Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Removing Feather Cysts

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.


Anonymous said...

Linda, thank you for posting the pictures and information on feather cysts. I'm new to canaries, and now I'll know what to look for and what to do if I see this. THANK YOU!!!! Janie, Montana

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda, what kind of iodine do you use for canaries? Just the normal "human" ones from chemist? Thank you. EW. Sydney.

Anonymous said...

Linda, thank you!

Anonymous from Sydney, I would imagine that a natural source of iodine such as kelp would be good... Take a look at these: http://www.ladygouldianfinch.com/product_liquidkelp.mgi

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, I finally understand why my mom's canary is so lumpy! Time to get to work.

Anonymous said...

My bird has a noticeably big cyst on one of its wings, it seems to be having trouble and when taken to the vet they refused to operate on her as she is too small. I am quite squeamish and do not like the idea of removing the cyst myself. Is there anything you can recommend?

Unknown said...

I read this post a few days ago and saved it. Today, my Tweet had one. THANK YOU SO MUCH! This was perfect. I so appreciate you being here.

Anonymous said...


In 25 years of having canaries as pets, I have never encounter feather cysts until I got me a Norwich. After molting period, he was very quiet, didn’t sing, you may say he was quietly suffering. I did inspection of his condition and noticed something was wrong whit his wing, the cyst was growing. Due to his overvaluing plumage, there was no way for me to notice it the early stage. I have consulted veterinarian and he suggested tip of the wing amputation, which we did. Canary was sedated, the operation went fine and he recovered nicely, started singing and everything was fine unit a few weeks ago when I noticed new cyst developing and the same wing. I was so frustrated with myself knowing that operation didn’t have expected results. I have decided to take the matter in my own hands and try to cure him with pure logic. Cysts are result of inflammation process so I have decided to try treatment with corticosteroid ointment in combination with zinc oxide. So this is what I did:

- First night, corticosteroid
- Two days without any treatment
- Third night, zinc oxide
- Again two days without treatment
- Sixth night corticosteroid
- Two days without treatment
- Ninth night zinc oxide

The result was fascinating, not only that cyst fell of, inflammation process was gone and there was no any mark on the skin that the cyst was even there. My advice to all of you who love these increasable creatures, thy alternative methods, don’t pull the cysts out, it is painful for them. I have documented the operation and will share pictures. With regards to Linda and her experience, this blog also helped me to try something else. Maybe I as lucky with the treatment, time will tell.

Cheers to all bird lovers, Dario Lasica


Linda Hogan said...

The best approach is to prevent lumps by watching feather pairing so that long wide feathers are not present in offspring. Second a diet high in methiodine during the molt will produce stronger feathers that can get through the skin. Biodecken has a product called molt which is excellent. Using breeding and Biodecken molt, I have eliminated lumps even in mosaic feathering.