Because my Parakeet or Parrot Plucks the Feathers


The parrot is an excellent pet for many: It is a beautiful and majestic animal, lives for many years, is usually in good health ... and also speaks! Has it all! But sometimes, parrots have problems, just like all animals. Want to know why parrots pluck their feathers? We tell you!

Because my Parakeet or Parrot Plucks the Feathers

The plucking in the parrots It is one of the most common symptoms and yet one of the most complex and sometimes frustrating for avian veterinarians does not find the problem.

The first step is always the treatment Of a behavioral problem, such as plucking the pen (the other two common problems are when they scream and bite) is to make sure that it is not rooted in an underlying health problem. Plucking is another symptom of the bird. The only possibility of a successful outcome is to identify and correct what is behind the behavior. Remember that plucking feathers is a symptom and not a disease in itself.

What possible health problems Are they going through the mind of a bird veterinarian when initially presented with a self-plucked parrot for examination and, in fact, what kind of diagnostic tests are available?

Primary feathers follicle irritation

feather follicles They are itchy or irritating to attract the bird's attention. In its attempt to make it fit, the bird can chew or pick up the feather. Possible causes include an infection associated with mites, bacteria, fungi or viruses. Some species of mites live deeply in the feather follicle, embedded between the outer wall of the feather and the lining of the feather follicle. A simple in-aviary test that could indicate the presence of mites is to gently roll a damaged feather out of its follicle. If mites are present, there may be a necklace of dry dandruff-like material around the feather. A veterinarian can scrape this material over a drop of oil on a microscope slide and examine it. The test can reveal adult mites, nymphs and also eggs.

A pen with a healthy follicle It is often more difficult to remove and the pen section below the skin is clean and shiny. Generalized bacterial infection associated with bacteria such as Staphylococcus can be intensely itchy, while fungi (such as Mucor sp. And Rhizopus sp.) Have been associated with itching in pigeons, as well as parrots. Veterinarians can take samples of skin and contents of squash pens on slides for microscopic examination. Sometimes, special stains can help in the diagnosis.

Feather and skin samples too They can be grown for bacteria and fungi. Both polyomavirus (associated among other things with 'French molt' in parakeets) and Circus virus (the PBFD agent in cockatoos and other birds) can inflame the feather follicle, which leads to the growth of abnormal feathers and varying degrees of irritation These viruses are usually tested for blood and pen samples that are detected or evidence of the virus itself or the antibody to the virus. Interestingly, itching in birds that can appear quite normal sometimes positive results for the Circus virus, which means that although there is no obvious pen damage is visible, the virus should not be ruled out.

The jury is still deliberating on the importance of allergies in the biting birds. What we do know is that we see the clinical disease and microscopic lesions associated with allergies in birds that scratch or touch the pen. In addition, there is a significant difference in the results of skin tests between normal and itchy birds. Suggested allergens include Aspergillus sp. (a fungus that grows in organic material, such as straw, etc. in wet conditions) and sunflower seeds.

Many things found In homes that are quite harmless to humans have been associated with itchy skin of birds. Vaporized cooking oils, alcohol-based sprays and cigarette smoke can all irritate the skin. The low humidity created by the central heating is also particularly irritating to the rainforest parrots, such as barnacles, which have evolved to do well in more humid environments.

The birds have no handsBut, in the same way that we can rub an area with pain to try to make it feel better, birds will pick up and chew on an area that is pain. And so, chewing a localized area may indicate pain or discomfort in that area. A common syndrome here occurs in cockatoos that chew and damage the feathers on your body usually but often particularly on your abdomen.

Microscopic examination Excrement of these birds sometimes reveals a Giardia infection (a flagellate). Giardia treatment often leads to a resolution of feather pecking. The exact mechanism here is not known, but it is believed that either a toxin produced by Giardia or alternatively direct discomfort caused by the organism in the intestine leads to self-trauma. Chlamydophila infection has also been associated with feather chewing, either due to primary skin changes or internal pain associated with the disease.

Liver disease It can lead to deposition of irritating bile salts on the skin. Poor healed fractures have also been associated with self-trauma. X-ray review, blood profiles, along with the examination and cultures of throat smears and microscopic droppings, as well as specific tests for Chlamydophila are used to gather information.

Poor diets can not only lead A poor quality feathers and dry, flaky skin, but it can also make the skin more vulnerable to secondary infection. Both scenarios result in unhealthy skin that itches. The diet of any bird with feathers of poor quality should always be reviewed. This seems especially true in Eclectus parrots and it is surprising how many of these birds respond simply to improving the diet. Vitamin A, in particular, is the necessary nutrient for the health of the skin and mucous membranes. Vitamin A deficiency should always be suspected in birds whose diet is based on dry seed.

Heavy metal poisoning, more commonly associated with inadvertent lead or ingestion of zinc through chewing new wire or other metal objects, can lead to behavioral changes (along with other problems) that can manifest itself as chewing pen as compulsive.

Skin lesions

Of tumors, feather cysts, xanthomas and wounds that do not heal all can draw the attention of a bird to a particular site, which leads to pecking of the feathers.

Some birds before From reproduction, for example, some cockatoos, pluck their feathers to align nesting records.

Feathering Poor and feather loss It may be secondary to some hormonal problems, such as hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid function) and Addison's disease (decreased formation of corticosterone by the adrenal gland). Although it is not a direct cause of feather pecking, they can predispose the bird to secondary problems and cause low-grade itching.

The diagnosis of a medical cause Behind pecking feathers can take a long time and sometimes expensive. As veterinarians, we often face the challenge of providing an accurate diagnosis within the given financial constraints. Veterinarians strive to get to the bottom of the problem without having to spend money from the client on tests that are unnecessary, but at the same time, it is important that the bird's health is not put at risk through an unidentified problem. Usually, however, the combination of a bird owner in question and an acute bird veterinarian will identify any current medical problems.

V physics Psychological

Self-mutilation It can be a physical or psychological problem. If the clinical examination of the birds and the diagnostic tests fail to identify a health problem, then through a diagnosis of exclusion of a psychological problem it becomes more likely.

Parrots are smart birdsnaturally active that with insufficient input for their sensory pathways simply go ‘restless’. In the same way that a lonely bored working dog confined to a suburban yard will begin to exhibit abnormal behavior, such as barking excessively, being aggressive or destroying objects, parrots will announce through the same frustrations mutilate themselves.

In nature, parrots spend a lot of time with their parents and in some species (for example, the galah) nursery groups are formed. This social structure tends to educate growing birds and reinforce correct behavior. Birds raised in isolation from an early age are vulnerable to developing a series of aberrant behaviors, including plucking the feather. The identification and management of plucking the psychological pen is involved and challenging, and will be only briefly touched here.

Psychological self-mutilation It usually occurs either as a result of boredom, sexual frustration or anxiety.

free flying parrots live in a three-dimensional world full of color and activity. The parrot owner must imitate this as closely as possible through enriching the bird's environment. The type of cage, the location of the cage and the supply of interesting food and toys are relevant here.

Sexual frustration

Many loose parrots travel with his partner in small itinerant bands. Therefore they have a natural need for company. In captivity, companion birds often develop what they perceive as a "twin" relationship with their primary caregiver. This is obviously inadequate as no human being can fulfill that function. Fostering such a relationship leads to an unrequited love situation and simply serves to further confusion and mental frustration of the bird. The right role for an owner to adopt is that of a friend, not a partner. The pet bird should see its primary caregiver as a benevolent leader. Interestingly, it is believed that the fatty seeds provided in some commercial diets may contain estrogen precursors and may somehow act as aphrodisiacs, which further aggravates the situation.

Overcrowding near the house of an unsupported species of excessive noise or disturbance, etc., etc., everything can be a source of anxiety. The evaluation needs a careful review of the management of a bird and the environment.

No matter what the cause of pen pluckingThe earlier it was identified and corrected, the better the possibility of a successful outcome. As always, your local avian veterinarian is the best person to consult for advice.

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Keys to prevent your parrot from plucking feathers

If you have a parrot with symptoms of itching, go to the vet as soon as possible for a general review, is the only way to know exactly why he does it.

Depending on the diagnosis, the veterinarian recommend a specific treatment to end the parrot's bite, but among the most common we can highlight:

  • Take the parrot out of the cage every day. Remember that the cage has to be large enough to be comfortable. Giving him a friend of his own kind helps a lot to combat the feeling of loneliness. Of course, the conditions of hygiene, both of the animal and its cage, have to be optimal.
  • Examine the parrot's environment for possible external factors that could be altering its well-being. If possible, change the cage.
  • If you have parasites, you should spray the antiparasitic treatment to be prescribed by the veterinarian, always under his supervision and advice.
  • In the case of a bacterial or fungal disease, the most appropriate treatment.
  • Check your diet, in case there were any nutritional deficits. Remember that a parrot's diet is mainly based on feed, fruits and vegetables supplemented with seeds.

The sooner the reason for the itching is detected, the easier it will be to solve before serious injuries are made.

Tips to avoid the bite of parrots

You know why parrots pluck their feathers, there are many different reasons. Some of them, such as hormonal deficits cannot be easily avoided. But we can try to make the health of our parrot the best possible, as well as its diet. In this way, you will have everything you need, you will live calmly and happily and the probability of plucking the feathers will be much lower.

If you want to do everything possible so that your parrot does not pluck the feathers, follow these tips:

  • Don't let him get bored. Provide toys for you to entertain and periodically change your location.
  • Search for the most appropriate diet, that is complete and balanced. Consult your veterinarian if you need help.
  • Try to eliminate from your environment external factors that could stress you, such as tobacco or kitchen smoke.
  • Spend time with him, talk to him, socialize. Don't let him feel alone Or end up suffering anxiety.
  • Ask your veterinarian about the options and periodicity of deworming most suitable for your parrot.

Following these recommendations, we are sure that your parrot will live happily and calmly, without behavioral problems such as itching.

Why does my parrot pluck the feathers?

The fact that a parrot plucks its feathers too It is known by the name of itching and is an abnormal behavior that should not be confused with the times of molt.

The parrots have not established a certain period of molt but this is characterized by the loss of plumage that does NOT leave bare skin areasOn the other hand, if we observe in our parrot body areas completely devoid of feathers and, sometimes, accompanied by injuries, then we are facing a clear case of intentional plucking.

Itching can occur due to different factors, although the most common is the psychological one, which also has an important relapse rate and requires complex treatment. Let's see below the Causes whereby a parrot plucks its feathers:

  • Stress: The parrot may be stressed due to lack of attention, insufficient hygiene in its cage or being in a little roomy cage, lack of stimulation and boredom, feeling of loneliness and abandonment and even in sensitive parrots stress can be caused by home conflicts.
  • Malnutrition: next to stress is another of the main causes. If the parrot feeds only on the basis of seeds, it suffers dry skin, which leads to excessive cleaning that can lead to the habit of plucking.
  • Environmental factors: Moisture, tobacco smoke or kitchen smoke can alter the animal and cause this behavior.
  • External parasites: Mites and lice cause irritation on the skin of the animal that plucks the feathers in an attempt to relieve symptoms.
  • Dermatological infections: a bacterial or fungal infection located at the topical level can cause itching and inflammation, to which the parrot responds by plucking the feathers in an attempt to calm the symptoms.

Other causes that can make a parrot pluck the feathers:

  • Hormone deficit
  • Sexual frustration at not being able to conclude the procession.
  • Skin disorders: bruises, cysts or broken feathers.
  • Bacterial diseases.

As we have seen, there are many causes that can cause the sting in a parrot, so it will be essential to establish what factor is causing the problem. We also recommend consulting the article on "Most common diseases of parrots".

What to do if my parrot plucks the feathers?

If we observe a behavior of itching in the parrot the first thing we should do is take it to the vet for a complete exam. This is absolutely necessary to be able to rule out or verify the presence of any underlying pathology that was causing this disorder.

The veterinarian is the only person trained to indicate a specific treatment against itching, however, depending on the cause of the problem, we can highlight the following treatment options:

  • To control stress we must take our parrot out of the cage daily, as well as ensure that different toys are available. The parrot will also need a cage sufficiently wide and that meets some optimal hygiene conditions. In some cases it may be useful for the parrot to live with another animal of its kind to avoid the emotions of loneliness. It is useful to bathe it frequently, as this will reject contact with your feathers and will not tear them away.
  • We must check those environmental factors that could be affecting the parrot, such as smoke from the kitchen, and change the cage to improve its closest environment.
  • In the case of external parasites we must periodically spray the parrot with a antiparasitic product, always under veterinary supervision and strictly following the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • If what causes the itching is a bacterial disease or a skin infection, it will be necessary to follow a antibiotic or antifungal treatment which the veterinarian should always prescribe.
  • It will be necessary to check the feeding. To correct any nutritional deficit we must provide our parrot with a diet based mainly on fruit, vegetables and dry feed, also providing dried or sprouted seeds. Do not miss our articles with the "Fruits and vegetables for parrots".

If we take into account the main factor that is causing the intentional plucking in our parrot and apply the corresponding advice, we can solve this problem before a serious injury occurs.

How to prevent my parrot from plucking the feathers?

Prevent a parrot from plucking feathers it is not always possible, since as we have seen this behavior can be caused by a hormonal deficit or bacterial infection. However, it is possible to try to ensure that our pet's health status is optimal, that his immune system is competent and avoid any factor that could be stressful.

If you want to prevent your parrot from plucking the feathers it will be very useful to follow the following tips:

  • You must provide your parrot with enough toys and periodically change their location
  • The diet of your pet should be complete and balanced, consult with your veterinarian if it would be appropriate to administer any nutritional supplement in certain times or circumstances
  • It is important that you eliminate from the environment the factors that can be stressful for your parrot
  • Your parrot may suffer stress if it does not receive the enough attention on your part so it is important that you spend time with him
  • Ask your veterinarian what are the most suitable products to deworm your parrot, how you should apply them and how often

Take these preventive measures It will help your pet to enjoy a better quality of life.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to My parrot plucks the feathers - Causes and solutions, we recommend you go to our Other health problems section.

The history of the animal and the itching

The history of the animal can tell a lot about why our parrot plucks its feathers, the origin is important and It has been seen that these pets that have been captured in their habitat are more prone to bite problems.

Although today is very regulated, still can be purchased parrots captured from nature without our knowledge, since the documentation is falsifiedTherefore, we must always Look for reliable breeders.

Parrots that come from protective or are given for adoption, are also more prone to itchingAlthough it is a great option to give these animals a home, the ideal is for those owners who have experience with these pets.

The parenting method also influences: parrots can be raised by hand from the beginning, or raised by parents. We can also choose to handle them, to a greater or lesser extent, to habituate them to people.

Like primates, parrots establish important bonds in the juvenile stage and need to learn many behaviors from other specimens. Therefore, again responsible breeders should be sought, since poorly socialized parrots are more prone to stinging.

The itching and emotional intelligence

One of the main causes of itching is behavior problems, depression in parrots exists and can be one of the main reasons that lead to itching. And this behavior is quite effective to get our attention.

Once our parrots realize that they can get our attention by plucking the feathers, they do it more frequently, so some professionals recommend ignoring it, but not before proceeding with an appropriate treatment for the underlying cause of the itching.

This wake-up call can be for loneliness, many parrots spend long periods of time without company and resort to these behaviors. That is why the company of other parrots or the use of environmental enrichment can mitigate the problem, since the lack of mental stimulation or the absence of browsing is also related to the itching.

But calling the attention of their owners is not the only behavioral cause of itching: compulsive disorders, overdependence with the owner or even phobias can trigger self-mutilation problems. Therefore, one of the main treatments is training by operant conditioning and other techniques.

Management and habitat problems, causes of itching

The management and habitat conditions of these animals are vital to know why a parrot plucks its feathers, we must review the main questions before having a parrot as a pet, because the complicated demands of these birds in captivity and not complying with them is behind many cases of itching.

Nutritional problems or underlying diseases can influence when our parrot plucks the feathers, and will be one of the first things that our veterinarian must discard to reach a definitive diagnosis.

Thus, improper diet, air quality, sun exposure, physical exercise volume, sexual or hormonal overstimulation, can be some causes of the itching process. Another of the great reasons why parrots can remove feathers is the presence of parasites or compounds that cause allergies.

Although there are pharmacological treatments to try to treat itching, it has been seen that they do not always work, so the most effective is to tackle all animal management problems and improve their quality of life, which highlights the important needs and demands of these birds in captivity.

Graduated in Veterinary by University of Leon (2018). Specialization in Biology and Primate Behavior (Wildlife Biology) by the Girona University.

He has participated in different courses and conferences:

  • XVIII AVAFES-Zaragoza Conference on Primatology of the Association AVAFES-Zaragoza (2014-2015).
  • VI Cycle of Conferences of the Exotic and Wild Fauna of the Association AVAFES-León (2014-2015).
  • International Days of Wildlife Pathology organized by the AVAFES León Association (May 2016).
  • X Theoretical-Practical Course of Primatology: the Communication in Primates at Rainfer Primate Rescue Center (April, 2017).
  • III Course of Hurones Clinic of the AVAFES-León Association (2014-2015).
  • Course "Biodiversity Crisis, conservation and threatened species ”of La Jurbial Environmental Services and University of León.
  • Course "Wildlife Animal Welfare in Captivity”Organized by Avafes León (February 2017).
  • MOOC course of “Environmental Challenges in a changing world" of the university of Navarra (December 2016).
  • MOOC course of “Cognition and canine emotion" of the Duke University (February 2017).
  • MOOC course of “Introduction to Conservation" from United for Wildlife (2015).

Eugenio Fernández Suárez is veterinarian with experience in wildlife management and with special emphasis on primates. He has collaborated with various sanctuaries and reception centers of fauna in Spain, and has special interest in the animal behavior, animal welfare and both scientific and environmental dissemination, through various projects. Volunteer inThe Forest Zoo (Oviedo).

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