Parrots are intelligent and engaging pets that need hours of attention every day. When an emergency leaves your schedule changed for a few weeks and you can't keep such a close eye on your high demand pet, you may come home one evening to find your parrot is missing most or all of its feathers. Play the role of a pet detective to discover why your bird is yanking out its feathers so you can solve the problem and restore their health.
Too Much Cage Time
When considering the four or more hours of play time needed by an active African Gray or conure, you can't just sit next to the cage and occasionally chat with your pet as you watch TV. The parrot needs to get out of the cage and spend time playing on a separate station with your participation. A well-designed parrot playground on a stand can keep the bird busy for hours while you get household chores done, but you still need at least two or three hours of one-on-one time with your pet to keep them entertained.
Taking the bird out of the cage isn't enough if you're not spending any quality time with it. Parrots are social birds, and unless your pet has a cage mate that keeps it company every hour of the day, you need to provide the socialization to keep the bird from feeling lonely and neglected. Many bird owners find an extra hour of full attention every evening is enough to reverse feather picking behaviours.
Infections and Diseases
While most cases of feather plucking arise from problems with the environment, a wide range of diseases can trigger the behaviour due to the pain the bird experiences. These diseases, parasites and infections include
A full panel check-up from a vet is the only way to rule out these and other medical causes of feather mutilation. You can spend hundreds of dollars on new foods and make daily environment changes and see no results if the problem is linked to a serious illness.
Don't forget about nutritional imbalances when trying to cure a picking problem. Poor quality food causes a wide range of behavioural reactions, and even otherwise healthy snacks can lead to issues when the food throws off the nutritional balance of the bird's diet. Thankfully, nutritional problems are easy to correct with the right foods and supplements. Your vet can provide immediate insight into the effects of your parrot's current diet with a couple of blood tests.
Itchy and Dry Skin
Anything that dries out the skin can trigger a sudden picking problem that continues for months or even years. Both air conditioning and heating used in homes dry out the air, causing itchy skin and forcing your parrot to over groom. Allergies to pollen, nuts or even the dander of other pets also cause dry and flaky skin. Give your bird their own humidifier or more trips to the shower, and consider allergen testing from the vet if moisture doesn't help.
Finally, check out the light conditions around the bird's cage. Sudden exposure to bright lights in the middle of the night, as you arrive home or get a midnight snack, can ruin your parrot's attempt to sleep solidly through the night. A lack of bright daylight from a nearby window or reptile lamp also interrupts the healthy moulting and feather-growing cycle that keeps the bird beautiful and happy. It may take a few tries to get the balance of light and dark right for your bird, but the feathers will start growing in quickly after you find the perfect arrangement.
Hi! My name is Lisa Caldwell, and I often refer to myself as the cat lady. My husband isn’t as proud of that title as I am. Oh, he loves our cats. It’s just that every time he says no more cats, it seems I find a poor little kitten stranded in the snow or wandering the streets. We have a nineteen-year-old cat, a twelve-year-old, and three cats under the age of two. Each one has been rescued or came from the local Humane Society. We also have an eighty-five pound dog who thinks he’s one of the cats. I never bring a new kitten into the house and just toss them into the mix. I have a particular method of introducing a new pet into the household. I am going to share how this works, also how we feed and care for new kittens. Enjoy!