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May- Feather Abuse
Posted:5/1/2008 12:00:00 AM

Feather picking....plucking.....chewing????

Call it what you want...the bird still looks pretty strange. In any event, some birds have 'feather abusive behavior.' Some totally remove any feather they can physically reach....some 'snip' off just the ends....some 'chew'....some 'strip' until they look as if they have 'bedhead' over part or all of their bodies. Whatever method your little buddy choses...the results are the same....you worry ... friends and relatives 'wrinkle their noses' and he continues to abuse his feathers.

After many years of working with parrots and talking with many experts....the owner of The Bird Shoppe being one.....and extensive reading....I have determined we cannot lump this behavior under one large 'umbrella' of cause. It is interesting to note that it seems that some species are more prone to this negative behavior than others.....you very rarely see parakeets, Amazons, Caiques 'plucked,' but it in not rare to see African Greys, Cockatoos or Macaws in disrepair. So, maybe it is personality, or some of the genetics inherited from the parents.....maybe some have a higher tolerance to stress factors, allergens and environment than others. I unfortunately do not know the cause of this behavior, but I have been able to identify some different possibilities.

NUTRITION: It is a known fact that parrots have definite nutritional requirements that help them maintain optimum health. Fresh fruits and veggies, healthy nutritious quality seeds, nuts and table food all combine to keep your pet healthy. So often, we don't take the time to provide all of these good things....like our own diet....we know what is good for us but we don't always eat the way we should. Too much fat our bird's diet can cause fatty cysts and cause a feather abusive behavior......not enough fruits and veggies can cause a big 'nutritional hole' in the chemistry of the bird which can also promote this negative behavior....so assuming we do most of the right things , let's move on to

PHYSIOLOGICAL: a trip to your Avian Vet is the first place to go to rule out physiological causes for picking.....could it be mites....feather cysts......bacteria.....zinc toxicity or other toxins.....how about allergies? You realize that if you smoke, nicotine stays on your fingers and is transmitted to the bird which is a real irritant to feet and feathers.....nicotine is used as a pesticide in many areas. After having your vet rule out this area....let's move on to

ENVIRONMENT: This is a real big area.....Is his cage large enough? Are there enough toys and things to do and keep him occupied? Imagine sitting in your room with no radio, TV, cell phone, magazines, games, books or computer and spending the goodly portion of the day isolated from anything until someone comes home. Pretty bleak....I would pick too.....also....... . Smoke from the owner, fireplace or wood stove will 'coat' the feathers causing overpreening which could deteriorate into feather abuse......rooms sprays, hair spray sometimes perfumes, incense and some candles can contaminate the air he breathes and be a possible cause. Maybe temperature and not enough humidity is a factor. Not enough baths?......maybe you shouldn't use a hair dryer as often.....Not enough light in your pets living area might be a place to examine.....and clean fresh water is a must.....if your bird makes 'poop soup' or bathes, soaks or stores goodies in the water bowl, this might be a good place to change the way water is provided......and lastly

PSYCHOLOGICAL: This takes in a broad area.... but the 'common thread' is stress....birds are extremely sensitive to emotion.....in the wild, birds are very sensitive to the dynamics of the flock....they look to their flock and take their lead from them....since we are their flock...they take their lead from us....if we are 'on edge', sick, miserable or angry, they will react....possibly by' nipping' maybe by 'picking'....regardless, the result is negative. It is so important to socialize your bird to changes in his environment......it is important to have a routine in his daily life....make sure he gets enough uninterrupted sleep.....daily interaction with his loved ones and protection from unruly visitors or other pets. He has the right to feel safe, secure and loved the same as you. Sometimes I think we can figure out why our pet is abusing his feathers if we take the time to look closely and go through the process of elimination.....maybe....just maybe he likes all of the attention he gets every time he chomps down on one of his remaining feathers......hmmmm.....attention is attention no matter how it is given.

So, in closing, however your pet looks.....accept him as he is and love him.....your bird is totally devoted to you and looks to you for all wonderful things.

See you next month,
anne

 


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