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Old 05-10-2012, 04:05 PM
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Cockatoo is plucking

I recently adopted an umbrella cockatoo, aprox. 5 yrs old. Owner depressed and stressed about a recent death in the family. Supposidly the vet has checked her and said is not ill. What can I do besides insure a healthy diet and positive surrounding, toys, interaction so forth? Any tricks?
Poor thing, she looks more like a duck than a cockatoo.
And how long for her adjustment? I am the second owner.
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:37 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

A Too on average takes about 1-3 years to fully settle into a new home. Give the bird at least 1 full year before determining whether its going to work or not. I have a similar post I responded to not to long ago about how to ease your new Toos transition:

I need some cockatoo training tips, please!!!

As far as the plucking goes:

You can try to provide the perfect environment: lots of foraging toys, phone books (to tear apart), all different levels of destructive toys (mix of ones that take them forever to destroy and ones that can be finished in seconds). You want to challenge the bird mentally and mentally keep them stimulated ALL day. If you can, keep the bird as little caged as possible. Be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS that you don't give your Too to much attention to distract from plucking. This can lead to a Too that becomes spoiled (spoiled Too = dangerous Too and very unpleasant to live with). Try to encourage independent behaviors. Stuff that requires thought and challenges them mentally. Sure you could physically hold your Too all day to prevent it but you will destroy your bird this way. It is so vital to encourage Toos to be independent.

Never ever expect the plucking to stop. It may go away once he is settled in but never expect it to really ever disappear. Go ahead and except that he may be this way for life (and more than likely will). No matter if you provide the perfect environment and do everything right, he may still pluck. There is no cure once they start, you can only try to redirect the behavior. Look at it this way, he is an addict. Addicts are addicts for LIFE, they will have stretches and runs of remissions but there will ALWAYS be relapses. He may get settled in and not pick for months (or years), then you come home one day to a pile of feathers on the floor for no apparent reason. You cant give any mind to it when he does it, pretend that it doesn't happen. If you give any attention to the fact that he plucks, it will make it much worse. Look at the situation like this: he has a problem within himself that makes him pluck, there is truly NOTHING you can do to fix it. Love him for him and forget the feathers. Its hard to live with a plucker/shredder as you will always have to feeling of 'if I did more he would stop', not true. You must remove your own emotions and detach yourself from the plucking behavior. You have to except this behavior.

Rome is a shredder (she barbs her feathers). In the beginning I foolishly thought I could stop it. I was hard on me to come home and see a pile of feathers, it bothered me because I felt that I was doing something wrong (sound familiar? This is how spouses feel when they live with an addict). It took a bit to move past that. I provide her with the best situation possible for her to live in and have excepted that this is who she is. Sometimes she goes a month or two and then decides to shred for no apparent reason. It just is who she is and forever will be.

This is all so long to read but unfortunately Toos are complex and they require more than a simple explanation.
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:39 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

Oh and welcome to the Forum! Congrats on your new family member. I LOVE Toos, they have become my bird of choice . We also all love pics on this site to
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Old 05-10-2012, 05:56 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

I've always wondered what starts this behavior in the first place? Stress, huh? Are some cockatoos stronger genetically, emotionally than others? Molcan2, I know you have a handle on this, I'm just always curious about origins.
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:41 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

Poor buggers..I sure don't know what the answer is but sure is perplexing, none the less. When I try and put myself in their shoes, so to speak, I would mutilate myself becaaaause... I was unhappy, #1 choice. #2 would have to be...boredom. #3,,,habit?, but, habit because I was bored and unhappy? Yikes! Not sure...just thoughts.
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:42 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

Also make sure that u do not overstimulate the bird by lots of touching to the back, under wings or the tail area, toos especially get over stimulated which can lead to further problems. A frustrated bird is much more likely to continue to pluck than a content one. Good luck, toos can be a wonderful addition.
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:52 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

After countless tries to help my CAG and her plucking, I am trying the Sock Buddy!!! WOW!!! After just 1 month, the feathers are growing! I haven't seen 1 feather on that bird's chest in over 2 years!!! I didn't think she would let me put it on her, but I managed. I thought that she would shred it in a minute, it took 1 day for the first sock. We are at sock 5 in 5 weeks, she is keeping it on longer every time! I f she shreds it too much, I just change it. I'm at my wits ends and will not give up...this is my last resort and it is working!!! Please consider it, the lady who invented this did it for her plucked Cockatoo...who is now feathered!
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Old 05-10-2012, 10:55 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

Different sock on her .....The before and after picture above is exactly 1 month!!!!
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Old 05-10-2012, 11:18 PM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

Does the sock stay on your bird always? When you take it off for any length of time is he/she still good about not plucking? Don't mind me, just always looking for the cure.
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:57 AM
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Re: Cockatoo is plucking

There is NO cure. You can physically block them from doing it, sock buddy/e-collar (or chemically with sprays or psych medication) but thats more for the owner, makes us feel better when the bird has feathers, doesn't fix WHY the bird is doing it. The side effect of Rome having to wear an e-collar is that her feathers are growing back, once her collar is off she will more than likely go back to it. Now the hope is that you can break the habit by physically blocking and hope that the bird can find a different coping mechanism or you can make the bird's problem way worse by doing this. I would rather try environmental changes and emotional rehabilitation vs. physical restraining. It will take longer but will return the bird to a more stable state of mind. Rome is not herself with her collar on, I know her very well and I miss my bird, she sulks all day. I would rather have her collar off and her shred every feather she has if it meant having her personality back (for those that don't know she has a collar on because of a wound that isn't due to plucking/shredding). I want HER to be happy and if thats what makes HER happy then I'm fine with it. My bird's well being and psyche comes before my expectations of what she should be. Its just feathers. Don't get me wrong, its not that I don't try to get her to stop but it is a LONG process, overnight 'fixes' will get overnight 'relapses'. It will take YEARS to get her to stop. Even with my efforts exhausted she may never.

Mare: IMPO this behavior is because that particular bird is a little more unstable than others (just like people, some are fine, some are ridden with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders). The plucking/shredding is an outlet for their anxiety (whatever the initial cause, it doesn't matter). Some people can cope well and some have to be baker acted during emotional stress. I really think its a response to anxiety. Its not just seen in Toos but I think that Toos are more prone to it because Toos in general are a little more emotionally sensitive. If you really look at Rome's personality it really is no surprise that she shreds. The U2 that I used to have, never touched his feathers and he came from a HORRIBLE environment. Amigo reminds me of his personality. Very outgoing, king of the hill so to speak. He was very sure of himself. Rome is not, shes terrified of everything. She reminds me of the woman that you meet that has been physically beaten by her husband for years and still cooks him dinner. My plan for Rome is to provide the most stimulating environment possible and to help encourage her to become independent. I'm also trying to get her to become more self confident. I really think that once these are achieved she will stop shredding.
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