A woman replying in a Facebook thread about her self-mutilating parrot “my vet said that it’s become a habit that’s it very hard to break”
My response was “Ask your vet why these habits don’t develop in the wild”?
Another woman had spent $4000 between veterinarian bills and behaviorists. Her bird was still plucking. In the thread that evolved it turns out that her cages were filled primarily eucalyptus perches.
Although eucalyptus can be safe it also has a great many toxins that can be lethal to a bird. She also related that her bird got about one hour of daylight – none of this came up in the conversation with her veterinarian or behaviorist.
Other threads related to how the veterinarian had injected the bird with who knows what? One woman was going to try to serve her bird every spice known to mankind.
When you connect the dots you have to ask yourself if veterinarians could cure feather mutilation with some injections or humans could stop the bird with plucking by changing their diet, why have we not seen a cure for plucking.
Shameless self-promotion here. Windy City Parrot is the only site on the Internet that actually has a category devoted specifically to tools to help to pluck and screaming birds that you can find here.
Both veterinarians and the bird companions talk about nothing but treatment and yet we should hear no discussion about plucking triggers. I’ve compiled a shortlist to begin to steer you in the right direction. If you have a plucking bird will like some help I’d be happy to. When I won’t respond to is “my bird is plucking please help!” That tells me nothing.
What I need to know and have you look at are the 10 feather plucking triggers I’ve listed below. Some may even create and Ah-Ha moment for you.
10 Feather plucking triggers
- Nutrition (base diet) – are we looking at the possibility of food allergies? Are we eating too many seeds?
- Nutrition (chops) do we know the actual nutritional value of the chops we are making? Store-bought fruit has much more sugar than fruit eaten in the wild. Are we serving our birds citrus fruit like oranges and pineapples that sit in their crop for up to six hours possibly causing heartburn? Is your bird getting enough protein – what the nutritional analysis of your chop?
- Habitat (cage) – does the birdcage offer a private area? Are there foraging/enrichment opportunities in and atop the cage? Is the bird sleeping on a soft rope perch or are his or her feet being irritated by sleeping on the wrong kind of perch?
- Habitat (home) does your bird have a place to be with you within the home so he or she is not eating furniture? Do you have enrichment and foraging activities outside of the cage? Do you burn candles or use air fresheners?
- Habitat (lighting) is your bird getting 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness or are you relying on North American ever-changing light cycles to thoroughly confuse and cripple your bird’s circadian clock?
- Habitat (change) – are we rearranging our bird’s cage at least every 30 days causing them to rethink their entire environment and distracting them from things like plucking their own feathers?
- Habitat (flock) – What is the interpersonal relationships between your bird and other members of the family including other pets?
- Bird (interpersonal) – is there an issue between your bird and other human flock members? Did you recently move a piece of furniture or picture on the wall (yes that can be a plucking trigger? Any issues with other animals in the home?
- Bird (physiological) – Is your bird clipped meaning it has at least 16 of its biggest feathers with rough edges that need to be fixed (preened – leading to plucking)? It no longer has a strong sense of balance -which is stressful
- Clean – are we exposing our bird to any sort of bathing and/or misting to enable adding hydration to their fathers? Is there a humidifier in the home? Are you using the wrong cleaning products like Lysol (recommend by a bird “expert” on YouTube)?
Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing