.

Feather mites affect the legs, feet, and toes. Science Direct describes how they live on the skin’s surface or in feather follicles. When the mites emerge to feed, they cause itchy, scabby, and sore skin.

Once they feed, parrots experience intense itchiness, causing them to bite their feet, toes, and nails.

4/ Dermatitis

Dermatitis is a common skin allergy that results in dry, itchy, or swollen, reddened skin. It can cause the skin to blister and flake off in severe cases. Dermatitis is often due to allergies caused by:

  • Nicotine residues.
  • Soaps.
  • Beauty creams and hand lotions.
  • Perfumes.

Their feet can become itchy and sore if they come into contact with these substances.

Ulcerative dermatitis is associated with trauma, wounds, diabetes, and parasites. The parrot causes ulcers by picking at the skin with its beak, which becomes extremely itchy.

5/ Arthritis

Parrots can get arthritis in the toes due to standing on poorly-sized perches. Older parrots are more likely to be affected, but it can happen to juvenile birds. The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Swollen or warm joints.
  • Decreased motion range.
  • Difficulty perching.
  • Limping.
  • Self-mutilation.

Parrots with arthritis have swelling and sores between their toes and foot joints, causing affected birds to constantly peck at their feet.

6/ Gout

Renal disease is a form of gout. Healthy parrots excrete urates with mucus through their urine, but renal issues can adversely impact this process, causing excessive urates to accumulate in the blood.

When parrots can’t excrete uric acid normally, it forms monosodium urate crystals, creating stones in the urinary system. They can also accumulate in the joints and tissues.

Gout occurs when uric acid deposits (semi-solid to solid white masses) on the tissue surface or joints, causing pain and swelling.

If the accumulation occurs on the feet, it causes rigid toes and swollen joints. Parrots also have difficulty perching, so they peck at their feet to relieve discomfort.

7/ Vitamin A Deficiency

Parrots lacking in vitamin A can develop hyperkeratosis, so the skin on the feet thickens.

The foot scales become overgrown, making it uncomfortable for a parrot to stand and perch. Adding more vitamin A (retinol) and beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) is beneficial.

8/ Boredom

Behavioral problems are an issue because bored parrots chew their feet for something to do.

Parrots are intelligent and social animals that need sufficient mental stimulation to stay happy. They spend about 6 hours a day foraging in the wild, so they’re always actively exploring their environment.

They don’t get the same level of enrichment in captivity. To reduce a parrot’s boredom:

  • Frequently interact together.
  • Provide toys and rotate them.
  • Teach the parrot tricks.
  • Leave the radio or TV on.
  • Encourage foraging.
  • Buy a bigger cage.

These modifications will significantly reduce the likelihood of parrots growing bored.

9/ Stress

Stressed parrots engage in self-mutilation when they lack social enrichment and socialization. Consequently, they become nervous and agitated, sometimes becoming angry and hostile.

Not only do parrots chew on their feet to relieve stress, but they develop health problems like:

  • Lower immune health.
  • Earlier onset of age-related diseases.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Inappetence.
  • Sleeping difficulties.
  • Adrenal gland issues.
  • Heart complications.
  • Breathing issues.
  • Difficulty processing nutrients.

Stress is unlikely to stop without modifying the parrot’s diet, cage setup, and living environment.

Why Do Parrots Bite Their Nails?

The next time a parrot bites its feet, look closely because it may be chewing on its nails. This is usually normal behavior but check for other signs of discomfort.

Here are the most common reasons for nail-biting parrots:

Preening Behavior

Most parrots file their nails down on a pedi perch or other toys and accessories, but some bite their nails. This isn’t a concern as long as the parrot’s nails aren’t overgrown.

Overgrown Nails

If the claws get too long and parrots can’t wear them down, they’ll peck them to reduce the length.

Other signs that parrots’ claws are becoming overgrown include:

  • Changes and difficulties in perching behavior.
  • Trouble walking, climbing, and grasping food.
  • Rough or scabby patches on the skin.
  • Scratches on your hands after handling.

You can trim a parrot’s nails with bird-safe nail clippers.

parrot chewing feet

Nervous Behaviors

Many parrots, especially African greys, cockatoos, and macaws, develop nervous behaviors that cause them to preen and nip their nails.

Biting becomes a nervous habit in response to something within the parrot’s environment that makes it feel uncomfortable and deeply unsettled. This could be:

  • Other pets.
  • Loud noises.
  • Unfamiliar smells.
  • Too much light or darkness.
  • Boisterous children.
  • Strangers.
  • Night frights.

Keeping their environment quiet and free from stressors is highly beneficial.

Fatty Liver Disease

Parrots with fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) develop dry, itchy skin and overgrown beaks/claws. There are several causes of fatty liver disease, including:

  • High-fat diet.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Genetics.
  • Lack of exercise.

Because parrots with fatty liver disease develop long nails, they find it difficult to move around. If you suspect the parrot has fatty liver disease, check for these symptoms:

  • Obesity.
  • Overgrown beak.
  • Black spots on the beak and toenails.
  • Enlarged liver.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Poor feather quality.
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Breathing difficulties.

Parrots with long claws may require basic lifestyle modifications (like more textured perches), but a vet must rule out fatty liver disease before reaching this conclusion.

Why Do Birds Bite Each Other’s Feet?

If you Observe a parrot biting another bird’s feet, it can signify the following problems:


Parrots are territorial and bite or peck at each other’s body parts to establish dominance.

However, this behavior shouldn’t last long because asserting dominance over each other is unimportant to psittacines. Eventually, this will become a way parrots interact with each other.

The parrots could be fearful or jealous of each other, so they bite each other’s feet.


While parrots get on with each other most of the time, they’re susceptible to aggression.

During an aggressive phase, parrots may peck at their cage mates. Smaller parrots are likelier to peck at the feet because they’re easier to reach.

Some parrots never get along with each other, no matter how much you socialize them. If the parrots constantly peck at each other’s feet, you may need to permanently separate them.

While foot biting appears harmless, it can signify health or behavioral problems.