The importance of disinfecting multiple times a day, common household poisons, and the diet items that can harm the health of your feathered friend
Ekkies suffer from common and widespread medical conditions, toe tapping, wing flipping, plucking, allergies, liver and renal conditions
It is suggested that Eclectus should have softer wood perches to allow gentle chewing and trimming of the beak. I completely disagree. The softer the wood, the more porous, a wood becomes. This harbors bacteria as the bird cleans their beak and deposits food and droppings. Those particles (without baking bright sun from the canopy) become a bacteria farm in your home. So they must be washed down more often with a proper sterilizer (F10 without detergents).
Toys: Toys with heavy dies or plastic are of great concern. Those same 'bird safe colorants' are believed to be a cause of allergens in the pellet diet that can be so determinantal. Time and consideration must be taken to find natural toys. You can find more information in the 'Enrichment/Toys' section of this site.
Husbandry: This is the CONSTANT cleaning that must be completed multiple times a day. Food must never be left in the enclosure for more than a few hours. Food must also be 'inspected' for any signs of overly ripe or rotting. All food containers, perches and surfaces must be disinfected daily.
Because of the fresh diet and the way food is processed in the proventriculus (The proventriculus is the first region of a bird's stomach between the crop and the gizzard. In most birds the proventriculus is narrow, but in ekkies it is very elastic), and their crop has slow emptying times- which if there is not adequate hextrose, water and acid- food doesn't move quickly enough, and can actually somewhat spoil, especially if presented with a slightest amount of bacteria. Fungal and bacterial infections are extremely common in Ekkies and have drastic, lasting effects on the health.
If the breath smells like 'overly ripe (rotten) fruit' this could mean bacteria or fungus has built up somewhere near the top of the digestive tract. But unlike other common infections it will not alter the look of the droppings- but instead cause irritation (even itching, sneezing, weight loss and feather plucking).
Each food container must be sterilized (water dishes, food dishes, skewer rods). Before each meal is presented, I disinfect with F10 (veterinary grade disinfectant) and boiling hot water from a tea kettle. If you consider that Ekkies should eat three times a day, Eclectus are not for the absent owner.
It is suggested that Eclectus should have softer wood perches to allow gentle chewing and trimming of the beak. I completely disagree. The softer the wood, the more porous, a wood becomes. This harbors bacteria as the bird cleans their beak and deposits food and droppings. Those particles (without baking bright sun from the canopy) become a bacteria farm in your home. So they must be washed down more often with a propper sterilizer (F10 without detergents).
Dietary: During my studies, I was flabbergasted to find very commonly fed foods for Eclectus: chips, cheese, hotdogs, pizza, lunch meat, cooked chicken bones, popcorn- or table scraps: which contained onions, garlic, salt, preservatives and imbalance of the very nutrients that cause common medical conditions.
Please check for the 'safe food list' before offering anything to your colorful angel before serving. In general: NOTHING PROCESSED. But this becomes complicated as Eclectus are now part of your 'flock' and expect to 'eat' with you, 'forage with you', and be with you 100% of the time....
Scientists are focusing on the cause for 'toe tapping', the uncontrollable contraction of the leg and foot muscles (not to be confused with the 'chicken scratching' nesting behavior). Most notable at night, the toes contract (like a drummer) and you can hear the tapping on perches. While it seems to only effect captive companion Eclectus, the cause usually points to an imbalance of nutrients (macro and micro) and potentially a hormone imbalance or stressful condition (molting, improper care, inadequate socialization).
There can be many causes of toe tapping and wing flipping, the two causes identified thus far is the enlargement of the organs (from illness pressing on nerves) or the most common: diet.
Wing Flipping is often combined with toe tapping, while it can be caused by diet, it is also noticeable in other species of parrots who are not provided with adequate time out of the enclosure. This is why it is vital to allow your bird to stretch its wings (mental stimulation and room to fly).
Providing a fresh diet is the only way to ensure quality control. Commercial bird food is overly processed, and built for flavor and meeting nutritional needs of 'most' Psittacine parrots (hook bills), but it is not formulated for the unique system of Eclectus. There is also no commercial hand rearing formula for Eclectus- so depending on the breeder, and improper formula during hand feeding puts the bird at a early disposition for improper development (or liver stress, which is often seen by babies who have 'colored' feathers' in obscure places. This is often compounded by a large amount of hidden allergens Eclectus tend to encounter. Most commonly noted are anything with fortified (excess vitamins, preservatives, coloring, flavoring)
I have hand reared and weaned hundreds of birds- Ekkies are by far the most difficult as they require unique dietary requirements and must be shown by the 'parents' proper consumption habits. Even experienced breeders who provide fresh variety in the early stages of life assume that this will amount to a well balanced diet in the future. However Ekkies will find a favorite food and disregard everything else, pushing things aside/throwing or dropping, so it seems as if they are consuming much more, which causes malnutrition (and often low weight). Ekkies are master of disguise for medical conditions until it is unfortunately difficult to correct.
It is imperative you find a breeder that pays very close attention to each bird, this can not be done through bird brokers or mass breeding. Each bird is so individualistic you dont want them starting out at a disadvantage.
Nutritional deficiency, over fortification, processed food causes stress on Eclectus. This leaves the bird more susceptible to infections, intestinal discomfort, skin disorders and inevitably 'barber' the tips of feathers or pluck them in hopes to 'cure' their discomfort.
Another severe catalyst is the 'clipping' your birds wings. It renders the bird a feeling of powerlessness, in which they resort to self mutilation. Without proper lift and descend, falls or crashes can result in injuries to the keel, sternum, fractured beaks and legs. These injuries not only result in physical pain, but lead to fear, aggression and distrust. Eclectus are then often left in the enclosure more, leading to more emotional disorders and inevitably feather shaft mutilation, plucking and barbering.
Finally it is about overall stimulation and enrichment. Eclectus require ample chewing options and foraging solutions. You can see the Enrichment/Toys section of this website. It is suggested that Eclectus should have softer wood perches to allow gentle chewing and trimming of the beak. I completely disagree. The softer the wood, the more porous, and the more adsorption or porous a wood becomes, the breeding ground for bacteria and fungus.
Is your parrot plucking?
Keep track of the feathers on the bottom of the enclosure- feathers shaft bases will looked chewed or bloody. The rest of the feathers should look clean and manicured but not 'shredded'. Eclectus can, and will have dramatic molts, especially around certain months, or certain years. The pain from molt can cause the same agitation, aggression and discomfort that might be misconstrued as plucking. But molting is temporary, plucking and barbering has an underlining issue that must be addressed.
I unfortunately have experienced all of these first hand- Especially in Dubai where PBFD is a part of life and over 48% of the birds are infected. I have had birds die in my arms in the most dramatic ways. I cannot stress this enough that you must protect your flock. You must not visit pet stores that sell birds, rescues that dont test prior to intake, breeders who cant show you proven test results, or pet stores... It can also be an issue (especially with PBFD if you visit a veterinary clinic). The small particles get in the air system, they are on every surface and they do not dissipate, and very hard to kill.
I caution against 'pet fairs' and 'bird groups' as you can easily expose them to 'P Diseases'. These are not curable, and instead can mean a slow and painful death for your beloved feathered friend.
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In Eclectus you may see minimal, if no signs. Commonly: low weight, discolored feathers (red where it should be green, or vice versa), lethargy and heavy breathing under exertion. Unlike other species- you may never see the yellow or green stained urates until it has progressed to a severe level, increased thirst, regurgitation, difficulty breathing and/or a swollen, puffy abdomen.
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