Feather plucking parrots- you run across them in rescues and occasionally in pet stores. Many pet bird and parrot owners report the problem of feather plucking as well. Cockatoos, macaws, African greys, and even the little parrotlet can be subject to plucking problems. Why does a bird pluck its feathers and what can be done about it?
Why does a parrot pluck?
1. Medical reasons- First and foremost take the bird to an avian vet to make sure there is not a medical reason for the plucking. The parrot may have irritated skin, allergies or some other medical problem.
2. Poor nutrition- Too much seed in the diet. A pellet diet and a diet rich in fruits and vetagables is helpful. Poor nutrition can lead to vitamin deficiencies which can contribute to plucking. Every breed of parrot has different nutritional needs. Check with your avian vet to make sure your parrot is getting the proper nutrition.
3. Stress- A cage location, a new bird in the household, a change in diet can all contribute to stress.
4. Boredom- Parrots are extremely intelligent. It’s important to offer the bird plenty of toys and rotate the toys often. Phone books, feather dusters, chew toys, foraging toys are all fun for birds as well as music.
What can be done to help plucking?
After you rule out medical issues, try covering the cage somewhat early and make sure the bird is getting plenty of rest. Make sure the cage is large enough for the bird and slowing introduce any new birds to the household.
Some parrot owners have reported success with bitter apple and aloe vera spray. However many times these spray treatments have just a temporary effect and are best only attempted after consultation with an avian vet.
Also try offering the bird a window view so they can look outdoors. Offer some outdoor sun or full spectrum lighting, but be sure to cover part of the cage to offer some shade and don’t leave the bird out in the heat of the afternoon in the summer.
Increasing the frequency of baths or misting is helpful as well. Also consider using a humidifier in drier climates to help with any possible itching of the skin.
Oftentimes there is just no easy fix. Stopping feather plucking is a work in process. The plucking behavior becomes a habit. Just remember don’t reinforce the feather plucking behavior. Birds love attention-even negative attention. Reward and offer attention when they are not plucking their feathers. Parrot owners that don’t have a bird that plucks should also think about preventative measures to prevent feather plucking problems from beginning in the first place.
For some more helpful information to feather picking.
Author has had problems with a parrotlet plucking feathers.