A Congo Greys Companion’s Feather Plucking Questions Answered
An African Gray Parrot Plucking Her Breast Feathers on Top of Her Cage

A Congo Greys Companion’s Feather Plucking Questions Answered

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

First name: Peggy C.


How long has your bird been plucking? 


Approximately 7 years 


Species (please be specific, as an example, there are 43 species of Macaws) 


Congo African Grey parrot


Your bird’s sex if (known) by DNA or feather color (dimorphic bird)? 




Your bird’s age? 




How long have you had your bird? 


Almost 19 years

Possible trigger – To avoid incestuous relationships which help keep the flock healthy in the wild, Greys will select a different bird after the first imprint.

This usually happens around the age of 6 but may come later in life there have been no studies. 


Is this the bird’s first home? 





If not, do you have any information on its last home? 




In winter do you have forced-air or passive (radiator) heat?  


Heat Pump

Possible trigger – Heat pumps are forced air furnaces and the warm dry air we’ll work on your bird’s skin just as it does on humans. 


In winter is a humidifier in use? 


Yes, started this year

Possible trigger – Greys are “duster” Birds like Cockatiels and budgies.

They should be misted, showered or bathed a minimum of two to three times a week.


 How Do I Get My African Grey to Bathe?


What human foods are being offered? 


Small amounts of non-sugary cereal, one or two almonds in the shell, rarely some raw vegetables 


Is any citrus being fed to your bird? 




Has the human pecking order changed (divorce – a child goes to college)? 




Has something changed in household furniture drapes carpet paint?  Furniture has been moved.  A new type of flooring recently installed, (LVP,  whereas before was carpet).


Possible trigger – Furniture  and artwork movement can be very stressful for a that processes information as fast as a grey does (3 times that of humans)


Are there other animals in the home? 


One Senegal parrot (in the same room) and two guinea pigs (in a different room) 

What manufactured bird food(s) are being served?

Zupreem Fruit flavor, Lafeber berry (one item per day)

Possible trigger – Lafeber’s is good, Nutriberries Contain about 8% pellets. Avi-cakes have about 50% pellets so you might consider those.

My concern on Zupreem is that it contains added sugar (for palatability).

Sugar has a low PH making it acidic giving humans heartburn and possibly irritating your bird’s crop.


It also contains soy which has proven to have negative effects on pet birds.


I will advocate for Tropican Alternative Parrot NO Soy NO Corn by Hagen Hari 4 lb (1.8 kg) as it contains no soy


What makes the Alternative formulation different than Tropican Lifetime and Tropican High-Performance formulas? Tropican Alternative Formula provides proper daily nutrition for Parrots who are diet-challenged, adults, and seniors, requiring lower protein and fat content (versus High-Performance formula).


Do you purchase your birdseed from a bulk container like a barrel or plastic drop-chute? 




Is there ever any poop in your bird’s drinking water? 




Bird toys, what types, and how many? 


She doesn’t like most toys, but she gets a large wooden “man” toy that she decimates, rarely a piece of fresh white typing paper crumpled up. 

She thinks that our sofa is a large toy, and began to chew the cushions apart 3 years ago when she got out of her cage while we were at a funeral. 

She gets mad at my husband and bites him when he will not allow her to decimate the sofa.  

When he puts her back in her cage because of this, she will then pluck a few feathers as if she is punishing him for not giving her her way.

Possible trigger – She is bonded to you and your husband is a threat


Why Won’t This African Grey Play With His Toys?


The only parrot to build a nest is the Quaker. 


In general, parrots live in the hallows of trees, under rocks, and so forth.


Your grey thinks the sofa is a place to hollow out (forage)  and have babies as its cage is too small and lacks foraging and enrichment opportunities.


 How many bird toys are in the top 1/3 of your bird’s cage? 



Definite trigger – There should be between 10 and 30 twice in a bird’s cage that serve not only for foraging and enrichment opportunities but affords the bird privacy


Arranging Your Bird’s Cage: The Cage Canopy Concept


Any other birds in the home? 


One male Senegal parrot

Possible trigger – 2 jealous birds 


In summer do you have central air or use a fan(s) to cool your bird? 


Central air

Same answer to forced air heat 


Is your home Teflon-free (including waffle irons & hair dryers)? 


Yes.  Though I do use a hair dryer briefly twice a week in another room with the door closed.

Bird Teflon Dangers You Didn’t Know & Other Household Perils


Is the birdcage placed against any walls or in the “middle of a room? 


In the “middle” of room about 18” from sliding glass doors to the patio so that she can look outside

Definite trigger – Parrots are prey animals that seek privacy. 

In the wild parents spend 60% of their day foraging for food in 40% of their day trying not to be food.

With only two toys in the cage in the cage in the middle of the room your bird has no privacy.

Proper Bird and Parrot Cage Placement

It’s best to have cages against two walls for starters 

Looking out the patio doors is all well and good but besides looking at bluebirds Cardinals Swift’s Robbins, birds do not understand the concept of glass.

Your bird also might be seeing  predatory animals like Hawks, Falcons, cats, raccoons end could be in a constant state of stress 


Do you cover the birdcage at night? 




Does the bird get silent at birdie bedtime? 


Not completely, but mostly 


Do you offer full-spectrum lighting to your bird? 


We did for 3 years, but it did not help the picking

Possible trigger – that doesn’t tell me anything because unless the lighting was 15000 lumens, no more than 6 inches over the cage on a timer for 12/12  hours off and on it surely would have no effect on your bird

How Pet Bird Keepers Get The Lighting Thing Wrong



Is the lighting on a timer? 



What is the size of the cage living area only? 


26” x 20” x 37″ 


On average how many hours is your bird out of the cage daily? 


3 to 4 hours

Possible trigger – The cage is much too small for 18 hours of incarceration. 


When you are out of the do you leave on “white noise” TV radio? 




How many perches are in the cage? 



Are there any “flat” perches in the cage?




Any soft rope perches? 




Manicure perches-if so where is it placed? 


Yes.  By her favorite toy (side of the cage) 


What type of perch does your bird sleep on? 


She likes to sleep on a  metal hoop, meant to hold a dish, not far from her favorite toy.


Definite trigger – your bird’s feet hurt – check the pads for sores


Your perch setup is creating arthritic feet for your grey.


The bird perches on the ring because the flat parts of her feet hurt.


Does the Plethora of Parrot Perches Produce Puzzlement? Learn Perches & Placement Now!


Spending a long time next to a toy on a manicure perch will hurt a bird’s feet.


How Hagen grooming perches help prevent arthritis in your bird’s feet ~ Video

Do you employ clicker training in your bird’s routine? 




Every bird should have some clicker training.


Do you regularly exercise your bird? 


In what way?

Exercise Your Bird – Why & How – Videos


Is your bird fully flighted?




If you clip your bird’s wings, is the clip modest or severe? 



Possible trigger – A flighted bird is a confident bird.

Birds are wired to “take flight not fight”

The 20 – 24 clipped feathers have rough edges that annoy a bird and will trigger over preening.

They have 100,000,000 years of instinctual expectations to preen 10-inch feathers, not 5 inch. 


Date of your bird’s last visit to an avian vet? 


One to two years ago. 


How often do you weigh your bird? 


Once a month

You should be looking for weight changes – a 5% – 10% weight chage either way means it’s time to go to the vet 


Have you tried any “anti plucking” supplements/sprays? 




Has anything worked?




List the foraging opportunities in and out of your bird’s cage. 


We do not employ them.  Tried in the past.  She was not interested. 


Is the birdcage placed near any picture windows or sliding glass doors? 




Does your bird ever chew on its cage? 




What is the style of the cage dome top/play top/flat top? 




When out of the cage does your bird have a place to “hang out”? 


On the top of the cage or door of the cage, my husband’s office, or watching TV on my husband’s shoulder or knee.


Is your bird a one-person bird?


Yes.  She is crazy about my husband. 


But she is also partial to our son when he visits, but not as much as when he lived here.  She does not bite our daughter or me and will allow us to hold her from time to time.


And yet she attacks him when being returned to the cage. 


Is your household on a regular schedule?




Have feathers been plucked little by little or overnight? 


Little by little 


How often do you bathe or mist your bird? 


She bathes herself at least weekly.  My husband mists her sometimes to see if he can make her more comfortable during a molt and in the winter.


African greys can molt up to 18 months straight which can be construed as plucking 


What’s the Difference Between Feather Preening, Plucking & Molting?


Is there a tobacco user in the home? 





Is there any use of air fresheners or scented candles in the home? 




Is your bird exposed to fresh “outside” air when possible? 



I will advocate testing your internal air – if you are not cleaning air ducts and/or using an air filter, having no fresh air will shorten your bird’s life significantly


If you have a female could she be “utilitarian” plucking (feathers used for lining the nest)?






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