why do parrots eat their poop?

Why Do Parrots Eat Their Own Poop?

Parrots shouldn’t be eating their own feces. They are not coprophagic animals and don’t naturally glean nutrients from poop. Instead, parrots only resort to this behavior when they have no other food sources.

Parrots eat poop when they have nutrient deficiencies. For example, your parrot is fed a seed-only diet. Stressed parrots will burn more calories and need more vitamins, so they may compensate for this by eating their own feces. If your parrot is bored, it may eat its poop while it forages to keep itself entertained.

Your parrot shouldn’t be allowed to eat feces. Although it’s a natural way for them to solve their own problems, it has risks. Your parrot may ingest bacteria, mold, and fungus from its poop.

Why Do Parrots Eat Their Poop?

Unlike some animals, such as rabbits, parrots don’t need to eat their own poop. In fact, most will go their entire lives without ever sampling their own feces. If your parrot begins to consume its poop, it may be due to:

  • A lack of nutrition
  • Boredom
  • Stress
  • A dirty cage
  • Underlying health issues

Most of all, a parrot will eat its own poop for nutrients. By doing so, it can gain additional vitamins and minerals that passed through the digestive system the first time around. This is a survival instinct that allows some parrots to survive.

A parrot can die from malnutrition in a short amount of time. Those trace few nutrients can enable a parrot to continue until it discovers superior food sources.

parrots eating own poop

Coprophagia in Parrots

Some birds intentionally eat their own feces regularly, leading you to believe that your parrot is engaging in coprophagia. Some animals, such as rabbits and dogs, are coprophagous.

However, parrots are not normally coprophagic animals. This is not a normal habit. Instead, they only resort to this in times of great need, when their body is not receiving the nutrients they require.

According to World Poultry Science Journal, birds that practice coprophagia synthesize vitamins in the caeca. The caeca are a pair of sacs that connect the large intestine and small intestine in a bird’s digestive system. However, not all birds have caeca. They are mainly found in herbivores and omnivores.

Parrots, despite being omnivores, are one of the exceptions that lack caeca. Therefore, parrots do not benefit as much from coprophagia. They are unable to draw out the same amount of nutrients from poop.

Is It Dangerous For Parrots To Eat Poop?

A parrot will not get immediately sick from eating poop. Although it’s not biologically designed to get the maximum amount of vitamins from poop, it can glean a few nutrients. Most parrots will eat the poop with little-to-no benefits.

If you are deworming your parrot, its excrement will contain the bacteria, parasites, or worms that had been inside of it. By eating its poop, these harmful organisms will re-enter the body.

Likewise, parrots are in danger of ingesting bacteria when they eat poop. This is most common when parrots eat the feces of a cage-mate or another bird they’re spending time with. It may catch a disease from the other parrot’s feces, such as psittacosis, which is a common disease among birds.

Reasons for Parrots Eating Own Poop

Before you can stop your parrot from eating feces, you need to understand what caused this behavior. Examine your parrot, its surroundings, and its diet for these problems:

Nutritional Deficiencies

Parrots mainly eat poop due to nutritional deficiencies. In fact, cockatiels are especially skilled at detecting when they lack vital nutrients and identifying ways to replenish them. Because of that, they’re one of the most common breeds that owners find eating poop. Parakeets also resort to this behavior more often than other species.

Investigate is your parrot’s diet. Your parrot should be getting a good mixture of seeds, pellets, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, many captive parrots experience health complications when given seed-only diets.

Seeds contain a lot of fat and calories but few minerals and vitamins. Therefore, veterinarians recommend feeding your parrot pellets rather than seed alone. A good diet for a parrot consists of 50% to 75% pellets, with the remainder coming from fresh produce. This will ensure that your parrot has all the nutrients it needs.

If your parrot is already eating the recommended diet but is still eating its own poop, it likely has a mineral deficiency. To solve this, place a cuttlebone and mineral block in your parrot’s cage. By chewing on these, your parrot will ingest important minerals like calcium. Once it has a better source of minerals, it will stop eating its own poop.

Boredom

With an ideal diet, if your parrot still eats poop, it may be bored. Parrots require mental stimulation on a daily basis. If there is nothing to play with, a parrot will keep itself busy by foraging. Foraging is a natural behavior for parrots in the wild, so they mimic it in captivity, too.

However, if the parrot has nothing else to eat, it may start consuming poop while it forages. It may also eat anything else it finds, like hair and dust in the cage. Eating these things can harm a parrot’s digestive system. To stop a bored parrot from eating poop, offer it a variety of toys. Ideal choices include:

  • Chewable toys. Parrots naturally like to chew on, pull at, and destroy items. By giving your parrot rope, wood, and paper to tear up, it will be less motivated to eat any of the items.
  • Foraging toys. These have treats hidden inside them. They not only stimulate your parrot’s mind and allow it to forage, but give it a tasty food to eat.
  • Puzzle toys. These often double as foraging toys. They have treats inside that the parrot must figure out how to retrieve from the puzzle.
  • Physical activity toys. These toys make your bird exercise its muscles, including swings, ladders, and elaborate perches.

Stress

Stressed parrots will burn more calories and nutrients. Their heightened awareness, lack of sleep, and elevated heart rate will deplete their energy stores. When it fails to compensate for this with food, it’ll resort to poop. When stressed, a parrot may excrete too many water-soluble nutrients instead of absorbing them properly. These include:

  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Choline

Since these nutrients are now in the parrot’s poop, it will eat its feces to compensate. Even if you are feeding your parrot a proper diet, it may still excrete more nutrients than it’s consuming. Parrots are easily stressed, but they shouldn’t remain that way. Check out if your parrot is upset by:

coprophagia in parrots
  • A sudden environment change, such as a new home
  • A change in diet
  • Weaning
  • Molting
  • Loud noises
  • Pets that are bothering it
  • Small children that handle it improperly
  • Sudden movements from other people, birds, or pets

Reduce your parrot’s stress is to remove whatever is causing it. If your parrot is stressed due to weaning or molting, there isn’t much you can do. Instead, you should comfort your parrot by:

  • Speaking to it softly
  • Providing it with interesting toys
  • Playing with it

In the meantime, you can decrease your parrot’s instinct to eat its own poop by offering supplements. Among others, add some brewer’s yeast to your parrot’s food. This will replenish its body’s stores, as it contains:

  • B vitamins
  • Choline
  • Amino acids

Dirty Cage

Parrots don’t want to live in a dirty environment. Unfortunately, a parrot’s cage gets dirty quickly with its droppings, spilled water and food, and remnants of toys. If the parrot finds its environment unacceptably dirty, it may flick dried poop out of its cage. It will also eat the fresh poop in dire circumstances.

New poop contributes to the pungent odor in the cage. The parrot may choose to eat it rather than let the bothersome odor sit there. Cockatiels are especially averse to living in a dirty cage, making them more likely to eat poop than other parrots.

Clean your parrot’s cage more often. Perform a basic clean-up every day. Once a week or once a month, you should do a deep clean of the cage. Daily cleaning will include:

  • Replacing liners. This is where its droppings and other debris will collect at the bottom of the cage.
  • Cleaning food and water dishes. Do this in hot, soapy water, especially if any droppings are in the dishes.
  • Sweep or vacuum. Do this in the area surrounding the cage, where droppings and debris will gather.

On a weekly or monthly basis, you should:

  • Remove your parrot from the cage
  • Wash and sanitize the cage bars, bottom, and doors
  • Removing droppings from perches and toys
  • Disinfect all items and allow them to air dry

Should I Let My Parrot Eat Poop?

Eating poop is a natural behavior, but it’s a bad one for parrots. You should keep your parrot from eating its feces. It will only do so if there’s an issue with its diet, body, or environment.

Instead of letting the parrot resolve this itself, you should identify the cause. Once you solve it, your parrot will be healthier and happier without the risk of ingesting bacteria, mold, and parasites.