why do parrots eat their poop?

Why Do Parrots Eat Their Own Poop?

Parrots shouldn’t be eating 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 options.

Parrots eat poop when they have nutrient deficiencies. This can happen if your parrot has a seed-only diet or is missing a vital food group. Stressed parrots burn more calories and vitamins, so they may try to compensate with poop. If your parrot is bored, it may eat its poop while it forages to keep itself entertained. In dire cases, parrots kept in filthy cages will eat poop to clean the area themselves.

In some cases, parrots eat poop for no obvious reason and are dealing with a health problem. Your parrot should not 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, fungus, or diseases from the poop.

Why Do Parrots Eat Their Poop?

Unlike some animals, 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, then it’s caused by negative reasons:

  • 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 ward off more serious illnesses.

After all, a parrot can die from malnutrition in a surprisingly short amount of time. Those trace few nutrients can help a parrot limp along until it discovers better food sources.

In your home, a parrot should never have to make this decision. Parrots only resort to eating poop, and it’s never their first choice. It’s a clear sign that your parrot needs help. Something in its environment, body, or diet is causing problems.

parrots eating own poop

Coprophagia in Parrots

Of course, some birds intentionally eat their own feces on a regular basis. This can lead you to believe that your parrot is simply engaging in coprophagia. That is the scientific term for eating feces, also known as coprophagy. Some animals, such as rabbits and dogs, are also 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.

Instead, they get a scant few that may only help a parrot limp along without enough vitamins. In the worst case, it does nothing for the parrot at all, and it continues to be nutrient deficient. There are better ways for a parrot to get all the vitamins and minerals it needs from food, rather than feces.

Is It Dangerous For Parrots To Eat Poop?

Unlike humans, 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. Most parrots will just eat the poop harmlessly, but with little to no benefits. An exception to this rule is if:

  • The parrot’s poop has sat too long, growing bacteria
  • The parrot’s poop was dropped somewhere with fungi or mold
  • The parrot has worms or other parasites

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 go back into its body. That will often lead to health problems, or at least make the deworming process take longer.

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

You should always keep your parrot from eating poop. Even if the action itself is harmless, there are factors that could make your parrot very sick.

Reasons for Parrots Eating Own Poop

Before you can stop your parrot from eating feces, you need to understand what caused this behavior. That will help you solve the root problem, so your parrot isn’t forced to resort to this. Examine your parrot, its surroundings, and its diet for these problems:

Nutritional Deficiencies

Parrots mainly eat poop because of 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 for owners to find eating poop. Parakeets also resort to this behavior more often than other species.

The first place you should investigate is your parrot’s diet. Your bird should be getting an adequate mixture of seeds, pellets, vegetables, nuts, and fruits. According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, many captive parrots suffer from health complications when given seed-only diets.

Seeds contain a lot of fat and calories, but very few minerals and vitamins. Therefore, veterinarians recommend feeding your bird 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, so it won’t be forced to eat its own poop.

If your parrot is already eating the recommended diet, but is still eating its own poop, then it likely has a mineral deficiency. To solve this, place a cuttlebone and a 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 are intelligent and require mental stimulation on a daily basis. If there is nothing to play with, then a parrot will keep itself busy by foraging. Foraging is a natural habit for parrots in the wild, so they mimic it in captivity, too.

However, if the parrot has nothing else to eat, then it may start consuming poop while it forages. It may also eat anything else it finds, like hair and dust in the cage. Eating all these random things can harm a parrot’s digestive system, or even scratch its throat.

To stop a bored parrot from eating poop, offer it a variety of toys. These should keep it busy and entertained. Ideal choices include:

  • Chewable Toys. Parrots naturally like to chew on, pull at, and destroy items. By giving your bird 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. They not only stimulate your parrot’s mind and allow it to forage, but give it a tasty option instead of its poop.
  • 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. They include swings, ladders, and elaborate perches.

Stress

Stressed parrots will burn more calories and nutrients. The heightened awareness, lack of sleep, and elevated heart rate will deplete your parrot’s energy stores. When it fails to compensate for this with food, or it refuses to eat, it will resort to poop. After all, it needs vitamins and minerals to stay alert and avoid whatever danger it perceives.

In particular, 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 bird a proper diet, it may still excrete more nutrients than it is consuming. Parrots are easily stressed, but they shouldn’t remain that way. Check out if your parrot is upset by:

  • 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

The best way to reduce your parrot’s stress is to remove whatever is causing the stress. This isn’t always easy, however. 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, try adding some brewer’s yeast to your parrot’s food. This will help replenish its body’s stores, as it contains:

  • B vitamins
  • Choline
  • Amino acids
  • Other vitamins and minerals

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 to be unacceptably dirty, it may flick dried poop out of its cage. It will also eat the fresh poop in dire circumstances.

That’s because the new poop contributes to the bad, 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. This makes them more likely to eat poop than other parrots.

If you notice this, then clean your parrot’s cage more often. You should do 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 The Liners. This is where its droppings and other debris will collect at the bottom of the cage.
  • Cleaning The Food And Water Dishes. Do this in hot, soapy water, especially if any droppings managed to get into 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
coprophagia in parrots

Health Issues

If all other problems are ruled out, then your parrot may have an underlying health issue. Parrots may be compelled to eat poop when they’re ill or contending with a disease. As such, it is recommended that you take your parrot to the vet.

A professional can examine the bird and root out the true cause of this behavior. The vet can also provide recommendations on other ways to stop your parrot from eating its own poop.

Should I Let My Parrot Eat Poop?

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

Instead of letting the parrot try to fix this itself, you should try to find the cause. Once you solve it, your parrot will be healthier and happier, without the risk of accidentally eating bacteria, mold, or parasites.