Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman
I Have An African Grey And A Triton Cockatoo.
I hand fed both and have had the Grey since 1985 and the Cockatoo since 1987.
They are housed separately in AE birdcages and I have perches around the house for them to move to as I work around.
Both are female.
My Gray has begun acting strange.
She has been an intermittent plucker for decades and when the problem first appeared, I had her tested for all parasites, hormonal imbalances, etc that the vets could think of and all was well.
I decided that as long as she wasn’t hurting herself I could live with her ratty appearance.
She has always been a little aloof and didn’t really like to be petted, but seemed to enjoy coming out of her cage to a perch whenever offered.
Recently, she’s become reluctant to come out of her cage.
She sits in the corner of the cage with her feathers ruffled up and her head in her feed cup.
Occasionally she will have a psychotic break and grunt while shaking one of her toys….very odd behavior which is all new for her.
As she has recently laid an egg, I think that this may be somehow hormonally related?
At the suggestion of someone that I talked to there on the phone a few months ago, I put a fluorescent light above her cage and have it on a 12-hour timer to make sure that she has a strong 12-hour photoperiod.
I moved her birdcage from a sun porch to a more secluded corner of my house thinking that she might be stressed by seeing predators through the window, but the move and light haven’t changed her plucking or antisocial behavior.
I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
I saw your message come through to us, but I assigned it to Mitch to respond to.
I am sorry he did not get back to you yet.
We just moved our business and entire home from Illinois to Indiana and we have been buried under work so he must not have been able to respond yet.
I will try to respond the best I can.
Please realize that as your Grey has been plucking for decades that it is not likely that the practice can be stopped now.
It has become an ingrained habit that little or nothing is likely to change.
The time to fix that may have sailed.
Realize that when a creature chooses self-destruction that there is a problem, be it health or environmental and over time it likely has caused damage not just to the feathers and possibly skin but to the birds psychological health.
You state that you put a light over the bird’s cage.
Is it a full spectrum bulb placed within 6 inches of the top of the cage or closer?
If just a fluorescent light, it is not going to help with the issue much.
Full spectrum lighting affects the pineal gland through the eyes and helps regulate the circadian rhythm. This helps with regulating hormones.
A bird under the correct lighting should not lay an egg. It sounds like she is still in a hormonal flux.
You indeed have a full spectrum bulb placed correctly over the bird for 12 hours on and 12 hours off?
Your bird gets a nice light cage cover (a sheet or table cloth is fine) for her privacy at night, you have removed all bedding materials, huts, fluffy piles, etc.
You have increased her calcium intake?
She is eating a good mix of foods?
Do you have some toys hanging around the inside of the cage bars for her use and company?
If yes to all, then you may just need to allow her to be comfortable and loved the rest of her life.
Your bird is 22. Many captive greys don’t live longer than 25-30 years.
One change in diet may be helpful, at least to try. Hagen Tropican Alternative pellets.
They don’t contain soy which is being considered as possible hormonal triggers.
There is also not corn which is basically a filler in all pellets so your bird could enjoy a better nutritional experience and maybe that would help.
Please let me know
Here are some comments parallel to Catherine’s
It looks as though you have most of your bases covered for both birds.
The grey is clearly being hormonal.
Not wanting to come out of the cage is telling us “I want to stay here and make babies”.
The other odd behaviors are all part of her wanting to be a mommy.
I would like to see pictures of how the Grey’s (Timneh or Congo?) cage is set up.
In the meantime as long as you have the fluorescent light over the cage, you want to ensure that it’s no lower than 6 inches over the top of the cage.
Now I’m going to suggest some very effective “light” therapy.
I want you to lock her in her cage for one week, 168 hours.
Cover the cage at night making sure that the cover goes over the light so the bird has a constant stream of light the entire time she is in the cage.
We are resetting her “circadian rhythms.”
These are the signals that birds use to know when to mate, molt and migrate if applicable.
During this week make sure that she has enough food to eat during the day and not going hungry but do remove the food at night while providing plenty of fresh water.
This is another signal that you can send to her that food is not so abundant so it’s not a good idea to think about making babies.
Let’s start here and I’m hoping to see the pictures of her cage set up.
Thank you for the pictures George they are most helpful.
As I stated earlier we need that fluorescent lamp to come down about 3 feet to just over 6 inches above the cage.
As far as the actual cage set up I would say that the interior of the cage is short about 20 bird toys.
We feel that bird toys act as the leaves of the tree in the wild providing security not only just for play.
We call it the birdcage canopy concept and you can read more about it here.
You don’t have to spend much on bird toys (even though we have a great selection) you can find some ideas for free and DIY Bird toys in this category.
The bird toys that are hanging from the center of the roof the cage are not easily accessible to your grey without hanging from the roof bars.
Start moving the existing toys to the inside perimeter of the top third of the cage. Both front, back and sides.
She needs more chewable and preening toys to take her mind off the feather plucking.
Even something as simple as sticking today’s junk mail through the bars, something for her to peck at.
Should you accidentally place a credit card statement in the pack at least you have an excuse as to why you did not pay the bill, “my bird ate it”.
With an excellent line of forging and preening toys found here.
It also looks like there’s no designated sleeping perch for her.
I would advocate the second Booda rope perch (I see one end) in the cage and I want you to extend it across the cage to the same height on the other side (or sidewall) so your African gray can sleep comfortably (and high) without banging her head on the top of the cage with one or 2 inches of clearance.
I’m not sure the type of perch she’s sitting on in the picture but she doesn’t look happy.
You’re also ignoring the bottom third of the cage where you should put a few toys or some sort of horizontal shelf encouraging her to come down to the bottom of the cage which also helps to provide exercise with the additional movement.
We’ve also personally had great success with placing all our ringneck’s food dish at the bottom of the cage giving the mess little place to go other than staying, on the bottom of the cage.
It’s hard to tell from the picture but make sure you have no ceiling fans running for the summer as the currents can ruffle a parrot’s feathers and cause over preening which leads to plucking as well
So I’m hoping that this short list of ideas will begin to help in the reduction of your African grey’s plucking.
I’ve lowered the fluorescent fixture to about 3 inches above the arch of her cage and added a clamp light with a full spectrum compact fluorescent to the cage over her usual perch.
She has a variety of perches available including Manzanita branches, rope, spiral and tapered concrete.
I’ve moved the Booda rope perches to make them more horizontal and in the upper part of the cage.
I also ordered a few more toys for her today from you and I’ll experiment with moving her feeding to the cage floor to encourage her to move around more.
I tried putting a grass mat on the cage floor and she showed no interest in the seeds that I had scattered on it ☹ .
Thanks again, George
Sounds like great plan George – please keep us posted.
Your Zygodactyl Footnote
Although George mentions his cockatoo, he never elaborated about the bird so I thought I’d share.
There are 4 recognized subspecies of the Sulphur-crested cockatoo.
- Triton Cockatoo
- Eleonora cockatoo
- Mathews cockatoo
- Greater sulfur-crested cockatoo