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Dear Parrots magazine,

Feather plucking

In the last issue of Parrots magazine I was interested to see a full page of copy concerning feather plucking in psittacines. It properly attributed poor nutrition as one cause for some parrots to self-mutilate. I do think a bit of further clarification is in order, as there are many other causes for feather plucking.

A case study: Recently, I was was dealing with a mature Amazon parrot hen who was picking and shaving her feathers all over her body because of sexual frustration. She had no mate and when I placed a new young (nine month) unrelated male Amazon of the same species with her, she did not like him because of his immaturity. She even dominated him and he was too afraid to attempt to allo-preen or bond. All the hen did was pine after the mature male Amazon in the pair next door. Her feather plucking was habitual for over two years.

This past summer when that young male turned three and began behaving maturely, my unhappy, ragged hen finally took notice and began perching closer and closer to him. As he learned to trust her temper, the two would sleep near each other and finally began to preen each other. Her feathers began to grow in almost immediately. Two months later, Mooners and Tito are happily a pair and I am glad to say her feathers are perfect!

There are many varied reasons for feather plucking. Stress from an unsuitable cage environment, mate plucking mate because of incompatibility, even subclinical or chronic disease. I know of some Eclectus parrots that have been cured of plucking their feathers by taking them off of a perceived nourishing dry pelleted or extruded diet and placing them on a soft food, cooked, and sprouted diet.

Feather plucking is a complicated issue. It needs a thorough analysis to adequately ascertain the root cause(s).

Thank you and be safe everyone.

EB Cravens, by email




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