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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I had my cockatiel Princess for about a year. Well, she was getting a bit plump as a result of a food she was previously on and her lack of exercise. The vet told me she wanted Princess between 80 to 90 grams. The vet also said that she wanted Princess on Laferber’s Daily Diet pellets as her staple diet as the other food she was on was a bit too fattening.

Well, I transitioned her to the pellets. She loves them. The doctor said that one medicine cup a day with some broccoli (the only thing she’ll eat besides her pellets at the moment) being given to her daily. She started to lose about 1 gram or so per week. Then she started to lose about 2 grams per week even with an occasional treat. I was worried about her losing too fast, so I gave her a bit more pellets a day.

After giving her maybe 1 and 1/4 of a medicine cup and broccoli, she started to gain about 2 grams per week. I went back to the diet she was on before that had her losing weight after I found out that she was rapidly gaining her weight back.

What I can’t figure out is why she’s continuing to gain weight at the same rate with no treats, only one medicine cup of pellets and her broccoli per day. This exact diet was working very well before. I let her on her play gym everyday for a bit of out of cage time and exercise. I don’t understand it.

I can only come up with two possibilities that might be causing or contributing to this weight gain. Although I’m very skeptical this is what’s causing it. The first is that she had her wings clipped about a month ago (almost time to get them clipped again). I was thinking that the extra weight of new feathers may be coming in could be causing it. I just don’t see her gaining 2 grams in a week due to feather growth. The other possibility I thought of was that it’s because she isn’t wanting to climb on the top of her open cage on her own as she likes going on her gym much more than that now. I was thinking maybe the lack of her climbing up may be contributing.

I’m honestly guessing and coming up blank as to why she continues to gain weight on the exact diet she was on that she lost on. Any insight into what may be causing this from anyone would be very helpful to me. I’m really not in the position to take her to the vet at the moment as a surgery she had on a feather cyst she developed due to her injuring herself when she got spooked in her cage has left me trying to replenish her emergency vet money. She doesn’t qualify for insurance either, so all medical expenses are paid out of pocket by me with no chance of reimbursement. I thought I’d mention the insurance issue so I didn’t waste anyone’s time trying to recommend insurance for her. Again, any help as to why she may still be gaining would be much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
 

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If she's getting less exercise than before, that could definitely contribute to weight gain. Encourage her to flap her wings or fly, and climb around a lot.

Is she molting? New feathers that are growing in weigh more than a fully developed feather does because the keratin sheath adds extra weight.

Is she hormonal? Hormonal hens will sometimes lay eggs even though they don't have a mate or a nest, and having an egg inside adds several grams to their weight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
She’s been exercising, but not climbing on her cage as much as before since she’s been more interested in her play gym. I have been encouraging her recently to climb up and down her ladder on her gym to get her to make up for the lack of climbing she used to do more often when she’d go to the top of her cage.

As for her molting, she has lost some feathers of various sizes. I really don’t see it being a lot compared to what I’ve seen before. She’s lost a couple of feathers per week (besides the very small feathers).

As for her being hormonal, yes, she’s been acting that way for awhile. She’s been doing her mating calls for awhile. My vet instructed me awhile ago to remove potential nesting sites to keep her from laying eggs.

Is there anything you’d suggest for me to do or not do at the moment? If you have anymore questions answered to give you more information about her, I’ll be happy to answer them the best I can.

It would be a relief to know that it’s not necessarily anything that I’m doing wrong with regards to her food that’s making her gain weight when she needs to be losing it. Any solutions to this issue would also be a big help. Thank you for your help.
 

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How much does she weigh exactly? Have you or your vet done the keel bone test? Here is a diagram explaining what I mean:



An overweight bird will have a lot of breast tissue so you won't feel the keel bone. An underweight bird will have a keel bone that is sharp to the touch and sometimes visible. A bird at a healthy weight will be somewhere in between, you can feel the keel but it's not sharp nor buried under breast tissue.

Cockatiels come in all shapes and sizes, and yes tracking their weight is important but feeling the keel bone is a more accurate way of determining the correct weight for the individual.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I haven’t done that test. It’s very possible my vet has done that test though in the past. When I first got Princess (my cockatiel), I took her to my vet for her to get examined and tested for any diseases. My vet told me that the ideal weight for her would be between 80 to 90 grams. She was at the weight my vet wanted her when I my vet first examined Princess. It was just that she wasn’t getting fed the right food although she was at the weight she wanted Princess to be at.

If memory serves me correctly, I believe she did hold her like in the picture you sent and examined her. It’s quite possible she did that test and didn’t tell me the name of the test. The one thing I do like is that my vet is not just some vet that just sees whatever animal with no education or experience with those animals. She is licensed for birds and has raised and bred them for over 20 years. So I’d hope that she was experienced enough to do the test that you have shown me. I can’t say for sure without me asking her.

From my personal opinion, I think she’s a bit overweight (judging by what you’ve shown). I can’t say for sure as I never really did the test with any actual experience doing it other than what you’ve shown me.

To answer your question about her weight, she’s about 106 grams. She gained about 2 grams in one week.
 

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That's awesome that you've got a great avian vet. They sure are hard to come by! (In my location anyway).

Have you thought about letting her wings grow out so that she can get more exercise? It's really the best way to get her to lose those grams if you are really concerned, considering her diet is very healthy and you wouldn't want to change that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Sorry, I didn’t get back to you sooner. You’re absolutely right. I’m definitely blessed to have a vet that’s licensed to take care of birds. We have people drive an hour or longer from where they live just to see her. The odd thing is that my county isn’t very big. So I got very lucky.

I’m actually a bit afraid of her having her wings grow out as she is still not really as tame as I’d like. When I got her at around a year old, she was never petted or handled in any way. She was cooped up in a cage that wasn’t fit for a budgie let alone a cockatiel. So she was really a wild bird when I got her.

I’m working on taming her. It’s going pretty well. She’s able to perch on me most of the time, although I’m struggling to teach her not to just leave my hand until I give her the command to do so. She seems to get off my hand when she wants to. I’m trying to work on that. But to get to the point, she isn’t as tamed as I’d like her yet. It’s been a very slow process. So I’m very concerned with her being able to have her wings grow out fully.

I do let her have some ability to have some gliding capability and able to gain flight for several feet from ground level. I just don’t let her be able to fly around and escape,injure herself or worse.

When she gets to the point where I feel she gets too flighty where she may start to injure herself or something, I have them clipped. I also notice she becomes more testy and defiant when her wings are getting longer right before I want to have them clipped.

I do encourage her to walk, climb a ladder, and flap her wings. I know it’s important for them to get their exercise. She loves her play gym, so she’s more than happy to climb a ladder to get to get on the gym. I also let her walk around in a safe area everyday too. I make sure that she’s out of her cage for a minimum of two hours every day. I also let the top of her cage open during the time she’s awake so she can climb up to her perch on top of her cage when she wants to. I hope this seems like adequate exercise to you; if not, I’m open to any advice you may have for me.
 

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Princess sounds a lot like my 6 year old hen, Honey. I got her when she was a about a year old, too, and she was basically feral (with a hard bite, too!).

Her wings are fully grown out at the moment and I have thought about clipping them slightly because she is a totally different bird when she can't fully fly; calm, friendly, will step up, will sit on my shoulder or my knee for hours quite happily and even have a little nap on me. She is a lutino, has weak feathers and is accident prone, hence she has had a long struggle with blood feathers and would often end up "one-winged" - totally lacking flight feathers on one wing with only a few long feathers on the other. It took a long time to heal and now she has full beautiful wings, but won't step up for me any more. She will land on me sometimes and sit there but only when I am holding one of my other 'tiels. She has so much more confidence (and independence) being fully flighted so she doesn't feel she needs my help any more, which is sad for me because I miss her being hand tame but I feel such relief for her that her feather problem seems to have fixed itself.

It's about finding the balance I think (between what is best for her and what you want), and it sounds like Princess has been clipped properly which is great, and she sounds active enough.

Have you tried food bribery? I know she's on a diet but offering her a little bit of millet or some other yummy treat will get her to associate your hands/fingers with a good experience and should help with taming and training.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Honey does sound an awful lot like Princess. Princess also had issues with blood feathers and a feather cyst. Two blood feathers required an unplanned visit to the vet. The cyst required surgery. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like I have to worry it growing back as we think it was caused by her banging into her cage when she got spooked and not something hereditary with her. But she has also finally grown out her wings after that, minus one flight feather, like yours.

I’m glad that you think that’s good exercise. I’m basically learning as I go as she’s my first bird. Lol, I picked a heck of a bird for my first one by her being a rescue and pretty much wild.

Is their any particular method of food bribery that you see working well? I get the concept of using food as a bribe to entice her to do something, yet I have no experience trying it.
 

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That's awesome that Princess is all healed and recovered. Sounds like she's been through the wringer too! Honey's been to the emergency room all too often in the past... very scary stuff! It's so relieving to have them all better.

There is good advice in regards to using food bribery in this Sticky article.
 
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