If your cockatiel has dry, scaly-looking feet, the problem might be more than just low humidity. Scaly leg and face mites can make your bird's feet, legs, vent and beak look dry and flaky. If allowed to go untreated, these mites can cause permanent deformities. Learning the signs and treatment for this condition can help you maintain a healthy cockatiel.
Scaly leg mites usually start as an itchy, dry spot on nonfeathered skin, but can spread quickly. Mites are transmitted from one bird to the next, and may even move from mothers to babies in the nest. Wooden objects in cages can also serve as temporary homes for mites, allowing them to move from one bird to the next. If you have multiple cockatiels that live close together, untreated dry feet in one could turn into mite infestations for the whole colony.
It may be difficult to tell if your cockatiel is suffering from mites, or if its feet are simply dry. Consider improving the humidity levels in the room where your cockatiel lives, and look for the tell-tale signs of a mite infestation. Small birds usually develop white or gray crusty areas on their legs, feet, and sometimes around the beak or eyes. Mites can also cause feather loss and itching as they burrow into the top layer of skin.
Topical treatments for mites are a traditional solution. You can rub petroleum jelly and paraffin oil on the beak, legs, and vent of your bird. These oils suffocate the mites, but are also easy to get on the feathers. You may also wish to talk to your veterinarian about ivermectin, a popular anti-parasitic. This treatment is available by prescription, is easy to administer, and kills other parasites, too.
Never treat your cockatiel's dry or scaly feet without consulting your vet first. Mite treatments must be administered correctly to prevent side effects. Birds may accidentally breathe paraffin oil, causing respiratory problems. Excessive doses of ivermectin and related medications can cause neurological damage in small animals.
Don't forget to clean and disinfect the cage and surrounding areas. Replace all wooden objects, since mites may burrow into perches and toys. Clean the cage and keep it dry, but avoid commercial mite sprays, which may be toxic. Treat all other birds which may have had close contact with the infected cockatiel to keep the mites from coming back.