Feather Plucking

FEATHER PLUCKING

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A FEATHER PLUCKED BIRD?

1. Bald Patches on wings, head, back, under wings & legs.
2. Ragged looking feathers almost anywhere on the bird.
3. Sore and red areas on the chest and shoulders.
4. Often has little or no tail left.
5. Feathers on the floor of the cage or room.
6. Over-preening by the bird.
7. Change of the bird’s temperament.
8. Missing feathers.
9. Bald or bloody spots (especially on Breast, Abdomen & Back)
10. An “Oven Ready” Looking Bird!
11. A bald dead bird on the bottom of the cage!

THIS IS HOMER, A GOFFINS COCKATOO. HE STARTED PLUCKING WHEN HIS OWNERS HAD TO START WORKING LONGER HOURS. HE BIT A HOLE IN HIS CHEST AND EVEN STARTED TO BITE HIS BREAST BONE.HE IS SLOWLY RECOVERING

THIS IS MARTY, SHE IS AN UMBRELLA COCKATOO AND IS KNOWN TO ALL YOU REGULARS OF THE CLUB. MARTY WAS RESCUED BY ONE OF OUR MEMBERS FROM A PET SHOP WHERE SHE HAD BEEN PLUCKING FOR MANY YEARS. SHE STILL PLUCKS IF SHE BECOMES ANXIOUS BUT IS MUCH HAPPIER IN HER NEW HOME

So, what are the causes of Feather Plucking?

There are unfortunately many causes of feather plucking, many of which would take an expert or Vet to spot. However in this talk, I want to cover the most obvious and the most common causes.

This is TucTuc, an African Grey. This picture was taken a month after he came to me. His feathers have started to grow back on his chest and his little tail is beginning to come through. He made a full recovery in 6 months and is now happily re-homed.
It took a great deal of time, effort, care and love.

PBFD – Psittacine Beak & Feather Disease
This is by far the most serious and life threatening cause. PBFD is a viral infection first recorded in Cockatoos, who are the most susceptible species to this disease, although ALL parrots are at risk from this disease. Cleanliness is one of the paramount factors in controlling this disease, as the virus is spread through feather dust and therefore can be transmitted easily. The virus affects the immune system, resulting in progressive weakening of the bill and claws, with dramatic loss of feathers. This disease is not always easily diagnosed, even by a vet and blood tests are necessary to determine whether a bird is suffering from it.

THERE IS NO EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR THIS DISEASE AND DEATH USUALLY ENSUES.

You can often tell the difference from PBFD and the bird plucking its own feathers if the feathers disappear from the back of the neck and head, which are areas that the bird cannot reach.

Diet

Diet plays an extremely important part in keeping a bird fit and healthy.

IT IS ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR FORMING THE BEHAVIOUR ATTITUDE OF A BIRD.

Peanuts…. As discussed many times these are hazardous to a bird’s health. They prevent the absorption of Calcium, which is crucial to the bird’s health and feather growth.

DO NOT FEED PEANUTS TO YOUR PARROT!!!!

Seed…. Whilst the trend in recent months has been towards a “complete” diet of pelletted foods, I firmly believe that these are not sufficient for a well balanced diet. A bird needs seed for the variety and textures and nutrients that come from it. However there are many brands of seeds that are not the best. Ones that contain a high proportion of peanuts, sunflower seeds and dust are all undesirable. Many seeds that I have tested have been between 10 and 15 years old!! They contain dust, dust mites and are often mouldy when de-husked! These seeds are slowly killing your birds!

A GOOD QUALITY SEED, THAT IS FRESH AND RELATIVELY DUST FREE IS ESSENTIAL.

Fresh Fruit…. This is essential. The juice is the important factor to obtain the necessary vitamins. Just because the fruit ends up on the bottom of the cage, does not necessarily mean that the bird does not eat it. The idea is that they suck out the juices, not eat the flesh.
No, No’s…. Chocolate, Fizzy Drinks, Avocado, Coffee, Sweets.

SUPPLEMENTS

Why add supplements to a bird’s daily diet?

It is us humans that have domesticated these wonderful creatures (Yes even you Gizmo!) and therefore, they do not get all the vitamins and minerals that they would do in the wild. They do not benefit from the strength of the sun that shines in their native environments. They are exposed to our central heating, smoking, cooking fumes, traffic pollution etc, etc, all these things are absent when they are in a tree deep in the greenery of their home lands.

We need to supplement these essentials and seed does not fill this requirement.
Thus we have to provide manufactured extras in the form of vitamins and supplements.
The 2 most important elements are:
Calcium and Vitamin B
These 2 are necessary to help prevent feather loss.
There are specific supplements to help with feather loss, such as “Feather Up”.
All these essentials can be covered by the 2 products that we sell at the club, Calcivet and Daily Essentials 3 made by the Birdcare Company.

Boredom

This is one of the main causes of a bird starting to pluck its feathers.
Boredom arises for the following reasons:
Nothing to chew….. Give it kindling or dog chews
No playtime….. Birds need play and interaction with the people they own!
Loneliness….. Don’t keep your bird in a bedroom or dining room. Let it be where the family is the most. If it is lucky enough to have companion birds, then it can be put in another room, but a solitary bird needs company.
Toys…… They have little or no toys, or too many toys! Toys should be restricted to 2 or 3 in the cage at any one time and changed every week so that they have stimulus. Try to provide your bird with things to climb up and challenging toys that they have to work at to gain pleasure i.e. hide treats in kitchen rolls/toilet rolls etc.
Holidays….. Don’t just leave your parrot for the friend or neighbour to pop in a couple of times a day if you go away. The bird will almost certainly pluck itself. As parrots are flock creatures and need company.

Stress & Trauma

Stress & trauma are not only the most common causes of Plucking, but can result in the death of a bird.

Things that can cause stress & trauma:
Change of environment or owner
Absence of owner.
Illness
Change of diet
Not being covered at night & Insufficient sleep.
Insufficient interaction.
Not being bathed often enough.
Additions to the family of another pet/bird.
Excessive cold or heat.
Loss of owner or mate
Hormonal changes
Breeding season
As you can see, this list is far from complete and there can be a thousand and one reasons for stress. This is why it is so important to observe your bird every day to see if there are any early signs of plucking.

What to do if your bird starts plucking

1.
Do not wait and hope that it stops on its own. It won’t.
2.
Do not let it get to the stage where it draws blood. It may develop a taste for its own flesh & blood!
3.
Do not apply any human medication. It could kill your bird!
4.
Apply only cornflour if the bird is bleeding.
5.
If it is a lone bird and feathers are missing from its head, take it to your vet immediately, it may have PBFD.
6.
Seek advice once you notice missing feathers, either from your vet or someone who knows about parrots. (Ring me!).
7.
Be prepared to leave your bird with the person who can give it respite care.
8.
DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOUR BIRD IS BLEEDING, HAS A HOLE IN ITS CHEST AND LOOKS READY FOR THE OVEN!!!!! This is too late.

It will take many times longer to stop the bird from plucking once it is at this stage.

YOU MUST ACT QUICKLY WITH A BIRD THAT IS PLUCKING.


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