If you’ve noticed your parrot biting its feet, you’re likely wondering what’s behind this behavior or if it’s a problem that needs to be resolved.
Parrots bite 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, and due to boredom and stress. Negative emotions encourage repetitive, self-mutilating behaviors.
Parrots also bite their nails if they’re too long in an attempt to shorten them. Overgrown nails are a problem because they prevent parrots from perching, walking, and climbing.
Why Is My Parrot Biting Its Feet?
It’s normal for parrots to chew their feet as part of their preening regimen.
However, if it becomes frequent and causes the feet to become swollen, sore, or inflamed, a health or behavioral issue is likely to blame.
Amazon and African grey parrots are most prone to chewing their feet.
The most common causes of foot biting are as follows:
1/ Avian Herpesvirus
Avian herpesvirus (also known as Pacheco’s disease) is highly contagious and spreads between psittacine birds through direct physical contact. 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 bit at their feet.
Bumblefoot (also known as ulcerative pododermatitis) is a common condition among pet parrots.
Ulcerative pododermatitis is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction that causes sores and legions on the weight-bearing surface of the feet. It’s caused by the following:
- Long periods of perching
- Vitamin A deficiencies
- Improper perches
- Overgrown toenails
- 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 most commonly to blame.
Once bacteria get into the wound, this can cause painful and itchy wounds, scabs, and abscesses. So, parrots will peck and bite at the feet to remove the source of discomfort.
Scaly-leg mites affect parrots, particularly small species like budgies. 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 they emerge to feed, they cause itchy, scabby skin that causes soreness.
Once they feed, parrots experience intense itchiness, causing them to bite their feet and toes.
Dermatitis is a common skin allergy that causes dry, itchy, or swollen, reddened skin. In severe cases, it can cause the skin to blister and flake off.
Dermatitis is often the result of allergies caused by the following:
- Nicotine residues
- Beauty creams and hand lotions
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 itchy over time.
Parrots are prone to arthritis in the toes due to standing on poorly-sized perches. Older parrots are more likely to be affected, but it can happen at any age. The symptoms of arthritis include:
- Swollen or warm joints
- Decreased motion range
- Difficulty perching
Parrots with arthritis have swelling and sores between their toes and foot joints, causing affected birds to constantly peck at their feet.
Renal disease is a common form of gout. Healthy parrots excrete urates with mucus through their urine, but renal issues affect this process, causing excessive urates in the blood.
When parrots can’t eliminate the uric acid properly, 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 without enough vitamin A 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 to your parrot’s diet can reverse the symptoms.
Behavioral problems are an issue, as bored parrots chew their feet to entertain themselves.
Parrots are intelligent and social creatures that need frequent mental stimulation. In the wild, they spend around 6 hours a day foraging and searching for shelter, so there’s plenty to do.
They don’t get the same level of enrichment in captivity. To reduce your parrot’s boredom:
- Frequently interact with your parrot
- Provide toys and rotate them
- Teach your parrot tricks
- Leave the radio or TV on
- Encourage foraging
- get a bigger cage
These modifications will keep your parrot entertained and mentally enriched.
Stressed parrots indulge in self-mutilating behaviors when they lack social enrichment and socialization. As a result, they become nervous and agitated, sometimes becoming hostile.
Not only do parrots chew on their feet to relieve stress, but they develop health problems like:
- Lowered immune health
- High blood pressure
- Reduced appetite
- Sleeping difficulties
- Adrenal gland issues
- Heart complications
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty processing nutrients
- Getting sick from bacteria or viruses
- Taking longer to recover from illnesses
- The onset of age-related disease
Stress is unlikely to stop without making modifications to a parrot’s environment.
Why Do Parrots Bite Their Nails?
The next time your parrot bites its feet, look closely, as you may find that it’s chewing on its nails. In most cases, this is normal behavior but check for other signs of discomfort.
These are the most common reasons for nail-biting parrots:
Nail biting is part of the natural parrot grooming process.
Most parrots file their nails down on a pedi perch or other toys and accessories, but some prefer to bite their nails. This isn’t a concern as long as your parrot’s nails aren’t overgrown.
If the claws get too long and parrots can’t file them down, they’ll peck them to reduce the length.
Other signs that they’re 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 using a pair of nail clippers.
Many parrots, particularly African greys, cockatoos, and macaws, develop nervous behaviors, which cause them to preen and nip their nails.
Biting becomes a nervous habit in response to something within the parrot’s environment that’s making it feel uncomfortable. This could be:
- Other pets
- Loud noises
- Unfamiliar smells
- Too much light or darkness
- Boisterous children
- Night frights
Keeping their environment quiet and free from stressors is beneficial.
Fatty Liver Disease
Parrots with fatty liver disease develop dry, itchy skin and an overgrown beak and claws. There are several causes of fatty liver disease, including:
- High-fat diet
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Lack of exercise
Because parrots with fatty liver disease develop long nails, they find it difficult to move around. If you suspect your parrot has fatty liver disease, check for these symptoms:
- Overgrown beak
- Black spots on the beak and toenails
- Enlarged liver
- Poor feather quality
- Loss of appetite
- Breathing difficulties
Why Do Birds Bite Each Other’s Feet?
If you notice a parrot biting another parrot’s feet, it can signify the following problems:
Parrots are territorial and will bite or peck at each other’s body parts to fight for dominance.
However, this behavior shouldn’t last long, as asserting dominance over each other isn’t that important in the parrot world. Eventually, this will become a way they interact with each other.
Your parrots could be fearful or jealous of each other, which is why they bite each other’s feet.
While parrots might get on with each other most of the time, all are susceptible to bouts of aggression.
During an aggressive phase, parrots may peck at their cage mates. Smaller parrots are likelier to peck at the feet as they’re easier to reach.
Some parrots will never get along with each other, no matter how much you socialize them. If your parrots constantly peck at each other’s feet, it may be necessary to separate them.
While foot biting may look harmless, it can signify a health or behavioral problem.