Feather Picking can be interpreted as an alarm signal indicating that something is wrong with the bird’s environment.
Unfortunately, the majority of psittacidae enthusiasts (parrots and others) have witnessed this problem occasionally. Feather picking is not a disease in itself, but the external manifestation of many alterations of various origins.
What are the Causes of Feather Picking?
Feather picking of a bird is the plucking of its feathers.
Depending on whether the animal tears off its feathers itself or those of another bird.
Feather Picking is one of the most common behavioral disorders in ornamental birds and can have several causes.
Ornamental birds are intelligent animals with pronounced social behavior.
They therefore need to be in contact with other birds of the same species. In an isolated individual habitat without social contact, the bird quickly begins to get bored.
This can result in it strengthening its cleaning instinct in order to take care of itself. If this condition persists longer, the increased cleaning instinct can turn into a cleaning compulsion. The bird cleans up and begins to pluck the feathers.
But it is not only individual breeding that can cause Feather Picking in birds.
Constellations of unfavorable couples, for example same-sex couples, animals of a foreign nature as well as the combination of a sexually mature animal with a young animal which is not yet sexually mature, can also cause stress in the bird and thus lead to Feather Picking.
Other causes of Feather Picking with the bird are for example: a cage that is too small, lack of activity, lack of environmental influences, too little exercise, bad climate with dry air, overweight or obesity, too close a link between humans and animals, excessive changes in the environment, for example constantly changing the location of the cage.
In addition to the factors listed, there are other non-psychological causes of Feather Picking in birds, such as bacterial infections, fungal infections, or allergies.
How does Feather Picking manifest?
Feather Picking in the bird manifests itself through nibbled, folded, torn feathers and bare spots in the feathering. Often broken feathers are also visible.
In addition to the wings and feathers of the tail, it is mainly the areas of the belly, chest and legs that are affected. As in most cases where the bird plucks its own feathers, the feathers around the head are intact.
It is only after being plucked by another bird that baldness can appear on the head.
A side effect of Feather Picking in the bird is a small skin lesion, which can also bleed. If pathogens get into the skin through open areas, skin infections can result.
This strengthens the bird’s cleaning instinct and allows it to clean its feathering even more intensely; a cycle develops. If Feather Picking persists for a long time, the feather follicles, that is, the parts of the skin from which the feathers grow, can also be permanently damaged, so that the feathers no longer grow back.
What to do to avoid Feather Picking?
It is important to act quickly, because once the bird has gotten in the habit of plucking its feathers, treating the underlying cause is not always enough to remedy the problem.
After first aid (disinfection of wounds if necessary), treatment should relate to medical causes if there are any. This can go first through a correction of the diet, or even a temporary vitamin supplementation.
Regular baths can be beneficial in helping to maintain and clean the feathers. They can also be a great source of distraction for the bird.
On the other hand it is important to respect the nycthemeral rhythm, that is to say the alternation day / night.
This regular rhythm is important for the activity and the metabolism of the bird.
After sunset, avoid lighting artificial lights, for example by placing an opaque sheet on the cage.
Thereafter, if the symptoms persist, the treatment will consist primarily of behavioral therapy.
In conclusion, the diversity of the causes of this problem means that there is no universally effective treatment.
However, with a good knowledge of the bird behavior, a clear diagnosis and appropriate treatment, a large number of cases are resolved.
Parrots are very sociable birds, which need to be stimulated by a rich environment. You can for example add games to their cage. Regular outings and play sessions can be beneficial.
If you cannot provide regular presence, low-noise radio or television can be a source of distraction. Be aware that hand-raised birds can develop a very strong, almost unhealthy attachment to their owner, and experience their absence, even temporary, as terrible stress.
Proposing a companion to your bird can improve or make it worse. Each case is specific, and it is sometimes very difficult to understand what triggers the discomfort.