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Feather Picking Parrots: Tips To Manage Feather Plucking

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Tips To Manage Feather Picking in Parrots

Feather Picking Parrot, CookieDo you have a not-so-fine feathered friend? Has your parrot gone bird brained? Seriously, has your beloved pet resorted to feather plucking? 

Feather picking parrots often do so for a variety of reasons and the problem ranges from mild feather picking to devastating self mutilation and biting the skin. Understanding some of the causes of feather picking will help you, as a caregiver, to avoid bad habits that may contribute to the behavior or understand how to change the behavior in your parrot.

We always recommend that you take a bird that picks and plucks to an avian vet to uncover why your bird may be engaging in this behavior.


One of the most often discussed issues for feather picking birds is the fact that they may be malnourished or not receiving the general nutrition that they need to stay healthy. Of course it is usually not done intentionally, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it is difficult to get a bird to eat a proper diet. While you work on getting your bird to accept a healthier diet, bird collar may help prevent feather picking in the meantime.

  • Pellets: When in doubt, trust the experts and use pelleted bird foods. These foods are packed with the exact ingredients your bird needs to be healthy. Specifically Harrison’s Adult Lifetime Bird Food is a good source of essential vitamins and nutrients to keep birds healthy and aid in re-energizing a bird after an illness.
  • Diet: Feed birds nutritious items that are plant-based including fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts along the same line that you would eat. There are a few foods to avoid such as avocodo's, onions and acidic fruits and vegetables, but for the most part, if you can eat it, so can your bird. The most important aspect of any diet for a parrot is its quality. When looking at a dry mix ensure that it is above all a quality mix without fillers or harmful additives. Most quality bird feed mixes should include organic, all-natural and no preservatives added labels. Any feed that includes the words fortified or extra supplements added generally include cheap fillers and can be harmful to your pet, including inducing the habit as a feather picking parrot.
  • Moderation: Provide a balanced diet, preventing over eating in certain areas. Also be aware of any toxic foods for your specific bird. To specifically combat feather destructive behaviors avoid feeding your parrot items that are high in sodium, carbohydrates and sugar in order to reduce the nesting behaviors of your bird. Providing a dietary supplement such as Releaves, a certified organic product can also help until you manage a proper dietary switch.

Dr. Freud is In

One common aspect that many owners forget is the psycho-analytical aspect of feather plucking parrots. See below for some behaviors to encourage and avoid:

  • Love from afar: Sometimes the best aspects of owning a pet is being able to love it, cuddle it and pet it whenever you yourself need a quick pick me up in morale. Unfortunately with parrots this can often lead to promoting the nesting and feather picking behaviors that you are trying to avoid. Learn how to pet a bird.
  • Entertain: Encourage more active play and inclusion in your family’s activities to help prevent boredom. Sometimes it may seem like you are helping, by giving them a favorite toy or a mirror but these also can promote the undesired destructive behavior.
  • Challenge: Increase foraging opportunities for your favorite parrot. Captive birds often do not have the same foraging opportunities available as wild parrots do and the boredom plus easily available food is replaced with destructive feather plucking. Providing food in foraging bird toys may also help reduce feather plucking by giving your bird something to do throughout the day.

Other Causes

There are several other causes that could be causing your bird to pluck its feathers, including:

  • Sexual Frustration: Besides providing a mate for your parrot there are many other easy and safe things you can do to curb hormonal behavior. Birds need adequate sleep, sometimes at least 12 hours’ worth. If you thought a hormonal bird was bad, try a tired hormonal bird. Keep the cage in a room that can be easily darkened and is free of noises and other distractions, covering the cage is also a good idea. Hormonal birds want to nest, they will rip up anything and everything that they can in order to create a soft, warm nest for their mate and potential kiddos. To nip this behavior in the bud, don’t provide anything that can be construed as a nesting box to your bird, and don’t give it anything that can be ripped up into soft nesting material. Once you have these two habits down, the rest is easy. Make sure your bird is getting plenty of exercise, has frequent showers, and has plenty of toys to occupy its time!
  • Skin Problems: Topical skin irritants, allergies, parasites, systemic illness and bacterial or fungal folliculitis.

If you have been diligent in correcting the psychological and dietary issues and the problem is not resolved you may wish to seek a certified avian veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.

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