Feather plucking can cause physical damage, especially if this behaviour isn’t resolved. To prevent this, you need to recognize the difference between preening and plucking. Preening is important as that is when the birds remove dirt, spread oil and adjust feather position as well as removing loose or unwanted/damaged feathers. Plucking is a destructive behaviour where the bird actively pulls out their feathers, which can damage the feather follicles and cause long-term damage.
There are many reasons why birds start plucking, here is a list of some of the reasons:
- Egg laying: We have one Conure that does it every time she has a clutch of eggs (2 times a year). Her whole breast is totally naked. The rest of the body, she doesn’t pluck at all. As soon as the chicks are removed, we start hand rearing them, she stops the plucking. The reason for this kind of plucking is because she is so intelligent that she knows the feathers work as an insulation and by plucking them she can get more warmth to the eggs. However, without plucking she would still be able to hatch them as do our other pairs. It’s just something she does.
- Boredom and lack of exercise is a very common reason. So is the lack of playtime and/or sexual frustration. Move the toys around or install some new toys to the cage. Cotton rope is always welcomed as it can be used to pluck and preen. Keep the cage in the same room your family spend most of its time. Doing so the bird will feel more like one of you. Foraging tasks are extremely effective and studies have shown that these types of activities reduce feather plucking.
- Underlying health problem. This can be hard to see as it can be an irritation caused by allergies or other underlying condition. Infections, hypothyroidism and anxiety can also cause them to overdue their self-care and soothing.
- Environment, such as heat, noise, humidity, disturbance and stress. If the bird doesn’t like to go under the shower or tap, use spray bottle to spray over the whole body every day. Lack of sunlight, which can be fixed by installing a UV lamp above the cage. Please note that situating the cage near window is not a good idea. It can cause too much fluctuation in heat plus the UV light from the sun does not get through a glass
- Nutrition is very important to your birds health. Malnutrition can lead to plucking so mixture of high quality seed mix with fresh fruits and vegetables is important. Calcium and other minerals and vitamins need to be part of the diet. Water should be changed daily.
How to stop plucking?
There is no simple answer to this question. In worst case scenario you might have to visit an avian vet to find out if it’s a behavioural problem or some underlying medical issue.
Before you make a visit to the vet, have a proper look at the things we mention above as small changes in regards to toys, more variety of fresh food and calcium, spray bottle or minimizing the stress can solve the problem. Spend more time playing with your bird. Talk to it. Interact. It might just be you that is going to be the problem solver and stop this sad behaviour that feather plucking is.