View Full Version : Feather plucking
I have a pair of Hahn's Macaws which I have had for about a year. I got them from a person who did not look after them. They were covered up all the time and fed on Wild Garden bird food (sunflower seeds). The woman said "this is all they eat". They had no toys except for a very rusty bell that was gross. I didn't argue in case she did not let me have them.
I took them to an avian vet who did all sorts of tests and concluded that they were underweight, under nourished and lonely!! They also had a poor white blood cell count.
I have had them on a diet of Harrisons and Zupreem fruit blend with a daily dose of fruit and veg. They have gained weight and are fine. The only problem is 4 yr old "Oscar" (who we think is a female) was very badly plucked. We have tried all sorts of toys designed to help combat a bad habit. None have worked. The vet says the only thing left is to try one of those collars but if it's a deep habit, it will only come back after causing god nows how much stress.
They come out of their cage quite a lot and often chose to stay in when the door is open. Oscar will sit on my hand and run all around the floor, climbing on and in everything. He chatters and shouts when you leave the room.
Jimmy (no date on ring) is very, very jumpy and will cling to the highest point in the room when out. He will occasionally take some food from my hand but it takes him a while. He wont sit on me and gets very stressed if you approach him while he is out.
Has anyone got any ideas left to try regarding the plucking??
Many thanks in advance
05-18-2003, 08:04 PM
First, welcome here! Oh, that's so great that you got the two Hahn's and that they now have a good home! Thats' so sad about how they were kept before. :( I have a blue-crowned conure, Mortie, who was kept similarly before I got him- small cage, bad toys, two perches, and fed only sunflower seeds. He also wasn't used to knew people at all. And, he plucks- like crazy. Right now he only has head feathers, tail feathers, and wing feathers. I've had him nearly a year and been working on the plucking as well, but no luck so far except for a few feathers here and there coming in. Sometimes though the feather follicles become damaged and won't regrow, which I think is what's happened to Mortie on his chest. Hopefully Oscar is luckier though! Well, here's some things I've been trying with Mortie so far:
1) more baths- very important!
2) better diet- lots of fruits, veggies, people food, and pellets (sunflower seeds usually make it harder for them to handle stress, thus they're more likely to pluck)
3) I haven't tried this yet, but get "My Parrot My Friend" and there's a program called PRPT (or somethign like that) that supposedly has helped some parrots stop plucking. I'm about to start trying it myself, so I'll let you know what happens!
4) More things to do! I take Mortie outside with me alot, which he loves. The real sunlight is also very good for them. I also have given him more toys, and he's slowly learning how to amuse himself. Have you tried threading newspaper through the bars of his cage? Mortie goes crazy over it and really enjoys shredding it all up!
5) I haven't yet tried this either, but red palm oil given daily has helped at least some african greys quit plucking, and as soon as I find a store that sells it I'm going to try it!
6) Vet check-ups. YOu've already done that, so I guess that doesn't really help!
7) I don't know about where you live, but in the U.S. there's quite a few parrot behavior consultants who can give you great advice on feather plucking and how to get your bird to stop. If you could find someone like that though, it could be really helpful.
8) Collars- I haven't wanted to use those yet because I don't really like them except for if a parrot mutilates itself. I think that if I put Mortie in a collar, as soon as it was off he'd pull his feathers rigth out again. I don't know how helpful they really are in the long run.
I've tried some other stuff, but can't think of it right now. It's very hard to stop feather plucking especially in cases like this, so all I can say is that I hope Oscar stops, and if he does, tell me how you got him to quit! ;) The very best thing though is that Oscar is a happy bird, which it sounds like he is! (having feathers and being happy is the very best, though!)
05-19-2003, 01:56 PM
Welcome to the post Stef. I am so sorry this all has happened to your birds. But am also very happy, they have you! Thank God for you! I see you are doing everything you can. But maybe sour Apple sprayed on them might give relief and maybe will help on the plucking. But I have also read,that they become addicted to this behavior. Its something that may never break the habbit from. I would say its just like when people pull their hair. ( habbit forming ) This is really a hard question. I am sorry they did this. Poor birds. They have you and all you can do is keep them busy and keep feeding them what you are. Its great that you are there for them. Good Luck! Gail
05-19-2003, 04:37 PM
Take them to an avain vet and stop the behavior.
Befor it gets worse.
05-19-2003, 04:58 PM
...if only it were that simple... I'm sure that Oscar has been plucking for over a year, so it's a definite habit by now and is even harder to break.
As first post..."The vet says the only thing left is to try one of those collars but if it's a deep habit, it will only come back after causing god nows how much stress"
...knowing this, I am reluctant to take Oscar to the vet as the collar is not going to solve it. They said he would have to stay overnight as it would be too stressful for us to see him because they try desperately to get it off and wear themselves out. I suppose as long as I know it's not through illness or anything I have caused, then I feel better. It's so difficult to know what's best.
I am showering him daily (as he loves it) which I have never done before and will try the sour apple spray. I have printed out the replies above and will try each of the different suggestions. We made a lot of new toys using some fine rope and baby sorting buttons which keep them amused and also bought some leather squares which are attached around the cage on keyfobs which also gives them opportunity for a good old chew.
Many thanks for reading my post and taking the time to reply. It all helps and also different things work for different people. I have spent hours reading through the posts on this site and they are brilliant, some sad
05-20-2003, 10:22 AM
I was thinking about your question and came up with another question. Do you ever give them a bath or spray them with warm water to get them wet. If you don't then the plucking could be caused by dry skin. Birds should be sprayed every day and/or given a bath every other day. My mother's goffin (Angel) has a slight plucking problem that has gotten a lot better now that I have been giving her a bath every other day. My mother sprays her every morning, however Angel does not like that very much. I use very warm water and the bathtub to bath Angel. Warmer than room temperature, but not too hot either.
05-20-2003, 10:42 AM
I have a goffins cockatoo who plucked her chest feathers. Upon taking her to vet - the vet suggested a collar which was put on her that visit and Angel came home with us immediately.
Yes, it was too stressful for me to watch the struggle put up by Angel to remove this intruding device. It was made from x-ray film and staples were used to hold it closed. Medical tape was put over the stapled area. However, as the tape was pulled and tugged by the bird - the staples were exposed and seemed to me to be a hazard.
Angel chewed pieces of the x-ray material off the collar and I am still not sure if she swallowed them or what. X-ray material has silver in it which is harmful if ingested.
You may have guessed by now, within half an hour or so of returning home - my son & I removed the collar. It just stressed Angel out more and seemed to cause more problems then it solved. Angel could not step on or off her perches as collar got in the way.
Since, I make sure Angel gets a bath or misted daily, watch the diet, make sure there are more then enough toys to occupy her and am paying her some extra attention. Make sure you don't have lotion and such on your hands when handling your bird - as it can rub off on the bird and cause the plucking. Also, I read somewhere that peanuts can cause some parrots to pluck (know that sounds crazy - but). I used an over the counter spray (petstore) on Angel - she plucked her entire body to remove the product - so be careful!
Angel loves to shred things - so I weave newspaper or paper towels thru bars of cage / someone here mentioned using plain white paper plates. Someone else suggested hanging a roll of adding machine paper and weaving this thru bars of cage. I was also told that birds should get 12 hours of sleep - so I try to cover their cages around the same time each evening in order they get enough sleep and rest.
Hope this helps! Let us know how things are going.
05-20-2003, 11:05 AM
Wow how sad Diane. This is an awful habit they get. I feel for you both! Diane had some very good idea's. I hope this helps your birds. But you are right some pluck some don't. Its the way your bird will be and lots of love will be great. Like you said, this is his personality. Stress is awful. I hope for all of you, that have plucking birds can get through this somehow. I feel for all of you!
I will definitely give the collar idea a miss then.
I also tried an over the counter spray but this has had no effect so I binned it.
I have bought many different toys for plucking birds that they can pull strands of rope through small holes and you can put little treats in there too. These seem to occupy them some and the toys where they turn a wheel with their beaks to get to the goodies. They love chewing paper and often get underneath it and shout my daughter Jade as she plays peek-a-boo with them!! Or Oscar will shout 'want some' when he wants to come out and eat my dinner!! He is a little monkey.
As for bathing, I tried twice a week with little success but do spray them both with a warm misting bottle every evening.. they hate it. I'm pretty sure they were sprayed as a punishment when they were with 'the bad people' so I think this is why they get mega stressed. I have started to shower Oscar every night and Jimmy around twice a week as he finds lots of things very stressful.
Thanks for the great messages, they are a brilliant help.
dsimko...does Angel still pluck (is it Diane?)
I am going away or 2 weeks this weekend so I am not ignoring any replies that may come my way
Thanks again, I'm so glad I found this. (I will take some photos and post them up soon)
05-20-2003, 02:47 PM
It is hard to tell if Angel is still plucking - there are a few little tufts of white on the area she plucked. I see Angel playing more with toys and interacting with us more. Then again, I am putting more effort with moving things around in her cage , different toys, and baths are no longer a question. I was lax with Angel's baths as it seemed to stress her so much - but then Angel plucked more - so a bath or a mist daily. It is kind of like caring for a two yr old.
Angel plucked a feather and sqwacked when I was holding her the other night. I immediately returned her to her cage and ignored her for a while. Trying to remember not to over compensate with attention or she will then pluck when she wants more attention - they are that smart!
In her defense though - I think I had put hand cream on a little before I picked her up - so this might have irritated her. Angel is the most super sensitive of our four birds. Also, read somewhere about someone eating potato chips and petting the bird on his shoulder - the oil/salt caused the bird to pluck out where the oil rubbed off on it's feathers.
All in all, it looks as if there is improvement. She seems more energetic and is picking up off other birds how to get our attention and let us know in an acceptable way when she wants to be out of her cage. etc.
Yes, the d stands for Diane. I always have a hard time when a site asks for a "nickname" and after struggling to choose one being told it is in use........so that is why the unimaginative signiture.
Hope this has helped - it was only about two weeks ago that I signed on to this site asking for help. I have learned a lot!
Feel free to write with any ?s you have and keep in touch and let us know how the birds are doing. By the way who will care for your birds while you are away? Have a nice vacation.
Diane (sorry if this is long)
05-20-2003, 02:52 PM
Just wanted to let you know I loved Oscar's photos. I think he is a beauty. Keep up your good work in helping him get over his feather picking. He is worth the effort.
That sounds promising about Angel then... hope it all goes well. It is stressful as an owner to experience this but as long as we know we're doing our best and giving them love, that is enough.
I have a friend who is willing to look after Oscar & Jimmy. She is very caring although I will get her to keep them caged while I'm away (does that sound terrible?) as I am so frightened of losing any of them. She has a 5 yr old who adores talking to them when she visits but she was bitten by her childminders parrot and is very wary of touching.
I will be phoning her every day to check on them
05-20-2003, 03:14 PM
Hi Stef - me again,
Just wanted to add one more thing - I went away for 10 days in December and left our birds with neighbors coming in and just feeding the birds and talking to them. Left strick orders to just keep them in cages - as I was also worried and these folks were new to birds.
THIS IS WHEN ANGEL STARTED WITH HER FEATHER PLUCKING. I think that like humans - our birdy flock may feel the need to interact with a human buddy on a daily basis. So, if your pet sitter is used to birds, you may want to allow her to let the birds out for a little while she is there and cuddle them etc. Birds are really used to their routine and I think just like nail biting in humans - they pluck when stressed - which is when something is different in daily routine. Just my thoughts on the matter.
Good luck and have a great vacation.
05-20-2003, 03:19 PM
P.S. I loved the pics of the Hahns (Oscar & Jimmy) Jimmy looks to have the same aura as Angel has.
Thanks Diane...I will have a chat to her about it, maybe she can get them out when her daughter goes to bed. We'll have to see how she is with them tomorrow when she visits. If she isn't too confident, I wont push it. I wasn't sure wether to leave them at home or take them there but I decided they will definitely get lots more company there.
Sorry if I caused any confusion, the pics are both of Oscar, Jimmy was sleeping so I left him be. Will get one of him as soon as, and post it in the pics section
05-20-2003, 07:31 PM
I just wanted to post a warning, Steph. I'm all about the bitter sprays to help birds stop picking, but always be VERY wary of the ingredients. I recommended one product to a friend, which actually made the problem worse, and when I checked the ingredients I found that 98% of this stuff was rubbing alcohol. Ahh! It was called Bitter Apple, and I know that there are other similar products out there just made of pure alcohol, which does terrible things to our little ones feathers. Plus, it's bitter enough for dogs but not birds. If at all possible, try Canopy Scientific's Better Bitters. It's a bird only company, they don't make dog and cat stuff, so you can totally trust it. Good luck! :)
05-20-2003, 11:12 PM
To Stef, the pictures of Oscar are wonderful! Tell him he's a very good-looking, handsome bird! Yeah, I'd definitely try to make a point to get them out of their cages for play time while you're gone, because that's also when Mortie started his plucking. Of course, his bad diet, small cage, and nothing to do played a huge part in it, but he didn't start plucking until his owners left and no one let him out while they were on vacation. What a nightmare- pure alcohol to keep birds from plucking?!?! (What were the manufactureres thinking????)
05-21-2003, 09:05 AM
The Canopy Scientific Better Bitters that you mentioned - is there a web site where one can purchase it? I have not seen it in any pet store in my area.
Thanks for the warning about sprays out there.
Thanks for the warning about the sprays. I am going to shower Jimmy twice a week and Oscar (plucker) daily. He enjoys the shower and it's something I have never done before. I'm hoping that will be enough and make his remaining and new growing feathers more comfortable. I tried a moult ease spray from Canopy Scientific (ingredients are: Purified water, aloe vera, purcellin,shark liver oil and solubilizers??) as it says it has Aloe Vera for the skin. It didn't do anything to help and I'm not sure if he hasn't plucked at them more, to remove the sprayed feathers!
I will see how things go when we are back from our holiday.
Many thanks again for the replies
05-22-2003, 08:44 PM
Canopy's Better Bitters can be bought at http://www.petwarehouse.com
I just found out something even more disturbing. Sometimes the companies will try to disguise the fact that they are using rubbing alcohol by calling it by it's scientific name, which I will have to look up. But, I will post it as soon as I find it. Sometimes I just want to shut these people down, ya know? How could they do that!
05-22-2003, 11:09 PM
Really!!! They're just trying to make money and forgetting about the birds. :mad:
06-20-2003, 12:09 AM
You might want to try GSE in the water with or with out the collar. I have seen remarkable results in some plucking parrots with the addition of GSE in the water. It works if the cause is something like girardia or a low amount of certain bacteria's etc. There is quite a bit of info on the web regarding GSE and avian applications. At the very least it would not be harmful.
From what you were saying about these poor babies and the abyssmal conditions and nutrition they had I would give it a try.
There is also some info 'out there' regarding vitamin a deficiencies and plucking behaviors.
Please check out other options and discussion of options on the web and else where, before resorting to an E-collar. Like you said they are very stressful, and they come with there own set of problems.
I don't know if i could use one on a bird unless it was mutilating itself. I believe they are in fact a LAST RESORT.
Please don't think i am being argumentative or unsuportive of your situation. That is not the case. I am hoping to at least give you some options that you may or may not have thought of.
Good luck with whatever you decide.
ps. Thanks for taking these guys, they truly needed a 'gaurdian angel'. i have 12 birds and all are rescues.
06-23-2003, 11:00 AM
On Friday I took Angel to a "certified Avian Vet" for a check-up.
He feels that these intelligient creatures really should not be kept as pets.
In his opinion, Angel looked like a healthy bird, but advised we do certain tests to see where we stand with her. The "feather and beak disese" and another test (starting with a P) were done via blood sample. It will take 14 days to get back results. Apparently if one of these diseses show up - there is no cure for it and Angel will not have a long life. This upset me greatly at first - but then I thought I need to wait and see what the results are first.
There is one other possibility - and this is that Angel suffers from allergies. So, she also got an injection and some capsules which I need to dissolve one a day into 16Oz. of water and use as her daily drinking water. It is something to help allergy (itching) and a small amount of sedative. Angel rec'd the shot on Friday and it seemed that she did much less if any feather picking - I did not give this special water treatment on Saturday just to see - and observed feather picking. Yesterday, I used the medicated water and it looked as she did much less feather picking. However, if it turns out to be allergies, I still would hesitate to keep her medicated for the rest of her life............?
He also suggested switching her over to a pellet diet. Did not approve of giving her meats (chicken or hamburger) as they do not get this in wild and is therefore not good for them. Wants her to have pellets in morning and a cup of vegetables in evening. I should switch her over completely "cold turkey" and not worry if she doesn't seem to be eating for a day or so - as no healthy bird will starve itself.
Any thoughts on the above will be welcome.
06-23-2003, 12:03 PM
Wow! - I am glad you took them to the DRs. He probably checked for PBFD and polyoma virus with the blood test. I think that is pretty standard anytime there is illness and/or to just get a base line for health on a first visit. Don't worry about it until you get the results.
Pellets probably won't hurt - they still need fresh veggies and if they won't eat those, try steaming them just a little. The change in texture may be enough to get them started. I can't remember what their diet has been. I know it was pretty bad before you took over there care.
You can try soaking the pellets if they refuse them (a couple table spoons of juice, or hot water.
Sorry, i guess i don't buy the pellets only thing. I know they are the best they can be, but some have some terrible ingredients.Try to get organic, if you can.
I would get some sprouts added too, as soon as possible. Especially for a bird with poor nutrition, you just can't beat the wallop that sprouts pack. They are very easy to do also. Mine won't eat any with 'tails' longer than about an inch. This may not be true for yours.
Don't let the vets anti bird as pets stance bother you. Juust give your bird the best environment you can. plenty of good food, bath/showers lots of toys for enrichment,out of cage time and social contact. You will see a big difference.
They are in a much better environment than they were in and you are on the right track.
Keep us posted on your progress. - i'm thinking good thoughts for you and your fids.
06-23-2003, 12:08 PM
oh i forgot one thing. I find the statement that they do not eat meat in the wild a bit curious. I was under the impression that they a 'opportunistic omnivores'. Just check out the road kill!
I don't think it is a steady part of the 'wild' diet. I just give mine a little bone ( i do wash off due to extra fat etc, then let them eat the marrow. i think it is really good from a nutritional stand point.
Just hang in there and don't worry, ok. It takes a while to turn a neglected/abused bird (or any animal for that matter) around.
06-23-2003, 12:16 PM
Wow, what beautiful babys you have. I think they will be okay. You give them lots of love and they look wonderful! Keep up the good work. I love your birds
06-23-2003, 12:20 PM
Sorry! too many birds in this thread for me to keep track of! Angel is the cockatoo right? (They don't call me crazeemama fer nothin')
As fas as the info - it still applies. obviously a bird that feather plucks is stressed. WHether the stress is environmental, or the result of illness... the best nutrition possible will give the system additional support and can cause no harm.
06-23-2003, 01:05 PM
I wasn't intentionally neglecting angel. thought it was good for them to eat meat and things we eat. I am not much on vegetables - so I may not done so well in that dept. However, it would be good for my entire family to get more vegetables - so I intend to improve.
Just what are the "Sprouts" you refer to? I am lost.
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I needed them.
06-23-2003, 01:13 PM
P.S. I forgot to say before that the vet wanted her to pellets during day and a cup of vegatables at night. He advised that a seed diet is not nutritional and perfers pellets. I was given a list of things they should eat and others they should not.
I am owned by:
Angel - the cockatoo
Taz - the Blue & GOld (my son's bird - but they live with us so -
you know how that goes!)
Einstein - a green cheeked conure
Tweety - a parakeet, also belonging to my son (JSimko)
Thanks for your suggestions. Look forward to any others.
06-23-2003, 01:57 PM
Diane - I am certain that you take very good care of Angel. Please don't think i was intentionally inferring otherwise.
At first i was thinking of the Mac's that were mentioned in this thread. i believe their pet human had posted about their rescue from rather dismal circumstances.
But the nutritional info is valid for any bird - to keep them in good health.
Sprouts are nothing but seed/grains/legumes (beans,peas,lentils etc are all considered legumes) that have been soaked in water for a few hours then drained and put in a jar in a dark place .
You will need something that keeps the seed in the jar, but lets air in. A lot of super markets,etc sell a little plastic lid that is sort of a mesh. For fine seed i use 3-4 layers of tulle or a fine netting. (pantyhose remnants would probably work good also.), then a rubberband to hold tight. rinse with clear water a few times a day, drain the water good and set back in the dark until they sprout little green 'tails'. at that point you can rinse in water, drain, dry on a paper towel and put in the fridge to keep a few days. i keep mine in a paper bag in the fridge.
I soak mine in water that contains GFSE to make sure there is no mold/bacteria before giving them to the birds. rinse in clear water after soaking and drain on paper towel, or pat with paper towel to dry off most of the water. In another thread i read that some people are using vinegar and water for the same purpose.
Sprouts are very nutritious with all sorts of vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids and are said to be the most 'potent' when just barely sprouted.
There are many proprietary 'mixes' available,(China Prairie have quite a few and they do have a website)but it is cheaper to go to the health food store and mix your own. tell them you want organic seed for sprouting.
I would start with wheat, buckwheat, alfalfa, lentils, a small bean, peas, radish seed (they are spicy). Just about any vegetable seed can be sprouted as long as it is organic. grains include wheat,buckwheat,rice (not white),etc. I try to have 1 part legumes to 1 part grains, You can even sprout sunflower seeds! Mung beans are very easy to sprout.
if your birds are a bit slow to start eating the mix, try offering some from your hand.
I had to start with only wheat, just barely sprouted.
Once they try it, you can't keep them out of it as a rule.
They don't much care for them if the tail is very long, but here of late i have just been chopping those and they eat them too. you can mix them in with their veggies, put those that are too long in birdy bread, etc.
BTW radish seed sprouted a couple inches are great on sanwiches,omelets and salads. they have a real spicey taste. The
Bi-peds might enjoy them too.
06-23-2003, 02:09 PM
Had anyone tried this product. I have heard goodthings about it and bought a jar the last time i was in Denver, but haven'y used any yet. comments welcome. sorry about the typng,am holding a mac that wants to play gotcha!
06-23-2003, 02:13 PM
I thought you had me confused with another post where they took in two birds - but I do feel bad that my bird is not doing well. So, I really appreciate the info on "Sprouts" and will certainly try that for all the birds. Angel is the only one I am having trouble with...........so it is frustrating!
I will keep you posted.
06-23-2003, 02:15 PM
P.S. I think you are doing great with the typing while a bird is on the back of your hand!
06-23-2003, 04:00 PM
I had initially confused your angel with Stef's two macaws (also mentioned in this thread!) Sorry for the confusion. I seem to spend a great deal of my day in the State of Confusion! lol
Feather plucking can have so many different reasons and probably combinations of reasons! I really feel that many problems for our birds can be lessened or alleviated by really good nutrition. So try the sprouts with Angel and the pellets and veggies, keep us posted. It might take a few months to really see any results so hang in there.
I am curious about the allergy/sedative tablet the vet perscribed. If it works how will you know if it is the sedative that helped or the allergy medicine part?
I will really try to keep the 'right bird' with the 'right person'. No gaurantees tho -lol!
06-24-2003, 09:26 AM
Thanks for the words of encouragement and nutritional advise.
I will keep you posted. Although, I think I will probably start a new post by then to lessen confusion.