Parrot plucking

How to help your parrot plucking

  • Try a course of treatment with Ronivet-S. This is a powder that you mix with water and use it as your bird's only water source for seven days.

If you have more than one bird, treat them all! The rest of the birds may have the same illness as the plucker, although they aren't manifesting it by plucking.

Plus, you don't want the seemingly healthy birds to re-infect your plucker. Remember, the bird's feathers may take two months to grow back, so you might have to wait that long for results. If your bird mutilates its skin, you may see results in as little as two weeks, as the skin heals.   

  • Get your bird to a vet to rule out other medical causes. 
  • Next, remove any stressors that came about before or at the time the bird began to pluck. Dogs and cats and unsupervised children can be stressors; being in a cage that is low to the ground can be a stressor, being too isolated is a stressor, etc. 
  • Give the bird a bath every day. It will have to spend some time preening the feathers afterward, which gives it something useful to do with them. 
  • Be sure you are feeding the bird a well balanced diet. Poor nutrition is a stressor that can cause plucking. Almost every bird will benefit from the addition of fresh foods in addition to its seed or pellets. Female birds need a mineral block or cuttle bone or clean eggshell or some other form of calcium. Your bird will live longer and be healthier if you feed it a wider variety of foods. Bird seed alone is not an adequate diet.

Feeding your bird nothing but bird seed is like feeding your kid nothing but pizza. Sure, it's nutritious, but eventually the kid or bird is going to die of organ failure from the horrible diet. Birds need fruits, vegetables, greens, cereals, grains, and other good fresh stuff. (No meat or dairy, except some cooked egg -leave the shells in.)

Be sure to remove fresh food before it spoils. Put a bit of fresh stuff on top of the seed every day. Don't completely cover the top of the seed; you want the bird to know there is seed underneath the fresh stuff. But they will have to at least nudge the fresh stuff aside to get to the seed.

Do this EVERY day. It doesn't matter if they don't eat it; just because your kid doesn't want anything but candy doesn't mean you stop putting good stuff on his plate.

My most stubborn seed addict ate no fresh food for nine months. But every day for nine months I put the fresh stuff on her seed and every day she'd toss it aside, till one day she took a nibble. They always do.

  • The following foods are toxic to birds: Alcohol, Apple seeds, Avocado, Caffeine, and Chocolate. Never feed these foods to your birds.

Some favorite healthy "people foods" are: broccoli, apples, corn, pasta, greens, bread, cheerios, cooked rice (white or brown), popcorn, corn bread, yams, celery. 

  • Give your bird more things to do. Birds are intelligent creatures who need to keep busy. When you are not at home, put the tv on for the bird (mine like the kid's shows on public television; those shows are aimed at intelligent beings with short attention spans, just like birds!). 
  • Give your bird new toys and more toys. Busy beaks are happy beaks. If your bird destroys a toy, consider getting it another of the same toy, so it can destroy it again. That toy was obviously a success! The bird was not plucking while its beak was busy with a toy. 
  • Buy sisal rope at a hardware store and tie lengths of it to the bird's cage. Position it so that the rope dangles down at beak level near the bird's favorite perch. Sisal is a natural, tough fiber that the bird can gnaw on all day. If the rope gets too frayed, replace it. It's a cheap and useful toy. 
  • Buy a cheap feather duster. Do not get one that has been treated with some chemical to make the feathers pick up extra dirt. Wash the feather duster well if you have any doubts. Hang the feather duster in the bird's cage near its favorite perch so that the feathers are at beak level. If you can't fit the feather duster inside the cage, hang it on the outside and let the feathers poke enticingly through the bars. If your bird is going to chew feathers, let it chew someone else's feathers. 
  • Along the same lines, some companies sell bird toys made with feathers. Get one of these if you don't have a feather duster in the cage. 
  • Whenever you see your plucker engaged in some healthy activity such as playing with toys or bathing, praise him/her. Let the bird know you approve heartily of such activities. Do not try to punish the plucking behavior; you may damage your relationship with the bird and make the plucking worse. 
  • There is a spray called "Bitter Apple" sold in some pet supply stores. You spray the stuff on your bird's feathers and it makes them taste bitter. The spray does not harm your bird. It works in some cases to deter the bird from plucking. 
  • If your bird is alone all day, it may need a companion bird. The companion bird can be of either sex. If the birds do not know each other, you will have to start them off in separate cages side by side until they get to know each other. 
  • Antidepressant medicine is often successful in helping humans combat obsessive-compulsive behavior. It is also helpful in some cases to combat plucking and self-mutilation in birds. If your bird is damaging its skin, the plucking is severe enough to be a health risk. Consult your vet about antidepressants for your bird. You may not wish your bird to be on psychotropic medication, but if your bird needs medicine, get it medicine! 
  • There is something called an "Elizabethan Collar" which physically prevents the bird from getting to its feathers. Your bird will be unhappy if you put one of these things on it. The collar itself is stressful to the bird. However, if your bird is mutilating its skin, the plucking is a health risk. A collar may be necessary if the bird is mutilating. I would try everything else before a collar, though. 
  • If your efforts don't stop the plucking but do make it less, consider that a success! A bird who goes from self-mutilation to mere plucking is a success story. A bird who goes from being naked to being scruffy-feathered is a success story. Love your bird and don't feel guilty if you can't stop the plucking completely. 
  • When something works, even a little bit, KEEP DOING IT! Persist! You can't just change things one time and expect plucking to go away forever. Ask any recovering alcoholic if addictions go away: they don't. Your bird is a recovering plucker; it needs you to continue to help it for the rest of its life. Don't stop the medication, don't stop changing out the toys, don't stop feeding your bird a varied diet, don't stop giving it baths, don't stop leaving the tv on, and replace that feather duster every time it gets destroyed. 
  • If your bird is helped by a medication such as Ronivet-S, and then later the plucking starts up again, it might mean the bird has picked up a new infection and needs another course of treatment. There is a parasite called giardia, for example, which affects both birds and humans. Some communities consider a certain number of giardia parasites in the drinking water to be "acceptable". The "acceptable" level is too low to affect humans but can kill a bird. So your bird might become reinfected periodically.
    Whenever you find something that helps your bird, do all birds everywhere a favor and notify your vet of your success or partial success. Plucking is not well understood. The more data we can give our vets as to what cures or reduces plucking, the better they can treat the next plucker they see

 Parrots plucking
 Helping parrot plucking