On rare occasions, you may notice that a birds feathers are not lying smoothly but rather arch up just slightly. Note the feathers near the wing butt in this bird. (Click on photos for a closer look.)
When you examine more closely, you may notice an odd thick soft feather that is coming out with difficulty, crooked, and out of line.
If it has broken through the skin, when you touch it, even slightly, it starts coming out of the feather shaft. If it has not broken through the skin, it is more difficult to remove as it will require a small incision through the skin.
Once the cyst is starting to come out, you will see some bleeding.
Be sure and get the whole cyst and then apply some pressure over the site to stop the bleeding.
Once the bleeding has stopped, you can treat the site with iodine and return the bird to its cage. Notice how soft and downy these mosaic feathers appear. No wonder they can not break through the skin.
If the single cyst is not removed promptly, other feather cysts will become involved. Here is an example of two adjacent cysts.
Even two cysts are easily removed with minimal bleeding. Even though this bird is a not a mosaic, its feathers are noticeably wide and soft.
Here there are four cysts involved. Unfortunately, they were not seen earlier but whenever they are discovered they need to be removed as it only gets worse!
Feather cysts are commonly called feather lumps. Even if they are removed, they often reoccur, especially on the wings. The earlier you remove them, the easier and less traumatic for you and the bird. Failure to excise a cyst will mean the problem involves more and more shafts. If damage is sustained to one side of the follicle, the feather growth is asymmetrical and the feather may grow in a curled fashion inside the the follicle, resulting in a huge cyst that is totally under the skin.
Cysts can occur in any feather follicle and in some cases may involve the feather tract and can be very challenging to remove especially when under the skin or involving the tail area where they can be severe and disfiguring and may require radical excision. See your avian veterinarian for assistance removing feather cysts.
Feather cysts, although they may result from trauma to the feather shaft or feather follicle, are usually genetic and due to breeding a soft wide feather. These "soft-feathered" canaries have abnormally developed feathers that are no longer able to come in normally.
Because the type of feathering is inherited, birds with feather cysts should not be used for breeding. Although feather cysts can occur in any variety, they are more common in mosaics, glosters and norwich. Even in these prone variety the chance of feather cysts can be greatly decreased by breeding shorter narrower feathers into a line regularity.
Some breeders report, although not proven in scientific studies, improvement from adding some iodine to the water. In some cases, feeding multiple amino acids especially methionine may prevent recurrence.