Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mites are Monsters (2)

As you may have read in my last post, mites can be a serious problem to budgerigars. I have collected some information on how to get rid of them, which I hope will be useful to anyone experiencing this problem. It's also a good reminder to all budgie owners that they have to look out for this parasitic infestation, as budgies and canaries are by far the common victims.

Treatment: the "safest and healthiest" options

Several veterinarians provide drug-based options, like Ivermectin. Vegetable oil has proven to be a safe and good non-medical solution. Avian Web offers a breeder testimonial in which the cage was filled with vegetable oil-soaked seeds that coated the budgie's legs and feet. This sticky cover suffocated the mites. Alternatively, Budgie Place recommends rubbing the vegetable oil on the infected area twice a day, in addition to disinfecting the cage thoroughly before starting treatment and again when the infection clears up.

Image © Greener PRactices
Simple common household products, such as either Benzyl Benzoate, Paraffin or Petroleum Jelly, have also been successfully used to treat birds with initial or minor infection. Similar to the vegetable oil treatment, the bird's legs are soaked in an oil or cream to suffocate the mites. This procedure is repeated every 3 to 4 days for 2 weeks. Even when the infection clears up, you have to remember that mites are easily eradicated by washing and changing perches, feeder cups and toys frequently and by keeping the cage clean and washed. If there is no hygiene, the parasites will come back in no time.

Controlling scaly face and leg mites

According to Avian Web, the big problem with Scaly Face is not how to treat an individual bird. The concern is how to stop the problem from affecting other birds. Scaly face mites are quite contagious and if left untreated, other birds will succumb to the disease.

Image © Cliff on the Talk Budgies Forums
In addition, because the infection only becomes obvious after six to twelve months, it can have quite a toe-hold on a flock of birds before the problem becomes obvious.

The mites also seem able to burrow into wooden perches in the cage. Avian Web recommends strongly to replace perches in an infected cage weekly, using natural perches instead.

Mite poison: the more "drastic" solutions, in case your bird is heavily infected

The area around the vent and the legs can be treated with paraffin; the eyes, however, should not be treated with this oily substance, since there is a risk that the bird won't be able to see anymore.

Image ©
The picture above shows a budgerigar that wasn't treated for a long time. These budgies suffer very badly from itching since they feel the mites burrowing under their skin, into their beak, and spreading down their legs. Please don't ever let it come this far.

If the area around the bird's eyes is full of mites, you should definitely take it to a vet. In the case of a strong infection, the vet will use a medicine containing the ingredient ivermectin. Some time ago, a drug called Ivomec (mostly known in Europe) was usually used. Due to its toxicity, its usage has been discontinued.  

Ivermectin is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that you might want to use if you have an aviary full of birds, with the infection spreading everywhere. It's heavy poison for the mites and they will die within a very short time.

Important note: just like SCATT, this poison is not without risk for your birds. It's highly toxic and you shouldn't use it without consulting your veterinarian first, as an overdose may kill your birds!!! Your veterinarian will advise you further on its use and on other procedures to control the problem.

Also, do NOT use insecticides or anti-mite-spray. These agents are usually highly toxic and harmful for your budgies! Burrowing mites are harmless for humans; there is no risk of an infection!

All information is © Birds Online and Avian Web.

Read more information on parasite mites on budgies in these articles:

Burrowing mites (scaly face/scaly leg mite) on Birds Online
Scaly Leg or Scaly Feet Syndrome in Birds: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options as well as Prevention on Avian Web
Is Vegetable Oil Good for Scaly Feet in Budgerigars? on Zearticles
Does my budgie have parasite problems? on The Budgie Place 
Budgie foot problems on The Budgie Cage


  1. What a horrible disease. I'm glad there are solutions.

  2. Do these mites affect humans or do they fly off the window into the house or food and cause problems for humans

  3. Disgraceful that someone waited so long before this bird was so ill. Cruel animal owners. I cant believe he came back from that.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.