Bird depression is something that people did not take seriously until a few years ago. However, continuous studies regarding bird behavioral patterns have revealed that bird depression is real. While mild cases of depression come and go, severe cases, if not resolved, can result in a lot of problems for your pet bird.
In this guide, we will discuss all that you need to know about bird depression. From signs of bird depression to the causes of how to get a bird out of depression, we will cover it all as you read on.
The Common Bird Depression Symptoms and Signs
Bird owners that don’t know much about bird depression have very little idea regarding the symptoms and signs of bird depression. However, if you see your pet bird displaying the following types of behaviors, then you should sit up and take notice. If the behavior persists for a long time, then you may have to consider taking your bird to an avian veterinarian.
Birds, just like us humans, have emotions. Every once in awhile, they let out their emotions and the expression may be in the form of anger or aggression. This is completely normal and if your pet bird is occasionally aggressive, there is not much cause for concern.
However, if aggression becomes a regular thing, it means that something is fishy. In such a situation, you have to pay a visit to your trusted avian veterinarian and get a thorough check-up done. A physical check-up may often reveal medical conditions that are contributing to your bird’s bad mood.
Every bird has a typical way of voicing their expressions. As an owner, you grow accustomed to these voices over time, learning how the bird sounds when it is happy and how it sounds when it is experiencing some other emotion. If your bird is healthy both mentally and physically, it will stick to making the sounds that you have grown familiar with.
However, sometimes, birds can change how they voice themselves, which is a sign that something is not right. It may not always be a telltale sign of depression, but it is something that you should pay attention to. Often, birds tend to scream when they are frustrated or bored, and both boredom and frustration can lead to bird depression.
Birds are blessed with an incredibly fast metabolism, which means that they are frequent eaters. Unless they are suffering from tummy troubles, they usually don’t suffer from loss of appetite.
One of the ways how to tell your bird is depressed is to check for chronic appetite loss. If your pet bird has not had any food for two or three consecutive days, it may indicate depression, as birds typically bounce back to their typical eating habits in a day after their tummy troubles are resolved.
Plucking feathers is a sort of behavior that is not troublesome for birds if they do it once in a blue moon. However, if your pet bird is regularly plucking feathers, it can indicate bird depression. If left unchecked, it can become a destructive habit.
If there are bald patches on your pet bird consistently, then schedule an appointment with your avian veterinarian. Sometimes, skin issues may cause bald patches. However, if the vet rules out any physical health issues, it can mean that your bird is experiencing mental problems.
Depression is often caused by stress and the best way to figure out whether or not your pet bird is stressed out is to look for stress bars on its feathers. Stress bars are horizontal lines that appear across the shafts of your pet bird’s feathers.
Looking for stress bars may often be troublesome for owners, especially on feathers that are still on the pet bird’s body. However, looking at molted feathers can give you a clearer picture of the presence of stress bars. If you find these stress bars, then it’s a sign that you need to start paying attention to the possible stressors present in your bird’s surroundings.
The Causes of Bird Depression
Lack of Attention from the Owner
Many people out there own birds but can’t give their pet birds the kind of attention they need to feel appreciated, respected, and loved. As mentioned before, birds are emotional beings.
Some birds, such as African grays and cockatoos, are extremely intelligent. Owners of these birds need to spend time with them regularly. If owners can’t find time for their pet birds, then it’s likely that the birds will go on to suffer from a great deal of boredom, frustration, and anxiety. All three of these emotions lead to stress, which further leads to bird depression.
Your pet bird needs consistency in terms of the environment in which it stays. If there are frequent chopping and changing of the environment, it is bound to feel anxious and nervous. Some environmental changes that may contribute to birds developing depression are construction work, change of colors, new pets or people and changes in the location of the bird’s cage.
Changes in Daily Routine
Birds have their kind of discipline and once they develop it, they have to stick to it to maintain a positive outlook. However, if their daily routines are somehow disrupted frequently, the chances are that they will develop depression. As a bird owner, you must maintain a schedule for your bird in terms of feeding it and giving it your time.
“Why is my bird depressed?” is a question of bird owners that may have several answers. However, as a rule of thumb, you should remember that birds’ mental health is very closely related to its habits. Any change in your bird’s habits, enforced by environmental changes and changes in the owner’s schedules, may result in your bird experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress.
The Long Term Effects of Bird Depression
If you have noticed depressed bird symptoms consistently for some time, then the time to act is now. If your pet bird experiences chronic depression, then it can result in a whole host of long-term complications, which may very seriously affect your pet bird.
Immune System Woes
A healthy and happy bird is one whose immune system works well. However, chronic depression can seriously affect a bird’s immune system. As depression leads to appetite loss, your pet bird will not eat food regularly, which may result in nutritional deficiencies. Over time, these deficiencies can impact the immune system negatively and make your pet bird prone to a wide range of diseases and illnesses.
Changes in Appearance
One of the most common habits of a depressed bird is plucking feathers. In addition to plucking feathers, some depressed birds may even develop self-mutilating tendencies. If these tendencies go unchecked, they can result in your pet bird developing serious skin scarring. Plucking feathers regularly can permanently damage your bird’s feather follicles as well. If the damage is severe, then there will be no regrowth of feathers.
Difficulty in Laying Eggs
If you have a female pet bird, then you may want her to lay eggs. However, studies have shown that unhappy or stressed female birds find it incredibly difficult to lay eggs. In severe cases, the eggs may get completely stuck inside the birds’ bodies, with surgical and medicinal intervention becoming necessary to get the eggs unstuck.
Worsening of Bad Habits
Birds with bird depression typically exhibit one or more bad habits such as self-mutilation or plucking feathers. As the depression persists, these habits may worsen, which can have a variety of negative consequences for your bird’s overall physical and mental health.
All in all, bird depression is something that all bird owners must be aware of. If you want to be a good bird owner who takes an active and keen interest in both the mental and physical health of your bird, then you should take all steps necessary to ensure that your bird feels safe, happy and comfortable.
The Steps to Prevent Bird Depression
If you are wondering how to get your bird out of depression, then this section of the guide is for you. While preventing and treating bird depression are difficult processes, with awareness, commitment, and dedication, you can ensure that your bird comes out of its bird depression and learns to enjoy life once again.
Choose a Dedicated Avian Veterinarian
Bird depression does not always arise from mental issues. It can also be one of the consequences of ill-health. As a bird owner, it’s important that you do all you can to understand your pet bird’s needs and wants and cater to them.
An avian veterinarian can help you greatly in this regard as avian veterinarians are specialists who have a lot of knowledge regarding birds and their behaviors. It’s best to choose one avian vet and stick to the same vet. This can be of great help, as the vet too will begin to understand the behavioral patterns of your bird and get to the root of your bird depression issues.
You should schedule regular appointments with your avian vet for frequent check-ups to assess your bird’s physical condition. Your avian vet will not just diagnose the problems that your bird is facing but also suggest remedial actions that you can take to help your bird in putting an end to its problems. If medication is required to solve the issue, an avian vet can prescribe that as well.
Identify and Understand the Stressors
Not all birds are stressed out by the same thing. If one bird becomes anxious when it hears the sound of thunder, another may get stressed out by simply not getting enough time out of its cage.
As a bird owner, you should try to identify and understand the stressors in your pet bird’s environment. This can be easily done by calmly observing your bird’s responses and reactions to different things in its environment. Once you identify the stressors, you should try and understand how they may be causing bird depression.
Following accurate identification and comprehensive understanding of the stressors, you can take steps to remove the stressors from the bird’s environment if possible. If it becomes incredibly inconvenient to remove the stressors, you can change the location of the bird’s cage.
Interact with Your Bird Regularly
There are a lot of bird owners who purchase exotic birds and keep them caged. An important thing they forget is that birds are not showpieces for them, their families, and their guests to admire. While admiration is beautiful to an extent, what your bird requires is attention.
As birds are extremely intelligent and emotional creatures, they suffer a lot when they don’t have anyone to interact with. You can prevent this suffering by chalking out a routine that you will stick to daily. Shower your pet bird with warmth and affection and encourage all your family members to do the same.
Once the bird understands that its presence is appreciated and loved by all the people in its environment, it will develop trust. Regular interaction with your bird will also keep it from getting bored or frustrated doing nothing.
Give Your Bird the Freedom it Deserves
Birds are meant to fly, and bird owners should never forget that. No matter how much you interact with your bird, if you keep it inside a cage, then sooner or later, it will fall prey to anxiety, stress and bird depression. The trick is to let it out of its cage from time to time, giving it all the opportunities possible to spread its wings and take to the air.
When you give your bird more out-of-cage time, it will take more and more interest in the surrounding environment and it will start exploring. This is the best and most natural way for birds to keep themselves occupied. A bird is also more naturally inclined to like the owner and his/her family if it gets a fair share of out-of-cage time.
Purchase Accessories to Keep Your Bird Engaged
No matter how much you commit to interacting with your bird, there will be days on which you simply can’t take out any time to interact with it. However, just because you and your family members can’t pay any attention to your bird does not mean that it has to fall prey to bird depression.
There are several toys and accessories that you can buy for your bird. Some commonly purchased toys for birds include beads, bells, mirrors, and nuts. These toys can be filled with different types of bird treats and food and some may even allow birds to chew on them, which are ideal for birds who spend long hours inside cages to channel their energies.
Commonly used materials to make bird accessories and toys are rope, metal, straw, hardwood, softwood, coconut shells and plastic. Some bird owners have also found that watching TV or listening to the radio can be helpful to keep birds’ brains engaged.
Move Your Bird’s Cage if Required
While frequent changing of the location your bird’s cage is not advised. Sometimes, moving the cage to a new location may be just what your pet bird needs.
Several birds are scared when they hear loud noises and frightening sounds. The sound of thunder and loud noises made by other animals in the vicinity can make birds feel anxious. If you see that your bird is having problems staying calm and collected in noisy environments, you should shift the cage to a location that offers the bird more peace.
If you see that your bird is exhibiting signs and symptoms of bird depression after you have relocated its cage, then you should move it back to its previous location.
Acclimatization through Positive Reinforcement Training
Avian veterinarians are adept providers of positive reinforcement training, a technique that can help birds acclimatize to new environments and changes, preventing bird depression in the process.
Positive reinforcement training can be incredibly beneficial, particularly if you have brought another pet home or if there is a new member of your family. Even though this training happens slowly and steadily, it can help your pet bird to stay calm, composed and confident in situations that may have triggered bird depression in the past.
Ultimately, the lesson that bird owners need to learn from this guide is simple; you have to devote time to your pet bird and also understand their personality traits. While doing these things does not guarantee that your pet bird will steer clear from bird depression, it will surely help your bird stay happy and healthy.
Remember, your pet bird is not just a possession for you to show off. It is a living, breathing and highly emotional being just like you that has its own social and emotional needs. Understanding these needs and catering to them are the ways to keep them in a good state, both physically and mentally.