Pet Health, Interesting Facts, and Trivia
Understand Feather Plucking
FEATHER PLUCKING IS A FRUSTRATING PROBLEM
Feather plucking in birds can be caused by either physical or
psychological problems: poor nutrition, stress, anxiety, boredom and physical
condition. Your avian veterinarian may examine the bird for
- internal and external parasite
- weight and condition
- residual feather stumps below the surface of the skin that need to be surgically
If the bird is considered physically healthy, then the bird's environment
and psychological health need to be evaluated. The owner is often the best
person to make this assessment.
If your bird begins to pick its feathers, keep a log--maybe even photos.
Note dates of any observations, and record any unusual circumstances
surrounding the times and dates of the plucking. Observe your bird's:
- reaction to the household members
- reaction to strangers
- eating, play, preening, and sleep cycles
- Noticeable stress
Situations which can be major plucking precursors include moving; new
people, birds or animals in the house; breeding season; a change in the
weather; a change in the cage location; a change in the bird's food; a change
in YOUR daily routine; lack of sleep; lack of attention; lack of stimulation.
Birds need as much as 8-12 hours of rest each day. A calm and dark room
will give him restful sleep and provide warmth and security. A regular schedule
is very important.
Additionally, birds need a great deal of stimulation during waking time.
The importance of toys must not be underestimated. A large variety of toys
should be rotated often. They should include interesting toys, which can be
manipulated, taken apart, put back together. They should be of different
textures, sizes, shapes and colors.
Birds which have a seemingly insatiable appetite for chewing must be given
adequate items to alleviate their frustration or they will chew their own
feathers. You can't have too many toys!
Some birds start picking when they feel that Spring is arriving and
breeding season is upon them. They begin to pick the feathers of the chest in
preparation for nesting. In some cases a mate is the only answer. However, it
is best to avoid sexually frustrating a bird by excessive petting,
particularly around the vent area.
Inadequate caging can cause problems. Not too large, not too small. Don't
let toys CROWD the bird. Provide good, strong perches of varying diameters to
be sure his feet are healthy, clean water and clean food bowls.
It may be necessary to move his cage more into the family area. Or,
perhaps move it closer to a window to observe the goings-on outside. Maybe
the family area is TOO chaotic for adequate naps. Is he getting enough
natural sunlight? You will have to be the judge after careful observation.
His diet should include a well-balanced pelleted diet, some seeds, leafy
green vegetables, fruit, maybe some yogurt and cheese. Food is both a primary
ingredient in diet and an experience: different tastes, texture, shapes and
colors will invigorate your bird. However, be sure to change your bird's diet
slowly under careful observation of his reaction and condition.
After careful study, change just one thing at a time so you don't stress
your bird. Note what affects him positively or negatively and work slowly and
methodically toward a solution. It is usually possible to break the plucking
habit by preventing boredom, relieving stress, developing a schedule, and
giving optimum nutrition.
Here are a few tips that may help restore your feather-plucked bird's good
- Have the bird examined by an avian veterinarian
- Keep a detailed diary describing incidents of feather plucking
and the circumstances
- Assess the bird's general physiological condition
- Evaluate and improve, if necessary, the bird's physical environment
- Be sure the bird is getting sufficient rest
- Develop and follow a schedule
- Allow frequent opportunities for the bird to bathe
- Supply the bird with safe toys and diversions
- Give the bird a nutritious, balanced, and varied diet