Parrot Care - Treating and Preventing Feather Picking

Feather picking is a condition that has no easy and quick solutions, as it is a disease caused by stress and other psychological factors. The first thing you can do is purchase a collar or certain acrylics that you can adjust to fit the bird’s neck. Thus you can prevent the bird’s beak from reaching its feathers. So , by using the special collars, you manage to stop the bird from touching any of the feathers and mutilate itself, but what is there to be done to treat the causes that made the bird take on such an obsessive behavior.

As a matter of fact collars can be a real stress themselves to a caged bird, and should be used only in extreme cases, as a last resort for birds that mutilate themselves up to hemorrhage. On the other hand, collars prevent normal feather maintenance by preening, causing another stress to the bird.

Should you have eliminated the medical causes of feather picking, think about other things, like the boredom of a bird when it is kept in a solitary confinement of a house. The owner must make some changes both in his and his bird’s behavior. People should then spend more time with the pet to keep the bird busy and not resort to feather picking habits.

A good idea would be to move the bird’s cage in another more suitable location in the house, depending upon the personality of the bird. As an example, should you own a shy and suspicious African grey parrot, the perfect location for its cage would be in a private and quiet area of the home, rather than in a noisy one. Should you own an umbrella cockatoo, which is a very docile and affectionate pet, you must never leave its cage in a solitary location, as it may start feather picking. The best thing for it would be in a public area of the house. Last but not least, if you are keeping a parrot that has begun feather picking in a small cage, you might want to consider moving it to a larger cage, so that it can benefit from a more spacious living space. It might give up this mutilating habit.

If a feather picker has its feathers wet, it will start normal preening activities, so bath them daily. The parrot will have no time to chew on the feathers or pull them out if he is kept busy to preen its plumage.

Some of the birds that engage in feather picking may not rest enough and a good idea would be to move it to a more quiet part of the house, or to cover the cage at night, thus providing a period of total privacy and freedom. You can also eliminate the sensation of living in a „fish bowl” all the time.

You can fight boredom on a parrot that keeps picking its feathers by feeding it a great variety of foods, especially foods like non-shelled walnuts and other nuts, string beans, snow peas, macaroni and cheese, that take more time and effort to eat. A good idea is to give the parrots foods of different colors, shapes, sizes and textures, meaning fun food, so that the bird can enjoy chewing them. By increasing the time for eating, the free time that could be used for feather picking is being decreased.

A bird lover should provide his pet with numerous toys to play with in the cage. Toys like chains, bells, rawhide and hardwood pieces, mirrors, hard rubber toys must be suitable to the bird’s size and type. In a widest variety and assortment possible, toys stimulate the bird, as well as keep it busy. Thus, it won’t get bored anymore and won’t engage in feather picking activities. Give the bird natural objects that it can investigate. The parrot can chew up or tear apart branches from nontoxic trees, with leaves (eucalyptus) and large pine cones, as some of them have destructive tendencies every now and then. Clear the toys of insecticide and herbicide residues. Objects like large ropes to climb on, large paper bags, and cardboard boxes with holes make the bird engage in full physical activities. Also use appliances like radio, tape recorder, television, as the parrot has many other senses that need to be stimulated.

A busy parrot cannot become a feather picking parrot, so keep its entire attention by providing diverting activities and different kinds of toys. Thus, it will spend less and less time practicing its dangerous vice.