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Old 07-22-2015, 07:25 AM
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Chewing feathers like gum?

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What's this about? I've ready that some bits like to chew on down feathers into a ball, and my ekkie does this, but today he's started doing this to regular feathers. Thing is I'm not sure if he pulled them out or moulded them out. And he decimates the shift so he might actually be eating that.

Anyone else's bird do this??
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:01 AM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

This is much worse than I feared, and I'm getting worried. Attached is what I found in front of the cage.

Please help! What's going on here?
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:53 AM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Quote: Originally Posted by chris-md View Post
This is much worse than I feared, and I'm getting worried. Attached is what I found in front of the cage.

Please help! What's going on here?
Wow, Chris. Hopefully one of our experts on plucking will chime in, but I think those feathers were plucked and chewed. Those shafts look quite short to me.

While you wait to hear from one of the plucking experts, though, you might want to check Allee's sticky right in this sub-forum called "Plucking. A Search for Answers."

I'd usually have just linked it for you, but I'm on my mobile and having a little trouble doing so ATM.
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:55 AM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Here is the link

Plucking: A Search For Answers
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Old 07-22-2015, 08:56 AM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Thanks, Christine!
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Old 07-22-2015, 12:02 PM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Hey Chris, I'm sorry to hear Parker is feather chewing. I may have missed it, but did you get the test results back from Parker's recent vet visit? How is he doing with diet now? I know Parker has an amazing cage and setup, how does he spend his time? That my sound silly but is he active, does he play with his toys and entertain himself? Is he hyper and agitated are quiet and docile? When does he do his feather chewing? I know his previous owners described his barbering as seasonal but do you know how long he has been doing it? Sorry for all the questions, but every case is different. If plucking has become an ingrained habit for Parker all the positive changes you've made for him may take time to manifest in his behavior.

I know it's tough, but please try not to stress too much and try not to blame yourself. Parker's plucking started before you met him, it isn't going to stop instantly. My plucker just had a severe bout of plucking and she's been with me for almost two and a half years. Changing an ingrained behavior is a process, in many cases an ongoing process that evolves over time. Best of luck to you and Parker.

I think you are wonderful for trying so hard for this little green guy. It will get better.
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Old 07-22-2015, 01:14 PM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Thanks all. I'm trying to not to take this personally, its just heartbreaking! I'm trying to remember that I'm doing everything I can to address the root cause but that this might be a habit he can't break.

Allee, to be specific for you:

I may have missed it, but did you get the test results back from Parker's recent vet visit? Everything came back great except he tested positive for Chlamydia. However, his lymphocytes were a tad low, so its not likely an active infection. No nutrient deficiencies to speak of. Also has a small yeast infection under the wing I'm working to address

How is he doing with diet now? Better. I haven't given him any of the rainbow Trix pellets he was getting before. Hes on his Higgins Fruit to Nut mix (mostly dried fruit/veg [i.e. peas, bananas, i think cranberries? among a couple others], with a few nuts and a small portion of non-dyed pellets) which he goes gaga for, and I believe are much better for him. Hes somewhat hesitant with fresh stuff, but I've one way or another managed to get fruits and veg into him almost daily. I'm working now on ways to improve that even more, and early results are positive so it should get even better.

I know Parker has an amazing cage and setup, how does he spend his time? That my sound silly but is he active, does he play with his toys and entertain himself? Is he hyper and agitated are quiet and docile? HesAs with anyone, he has his quite docile moment and he has his active running around in the cage moments. He just doesn't play with his toys. He failed at foraging *rolleyes*, isn't interested in a bell, won't shred anything, he mostly just wants to be out and about. I'm taking steps to teach him how to play with his toys but hes not really taking to it.

When does he do his feather chewing? This is the first time I've seen it, it was overnight, though he did one or two feathers while sitting on my shoulder in the morning (7am).

I know his previous owners described his barbering as seasonal but do you know how long he has been doing it? The previous owners told me it predates them, so at least 4 years. The owners before thme told them that he was molting, so they were lied to and they had to figure it out. They said he fully feathered out last year in the late summer.

I have a couple thoughts on this, objectively. I'm the only one who handles him (DH coos at him, talks sweet, gives a treat here and there, etc, but won't handle him yet), so it could be overbonding/stress when i'm gone, or it could be overbonding/hormonal nesting. I gave him some warmish broccoli and cauliflower last night out of my bowl while I was eating, so that might have contributed to a hormonal flair.

I'm deeply concerned about his lack of play, and concede it could be boredom as well. Everyone is out of the house 11-12 hrs a day, but he gets out of the cage for an hour in the morning, and a 2-4 hours at night so hes not wanting for attention.

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Old 07-22-2015, 07:20 PM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Chris, first I want to say, I absolutely understand the frustration and heartbreak. I know it's impossible not to take it personally, and nearly as difficult not to constantly obsess about it. Don't let it reach the point of counting feathers. It won't help.

The results of the vet visit and tests are very good. The yeast infection and Chlamydia can be fixed. Both can cause discomfort before they are fixed though, when parrots are uncomfortable on the inside they tend to pick at the outside.

Parrots have their own time clock or time warp. Parrots (prey animals) hide their emotions and illnesses, it's a survival instinct, hard wired and hard to override. They can appear to be handling changes or experiences really well and then hours or days later have a delayed reaction. We make huge positive changes for them and logic tells us we should see results, not usually so. Birds are designed to fly, keeping their feathers in top flight condition in the wild takes up a lot of their time, that's what we call normal preening. It's no wonder parrots become obsessed with their feathers in our homes.

We know that Parker has been plucking for roughly four years. In all the research I've done, one thing that made perfect sense was explained to me like this. No matter what the underlying cause, some birds become habitual pluckers with the first feather they pull out. That rush of endorphins brings a sense of euphoria, it only lasts for a few seconds, it doesn't take long before the bird becomes addicted to the rush and voila you have a plucker. This isn't true in all cases, I've seen parrots that plucked themselves almost completely bald after a traumatic event and then never plucked or overpreened again. One diagnosis, one cure would be great but unrealistic.

Parker hasn't been with you very long at all, he's still processing the changes. I hope I'm wrong and I don't want to worry you, but Parker's plucking could get worse before it gets better. The worst bout of plucking I've ever seen occurred in the first three months after I adopted Harry. Lots of tears but never in front of my girl.

It may not sound helpful, but my advice is take things one day at a time. Focus on having fun and bonding with Parker. He has excellent talking skills, talk with him. Leave the wonderful toys you've provided within his reach, he may wake up one morning and adore a toy he hated the day before. Try to make his out of cage time a positive experience every time, he'll learn the routine and know this will happen close to the same time every day, he'll stop obsessing about being left alone. I've learned parrot care is not an exact science, sometimes you need to take information with a grain of salt, sometimes you need to throw away the rule book and listen to your bird.

Diet makes a tremendous difference, Anansi/Stephen, Our Wendy/JerseyWendy and labell/Laura are wonderful Ekkie dieticians, personally, I think the diet they've chosen for Ekkies is far more appropriate for all parrots and particularly plucking parrots. Dye free and organic foods are always the better choice.

Another idea to be aware of is Parker's past relationships. We talk about the incredible bonds we have with our parrots and I'm the first to agree, there's nothing like it. For the parrot the bond can cut both ways. Even birds that have known severe abuse can grieve for former humans they have bonded with. I'm not saying they think like we do, but they have proven they are aware and emotional. Think what it must be like to be rehomed again and again and again.

Relax. Laugh. Have fun. Parker will too.

I hope something I've said will apply to your unique circumstances. If not, let me know and I'll try harder. I have this awful habit of getting attached to plucking parrots, even those that aren't my own.
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Last edited by Allee; 07-22-2015 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 07-22-2015, 09:23 PM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Great advice so far!

I will just say that Folger my plucker has many issues in his past that contribute to his plucking and mutilation habit. But the one part that was obvious was that a major reason for his plucking and mutialtion was a therapeutic affect for him. When he did it he calmed for awhile but after a couple decent mutilation episodes I slapped a collar on him. The effect was instantaneous I had a nerveous wreck of a cockatoo. He became jumpy and twitchy like an addict that was cut off cold turkey. I've had Folger for about a year and a half most of that time has been spent in a collar to try and teach him other habits that will replace the bad ones. It's a hard frustrating process that probably won't ever be 'fixed' for him but he has improved!
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Old 07-22-2015, 09:58 PM
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Re: Chewing feathers like gum?

Alle, you have really reached me, and you are giving voice to my inner instincts. I know the only thing I can do is continue to improve what I can and accept its not all going to be rainbows and roses. My first time witnessing this firsthand, it's rough.

Riddick, I'm sorry to hear about what you've had to go through with little folger! I'm so glad he's showing improvement and look forward to future updates. I'm only dealing with plucking, so I can only imagine having mutilation on top of that.
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