Birds: Feather Picking/Plucking
A happy, healthy bird will spend time each day grooming, or preening, to keep his plumage in tip-top condition. You’ve no doubt seen your bird draw his feathers through his beak to clean, condition and waterproof them. Preening also involves the removal of the sheaths at the base of the feathers, allowing new ones to grow in.
Companion avians who suffer from feather picking, however, take preening one step further, obsessively pulling, plucking and chewing on feathers. Plumage becomes damaged and frayed, inhibiting normal feather growth. Areas easily accessible to a bird’s beak -breast, inner thighs, and the skin under the wings–are most affected; in some cases, these areas may be completely bare. This condition, most frequently seen in larger parrots, cockatoos and conures, has both medical and non-medical causes. Either way, it’s extremely distressing to both bird and owner.
If you suspect your bird’s a feather picker/ plucker, the first order of business is to bring him to the veterinarian to rule out medical problems. Hypothyroidism, though rare, can cause excessive loss of feathers and feather picking, as can parasites, hormonal changes and bacterial and fungal infections of the skin.
Most often, though, the causes are psychological, with stress and boredom most likely to contribute to this condition. In the wild, large birds live in huge flocks and fly many miles a day. They also bond with a mate. If these needs are not addressed in captivity, a companion avian will become stressed, bored, and very unhappy.
Another effective method of healing your feather plucker is with a new water-based,
all natural solution called PLUCK NO MORE.
As a responsible caretaker, it’s up to you to figure out what’s stressing your bird out, and take appropriate steps to remedy the situation. Does your bird have a partner? Does he get plenty of exercise? Consider his environment. Is his cage large enough? Is it in a suitable location? This will depend on his personality. A shy bird may do better in a less heavily trafficked area, for example, while a social butterfly may need to be closer to the action.
Are you showing your bird enough attention? A little extra time with you or other favorite family members can go a long way. Toys help, too. Offer a wide variety, and make sure they’re sturdy and appropriate for the species. Avians can also redirect any destructive tendencies through toys they can rip up and chew apart. Clean, untreated, non-toxic branches, large pine cones and cardboard boxes may be the ticket. And food can be lots of fun–particularly if it’s something your bird has to work for, like non-shelled nuts, snow peas and corn on the cob.
Some caretakers have had success in leaving a radio or television on,
or even a tape of themselves talking –calmly and happily, of course.
In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend that your bird wear a collar while his feathers grow out. Treatment with behavior or mood modifying drugs have been helpful in certain situations, but truly effective treatment must also address the underlying causes as well. Keep in mind that feather picking is one of the most difficult conditions to treat, and you may need to work closely with your veterinarian or an avian behaviorist.
Fixing the problem will take time and patience, but don’t give up. Your bird’s worth it.