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Old 11-17-2011, 12:04 PM
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Plucking/Chewing success stories?

Hello everyone,

I've had Darwin, a green cheek conure! for 2 years. Recently, just last week, he started chewing feathers. Never had an issue before. He gets hours outside his cage, frequent baths, toys, etc. He is well loved. He eats Harrison's and has since I brought him home. He gets sunflower seeds for treats. There haven't been any major changes in his environment that would suggest a reason for the new behavior.

He went to the vet who found nothing wrong and thinks it is behavioral. His skin was not dry. I was given some aloe spray and a supplement, but the vet does not seem to think there is any rhyme or reason and has no idea if it will stop.

My theory is that he had a damaged flight feather two weeks ago, and he spent a lot of time picking at it. Even after he got rid of it, he kept going on to the next feather... And the next.... Now it is painful to watch, because he no longer preens. He just bites his feathers when he used to preen, like when he is relaxing on my hand or on his perch. He doesn't have any bald spots yet, but the ends of all the feathers on his back have been bitten short.

I've read all the boards and the consensus is "stop it before it becomes a habit." Well it seems to have become a habit overnight! I can distract Darwin to make it stop temporarily, but eventually he has to stop moving and he chews. I'm moving him towards a foraging lifestyle now but, like I said, he consistently chews instead of any normal preening so I am not too optimistic! Also he already spends so much time outside his cage flying around I don't think boredom is the issue.

So I have two questions: first, does anyone have any plucking success stories? As in, a conure that started plucking but then stopped? I would love to hear some stories like that because even though it has only been a week with Darwin it is very disheartening to see him chew his feathers every single time he sits still for a few minutes.

Second: negative feedback. I know we generally train birds through positive reinforcement, but I am wondering if this situation calls for some gentle negative feedback. When he was younger we dealt with biting by putting him in his cage and walking away, or briefly leaving him alone in a room. It seemed to work. What do you all think about doing the same thing whenever I see the dreaded feather chew?

Thanks for any help,
Brett
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:24 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

Hi Brett,
I have 3 conures and two of them damage their feathers, but in different ways. My female green cheek conure Lola shreds her tail feathers. She doesn't pull them out, but she chews on them and damages them. She has done this for years, and it has never progressed beyond her tail. She is healthy and she gets plenty of attention and play time out of the cage. She seems to bite her tail feathers when she's kind of zoning out and looking out the window like an absent-minded nail biting habit so I don't worry about it with her...

My male blue crowned conure Lincoln is very sensitive and attached to me. He began plucking his feathers when I was going through a stressful divorce. Our home environment was quite tense and he screamed all the time despite plenty of attention from my son and I. It started with the feathers on his legs. He continued until the whole front of his body was bare. My avian vet prescribed bird Paxil for his anxiety. This helped him and he stopped plucking. After several weeks I took him off of the Paxil and he seemed to forget all about his plucking habit. His feathers all grew back. But I went on vacation for 2 weeks a couple of years later and he started up the plucking again. While on vacation I bought a male yellow-sided green cheek conure (Connor). The instant Connor saw Lincoln he snuggled up to Lincoln's neck. Lincoln was nervous about Connor at first, but after about 2 days I could see that they absolutely adored each other and now they are best friends. They are caged together and they cuddle and play all the time. Lincoln is now fully feathered. Lincoln continues to be very emotionally sensitive and I have noticed that since my boyfriend moved in a couple of months ago Lincoln has one tiny area on his right leg that looks like he may have started plucking again. If that is what it is I will put him back on the Paxil. Some birds are just much more sensitive, and Lincoln is definitely that way. He senses when I am upset and is nervous around new people. I know that putting a parrot on Paxil sounds extreme, as does buying another parrot to keep one of your other birds company. I can tell you that those things really helped my blue crowned conure though.
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Old 11-17-2011, 02:00 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

Hi Brett, I haven't actually done this myself but have read if you hang a mop head in your birds cage they will use that to shred instead of feathers.

Other than that a friend had great success with Featherific & Avicalm with his male Eclectus.

Do you feed other foods besides Harrisons, like fruits & veggies. I am not convinced that pellets are as good for our birds as the manufactures state. Reason being I use commercial hand rearing formulars for my babies & although it does the job I feel that their feathers look much better when they go on a variety of foods. My birds do get pellets as well but i only use them more as a treat than a complete diet.
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:17 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

I also have a problem with a chewing conure. I noticed it a few weeks ago and it's her flight feathers as well. I currently have her on avicalm and it seems to be because I added a pionus to our flock about a month ago. She hasn't chewed any more of her feathers since I made a fuss about it. I'm also going to make her a preening toy, to further encourage her to stop preening so much. My pionus is currently molting so I'm also wondering if maybe it's a monkey see monkey do situation? Lucy is 7 months old, Bleu is 5 years old
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:10 AM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

I don't have any experience with this personally, but a while ago I heard of a bitter-tasting product that you can spray on your bird to prevent chewing or plucking. It wouldn't exactly promote preening though.

Have you had a blood panel done recently? It could be a sign of infection, or some sort of vitamin or mineral imbalance. How much sun does she get? I know Puck gets moody if he doesn't get enough sun.
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Old 11-18-2011, 02:43 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

Thank you all for sharing.

Darwin likes his foraging toys so far. I also got him more "shredding" type toys to try and take his focus off his feathers. He is chewing less, and has even spent some time preening in a normal fashion, but he still chews when he appears very relaxed.

I have even gone so far as to sit with him watching YouTube videos of green cheeks preening correctly, Clockwork Orange style.

He does get vegetables and fruits too, but the vet said to stop that for a while in case something in them is causing the problem and stick with Harrison's.
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Old 11-18-2011, 02:52 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

could be hormonal, when i got nut, she had fluffy white patches, they grew out an now its come to that time again and she has befun to chew ends of her feathers again

anyway, i got hold of some wild phesant feathers, boiled them an leave 1 in her cage, she seems to nip or preen this, but as for her own feathers i am hopin for less white patches by end of feb 12
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Old 01-11-2012, 03:37 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

Ah... I so sympathize with you. It's the reason I no longer have my beloved Tazhney. My Mollucan Cockatoo who I had since he was an egg. He had a night fright when he was about 12 yrs. He injured his chest bone. After an intensive Vet visit I was given Benedryl and an e-collar. I didn't use the Benedryl too long, it really didn't help - only made him sleepy, which was the point but no life for him. He did really well with the collar, but the spot never healed. One day, yrs later he got around the collar and started self mutilating, I was devistated. He then went on to chewing his legs too. I had to go into have major surgery and was told I wouldn't walk for a year, I had to rehome him at that time as there was no way I would be able to care for him, or run him to the vet when he chewed himself. I will pray for you and your baby, I'm still crying over mine. :-(
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Old 05-17-2012, 04:03 PM
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Re: Plucking/Chewing success stories?

I have found a solution to my Grey, Albert's plucking.

She (yes, she"s a "she") has plucked her chest, neck, legs and shoulders over the past year and a half.

I won't list all the modifications I have tried. Among other things, I have tried various types of music, to no avail, then two days ago I once again went onto iTunes and browsed classical radio. I had played some very beautiful classics for her over time; she liked the music, but it didn't effect a cure for her problem.

I went to Venice Classic Radio. I don't know why, but she stopped and has not pulled a feather since I first tuned in. This station is streaming with no talking. The music is all beautiful, I like it too. I play it on iTunes all day, and I shut it down after she is covered at night. I wanted to share this with every bird who suffers with this problem. Albert is so happy.


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