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Parrot Feather Plucking

FEATHER PLUCKING IN PARROTS
 
 
Feather plucking is a very common and yet often a very difficult problem to diagnose and treat.
Typically the bird has normal head feathers, with feather loss &/or damage only in areas that the bird can reach with its beak.
Anything from small patches, to the whole body may be affected.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galahs, and Cockatiels are commonly affected but it may occur in any bird.
 
There are many causes of feather plucking, but the signs often look the same. So a thorough examination and detailed history are needed to get an accurate diagnosis. Without an accurate diagnosis, treatment is difficult.
 
There is no “quick easy fix”, nor a single “magic bullet” treatment that will cure all cases.
 
MEDICAL CAUSES
1.ALLERGIES
Some birds can be allergic to foods, eg certain seeds  such as sunflower or canary seed.
Some birds are allergic to household allergens such as House Dust or moulds, these cases are often worse during winter when the house is closed with minimal fresh ventilation.
 
2. MITES and LICE
These are often blamed for feather plucking but are rarely a real problem. Diagnosis and treatment is very easy.
 
3. INTESTINAL PARASITES
Worms or intestinal Protozoa are a common cause of feather plucking in Budgies. And Cockatiels. Diagnosis and treatment is straightforward.
 
4. LOW HUMIDITY
Tobacco smoke, gas heaters and Air Conditioning can all dry out the feathers and cause excessive preening. Treatments include regular light sprays with water.
 
5.SKIN INFECTIONS
Infectious dermatitis may cause feather plucking or may be caused by it. Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease is a viral infection that cause feather loss and plucking.
 
6.PSITTACOSIS
Usually causes respiratory or GI problems but may present as feather plucking.
 
7.MALNUTRITION
Common in birds fed seed only diets. This can lead to mineral, vitamin and protein deficiencies. Often as the bird may preferentially eat only certain types of seed in the mix. Feeding your bird Parrot Crumbles instead of Seed mix is an easy remedy.
 
8. CANCER
Cancerous lumps are common in Budgies, Galahs and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. The skin overlying the tumour can become irritable and the bird responds be feather plucking or self-mutilation
 
 

PYSCHOLOGICAL CAUSES

 
When all medical causes have been ruled out, then it is possible that the feather plucking is due to psychological cause.
 
1.BOREDOM
Parrots are very intelligent and get easily bored. This is one of the more common reasons for feather plucking.
Treatment revolves around “environmental enrichment” to stimulate and engage the bored bird. New scenery, people, food, music, TV, all helps to stimulate the bird.
 
Over stimulation or excessive change may be a cause of feather plucking, or may make things worse if used to treat a case.
Some birds need, and like routine. Too much change may upset them.
 
2.OVERCROWDING
Although birds are social animals, overcrowding can in some individuals lead to stress and aggression.
 
3. POOR WING CLIPPING
May cause the bird to chew at the feathers and over preen
 
4. SEXUAL FRUSTRATION
Many single feathers will over-groom only during the breeding season. Don’t assume that introducing a “mate” will help (read No.1 – Boredom, above)
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