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Old 01-09-2016, 05:13 PM
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Lightbulb Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

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Sorry, slight long one

The barbering has begun again, for sure

As you may recall, Parker came to me as a seasonal plucker. He was all down in July, and by September his chest and vent completely feathered out and he was happy as can be with them. The vent area is now downy again and it's creeping up the chest. His flank and back never feathered out and remains downy.

I was contemplating his situation, and realized all the theories on Parkers plucking were wrong. I fixed his diet, he isn't in a busy house, the tv next to him is on for him when we're gone to work for the day.

My biggest realization happened today:

the leading theory is his barbering is due to hormones and I essentially assumed this to be true. Here's the kicker: he's already been hormonal, and there was no plucking.

Now, there is plucking, but absolutely no sign of raging hormones. No biting, no masturbating, no regurg...nothing. He's as sweet as can be!

So here's my though: he might suffer from avian equivalent of seasonal affective disorder. The timing of the start of barbering, at least this year, coincided with the winter solstice. Additionally, our house is darker than the typical house, as was the living room of his previous owner where his cage was kept.

What do you all think? Could some sort of seasonal lack of light lead a parrot to barber? Would there be any other symptoms to guide a diagnosis? FYI he also loves spending time chewing on the feathers he removes.

And sorry about the interchangeable use of plucking and barbering. I know they are different, and I think this is mostly barbering. I just got so used to calling it plucking.
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Old 01-09-2016, 05:25 PM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

Chris, yes, it IS a possibility. Can you provide him with any artificial lighting? I will be the last to tell you that lights are essential, however, I can tell you that my gang is MUCH happier having their lights on, especially during gloomy, grey and/or dark days. Iím using simple swag lights with LED bulbs (5,000k).

IMO it couldnít hurt if you gave it a try. What do you have to lose?
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Old 01-09-2016, 05:36 PM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

That's a super interesting theory. I have read until my eyes are bleeding about the proper lighting sources/bulbs/photo periods for parrots and there's just so much conflicting advice, even from veterinarians. I have a full spectrum bulb I use over my birds' cages that don't go outside as much, but I'm less than positive it is the correct bulb (I went with less UV because I didn't want to hurt my little guys' eyes). I think the field of avian lighting probably needs a whole lot more study. I bet your Parker would really benefit from some full-spectrum lighting therapy. It would be fascinating if that solved the problem. Hoping for positive results.
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Old 01-09-2016, 07:05 PM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

thats a great thought, and i hope it solves his issue! im wondering, does it even have to be a special bulb? i was under the impression that since windows filter out most uv rays anyways that having them in a window that gets direct sunlight will only make them hotter than they might like to be. my bird is in front of a sliding glass door but it never has direct sunlight beaming through at him, and some birds dont get outside much at all to get a chance to absorb any unfiltered sunlight. maybe its just the lack of time he can spend looking around? winter months are very dreary with so little light..id be curious to know if having any form of light on will make a difference or if its specifically the lack of sun light..?

i really hope you can solve this! i know how youre feeling, its heartbreaking! :/
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Old 01-09-2016, 08:26 PM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

This is really getting my wheels turning. i went back to parkers blood results from July when I brought him home (bloodwork below). I'm suddenly putting 2 and 2 together - correctly I hope.

Let's assume not much has changed in his blood chemistry. according to his results his calcium is through the roof.

Phosphorus incorporates calcium into the bones via vitamin D. My assumption (and where my argument crumbles if I'm misunderstanding physiology) is that his blood calcium is high precisely because it is not being absorbed. His phosphorus is low, but within limits. There's essentially enough phosphorus to do its job. so there must be another reason why his calcium is so high and not being absorbed.

Cause: low vitamin d! If he's not gotten enough uv light, no vitamin d to break down the calcium from an otherwise decent diet. As a result dietary calcium is not being broken down and absorbed, leading to high blood calcium levels. Alternatively his fruity pebble pellet diet could have been calcium fortified.

Conclusio: I really should set up some sort lighting set up, with timed incorporation of uva/uvb lighting

So am I getting warm here???

And Could I trouble you all for pics of your lighting set ups?


Last edited by chris-md; 01-09-2016 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 01-10-2016, 01:02 AM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

Cheese is high in calcium, maybe this is contributing to the high reading from giving it as treats?
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Old 01-10-2016, 06:56 AM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

Chris, have you read this yet? Lighting Information For Birds
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:35 AM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

Even though there is quite a bit of conflicting information about lighting for birds, I think trying a light for Parker is definitely worth a try! Connect it to one of those plug-in timers and you don't even have to worry about turning it on and off!

Let us know if you try this and your conclusions after the trial period!

Parker is a lucky guy to have a parront who is putting so much thought into solving his plucking condition!
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Old 01-10-2016, 10:15 AM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

A few things. First, Chris, I think you are an exceptional parront. I love the fact that you don't just accept his plucking as a fact of life, but rather do all you can to find a solution. (Btw, you said he removes feathers down to the down. That would be plucking rather than barbering, I believe.) If there is a solution to be found, it is this kind of determined search that will uncover it.

I want to point out, though, that your thought that all of the theories of why Parker has been wrong is not necessarily true. Remember that barbering and plucking often start for one reason and then become a habit that is very difficult to shake even absent the initial catalyst. Also, your reasons for discounting hormones as a possibility are based on the assumption that the aggressive behaviors associated with a spoke in hormones would have to occur concurrently with an associated plucking behavior. But that's not necessarily the case, either. Maybe coming down from that hormonal spike is what triggers it.

I'm not saying that the cause truly is diet or hormones, just that they shouldn't be dismissed as potential culprits, either.

Your calcium theory is very solid. Vitamin D is indeed needed for the proper absorption of calcium. I don't have any special lighting for my birds, but I do make sure to take advantage of the Spring, Summer and Autumn months by taking them outside in their travel cages so that they can take in some unfiltered sunlight. (@Littleredhen77: there is some debate as to whether or not full spectrum lights have a benefit for birds, but if there is a benefit to be had, it would indeed have to come from one of these special bulbs. And you're right. Having your bird in front of your sliding glass doors doesn't offer any of the benefits of sunlight, direct or otherwise, since as you said, the UV rays are filtered out.)

Like Wendy, I don't think it could hurt at all to give it a try. Like I said, it's only through your determined kind of trial and error that an answer might be found. I really hope this idea works out. I'll be watching your threads for updates.
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Old 01-10-2016, 04:16 PM
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Re: Twist in the plucking saga of Parker the Ekkie

Terrific thread, Chris! There are so many questions of avian physiology we have yet to decipher. Most of our birds live their lives indoors, far from their ancestral habitat. Parrots are not domesticated like dogs, and likely only reasonably well adjusted to our diverse environments. They are susceptible to many passive and active maladies we can thus far treat only symptomatically.

Kudos for contemplating some original research!!
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