Canaries And Feather Cysts: How To Identify Treat And Prevent This Painful Condition

Just like humans get ingrown hairs when hair has trouble growing through the skin, birds can get ingrown feathers, which are often referred to as feather cysts. Certain types of birds, such as canaries, are genetically prone to developing cysts. So if you have a canary, you have to be aware that this condition may occur so you can take preventative measures. You should also know how to identify and treat a feather cyst if one were to occur. 


As mentioned, feather cysts are like ingrown hairs. They appear on the skin and look like a circular or oval swelling at the base of the feathers. While they can occur anywhere, they are more common on primary wing feathers. At first, a feather cyst will appear as a small yellow bump, but they can grow quite large as keratin, puss, and blood accumulate. Some feather cysts may ooze, but not all do. In some cases, you may even be able to see a bit of feather material protruding out of the cyst. The cyst can be quite painful, so you can expect your canary to be tender in that area. 


While some feather cysts clear up on their own, most of them don't. They usually require a vet visit. At your visit, your veterinarian will choose to treat your bird in one of two ways. First, they may choose to lance the cyst. This involves surgically opening the cyst and removing the feather debris along with any infection that's accumulated their. After removal, they will flush the wound and may place antibiotic ointment directly into the wound. If your veterinarian fears that the cyst will return, they may remove the offending feather completely so that it cannot grow back. 


Since canaries are genetically predisposed to feather cysts, they have a greater chance of developing them. However, you can reduce their occurrence and can possibly prevent them altogether with some diet modifications. Diets high in amino acids have been found very effective at preventing feather cysts. To increase the amount of amino acids your bird consumes, feed it oranges, broccoli, peas, corn, spinach, and potatoes.  

If you take steps to prevent feather cysts and watch for them, you can keep your bird from developing a large, painful cyst. Take your pet to the veterinarian at the first sign of trouble, so the condition can be resolved quickly before it becomes a huge problem.