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Merck Manual

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Reducing Feather Plucking

Reducing Feather Plucking

Once feather plucking is diagnosed and medical reasons for plucking have been excluded or treated, a few changes in the bird’s environment may aid in reducing the plucking behavior.

  • Make sure the bird receives at least 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark and quiet each day. Covering the cage with a dark blue or black blanket for at least 12 hours will help.

  • Spend time with your bird. Setting a schedule that allows you to interact with your bird at the same time daily may help to reduce anxiety and concurrent feather plucking.

  • It is important that your bird has toys to help occupy free time and distract from plucking. Changing the toys daily or rearranging them within the cage may maintain its interest.

  • Observe your bird when it is plucking. There may be something in its environment that stimulates it to pick. Identifying “triggers” is the first step in decreasing the behavior.

  • Mist or bathe your bird on a regular basis. The amount of bathing needed will vary with the species and its natural habitat. Daily bathing is enjoyed by many rainforest species (such as Amazons and macaws) while weekly may be enough for birds from more arid climates that have powder down (for example, cockatoos and African Grey parrots). Spray or mist with water to lightly coat the plumage or take the bird into the shower with you and allow it to perch on the shower bar or door. Many birds love to preen in the sun and groom their plumage after a bath. Bathing induces normal preening behaviors and deters plucking.

  • New foods may interest your bird and occupy its time. Feed fun things (in moderation) such as rotelle pasta, spray millet, breads, unsweetened cereals, or bean mixes.

  • If your bird picks from a stressful situation, then avoid that situation. For example, some birds do not like to have their plumage stroked but enjoy merely perching on your hand. Let them perch and keep hands away.

  • Additionally, “stroking” birds on the back simulates mating behavior, and although enjoyed by many birds, particularly cockatoos, it can increase hormone levels and therefore can increase behavioral feather plucking.

  • Frequent trips to or consults with your avian veterinarian or avian behaviorist may be necessary for follow-up care. Many treatments are available for reducing feather destructive behaviors and several may need to be tried to find which ones work best for a particular bird.

  • Finally, realize that if you have excluded or treated all medical problems and done your best to correct any environmental, nutritional or social inadequacies in your bird’s environment, that your bird may still pluck some feathers to a minor degree.