We've decided to do an entire post about feather picking because we are often asked by customers why their bird, or another bird does it. One thing to note: Feather Picking is a behavior found almost exclusively in Captive Birds.
No one truly knows WHY it happens. They don''t know because each bird is different and may have a different reason for doing it. Here is what you should consider doing if your bird starts to pick it's feathers.
1) Go to the Vet. Sometimes feather picking is a symptom of an illness. If an ilness is diagnosed, follow through with the recommended treatment.
2) Change the diet. Sometimes a diet lacking in variety will also lack in the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for healthy feathers. Pelleted Diets are ideal along with fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Adding more protein (hardboiled eggs, mealworms, beans) may be beneficial as well.
3) Keep bird active. Boredom can play a big role in feather picking. They should be spending much MORE time outside of the cage. Offer shreddable toys to your bird. Make a toy with shredded paper. Give LOTS of human interaction. Birds are a flock animal. If there is no one to interract with, they don't do well. A bird companion may be necessary if you are unable to give the attention required for your bird.
4) Foraging Time. Birds in the wild have to constantly forage, aka search, for their food. They have to look on the ground for nuts. They break them open along with fruits. They have to hunt insects. To give your bird the much needed mental stimulation, consider getting a foraging toy. For those looking for a home-made option, all you need is a little cardboard box, pop big holes in it and stuff snacks, food and paper in it. Now encourage your bird to figure out how to open the box.
5) It's Bath time. Water is important for healthy feathers. Make sure you offer your bird plenty of chances to clean themselves. Some birds love baths, other's love showers. If they don't like either, take some fresh greens, rinse them under the sink and place them on top of the cage. Your bird will be curious come over to see. Not only are you offering yummy vegetables, but also a chance for a light shower.
6) Keep a Stable Enviornment. Certain birds (like the African Grey) are extremely sensitive. When there is an emotional upheaval within the household, birds can get stressed or anxious. Feather picking is often a release for the bird.
7) Change the Plucking Routine. Birds are creatures of habit. They find comfort in routine. Which generally is great. However, if they pick at certain times, you want to mix it up so they no longer associate that behavior with a certain time.
8) Sunshine. All animals including humans benefit from UVB. Birds take the UVB and create Vitamin d3 which is necessary when they preen their feathers. If your bird doesn't like sitting in the window to get sun, consider buying a UVB Bulb.
9) All Natural Alternative Treatments. Vitamin and Mineral supplements are available. Try Twin Beaks Aviary: Herb Salad. I mixed this in with my Conure's food to add variety. It doesn't hurt to try: it's 100% Organic
10) Soothe the Symptoms. If you are unable to find out why your bird is plucking, you can at least try to help him feel better. You can buy sprays that are meant to help pluckers.
11) Clean the Air. If the air is stagnet, mold, dust, and allergens could be affecting your bird. Open windows and get fresh air in. Consider getting a Air Purifier to filter out dust particles.
We Do NOT suggest covering your bird's bare area with a sock, vest, or tube. Their skin and feathers needs to breathe and be free. You also run the risk of restricting their chest and abdomen which limits oxygen to your bird.
Want to know if we have any of these things in stock? Call us at 415-971-0559 and special order with no extra cost. Or do you just need some more suggestions? Call and ask to speak to Joe. He is our bird expert.
I hope this was helpful.