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Old 02-06-2013, 01:31 PM
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Question hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

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my hahns macaw is 9 yrs old. For the past year he has been plucking his feathers. Chest , back, wings. I made him a jacket which he wore for about 5 months. To allow his feathers to grow. Took it off weekly so he could remove shafts of new feathers and proned. After his feathers were well grown out, took the jacket off. After 2 weeks he started plucking and is back what he was before the jacket exercise.

He is the family room, his cage is opened when I get home at night. Diet is parrot balanced diet, fruit. Tried pellets and fancy food, he will not eat it. He has toys in his cage, and do not play with them. He likes to chew the mop head I have put in his cage. I have tried spraying, added omega 3 plus 7 other essential oils for birds on his seed. Put multi vitamins in his water twice a week. Leave a radio on when we not at home.

He seems to pluck while we sleeping and when I am not at home.

Can anyone help.
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Old 02-06-2013, 05:29 PM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

You really should have addressed the plucking when it first started, but since he’s been doing it this long, you’re going to have fun determining the problem. If he has a clean bill of health & your veterinarian can find no medical problems, the next place to start looking is where he lives…

You don’t mention how many of his 9 years has been with you, or if you have remodeled or moved or made any major changes to the house, prior to his starting to pluck. All too often, birds pluck their feathers because of the world we have imposed on them.

We companion humans are allergic to pollens, metals, foods, chemicals, and any number of other things we come in contact with everyday. Synthetic vitamins, concentrates and extracts also create allergic reactions in humans. The same holds true for many companion birds. Avian behaviorist Pamela Clark, in an article entitled: Causes and Approaches to Resolution, has noted that:

“Brian Speer, DVM, agrees that lotions and other substances on an owner’s hands can be the cause of feather picking. (He has suggested that owners dip their hands in cornstarch before petting any ‘powder’ birds they might have, such as cockatoos, greys, and cockatiels.)”

Clark further notes that one of Dr. Speer’s ongoing concerns is:

“That such substances will actually cause fungal growth on the feathers – not just on the skin – and that this can cause a real inducement to feather picking.”

The following list comprises some of the suspected causes offeather plucking:

• Air too dry
• Allergic reactions
• Another bird’s cage placed to near
• Anxiety
• Boredom
• Cage placed too low
• Cage relocation
• Cage too near a window
• Cage too small
• Changes in diet
• Changes in household, divorce, new work hours,new baby, college, marriage
• Dietary and nutritional imbalances
• Disease
• Feeling threatened by a object near their cage
• Feeling threatened by another family pet
• Hand-feeding by inexperienced feeder
• Having too many homes in a short period of time
• Heavy metals
• Illness
• Improper wing clip
• Infectious – bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic
• Isolation of cage
• Lack of play time/opportunity
• Lighting too bright
• Loss of a cage mate

Australian aviculturist Chris Hunt’s article THE ECLECTUS PARROT: Eclectus roratus, Part 2, offers the following as to why eekies are prone to plucking:

“Nutritional imbalance can be one of the main causes of feather plucking. Stress is also another contributing factor and can be brought on by many different situations including the cage or aviary being too small or too cold, a bossy partner, strangers in or around your aviary complex, the breeding season, change of diet, or even boredom can also lead to feather plucking.”

This is a relatively new school of thought concerning the cause of plucking & self-mutilation, but there are clinicians & behaviorists who believe that our parrots may be creating, for himself, a self-induced drug high. The pain created by plucking & self-mutilation causes the release of endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain relievers produced by the body. They are chemicals that calm you, relieve pain and make you feel good. Endorphins have been likened to the opiates of opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin.

Dr. David Spiegel, of Petpsych.com, offers:

“…..as twisted as it may seem, by plucking their feathers, they have a reliable way that they can control and deliver feelings of pleasure to themselves. They have essentially learned how to access their body’s drug supply system, though they invariably pay a high price in the damage that they inflict upon themselves.”


Good luck.....
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:04 PM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

Well, I live with 3 pluckers, two who are mostly reformed. They came to me as pluckers so I don't know their history first hand. All 3 have areas where they can no longer grow feathers. 2 of 3 also barber their feathers, 1 just a bit and the other quite severely.

I also have 5 who have never plucked. I'd like to offer some suggestions but first I have some questions.

Does he ever get sunlight? If not, does the food you feed him contain man made Vitamin D?

Can you list the ingredients of the mix you buy for him and also list the exact foods he will eat for you please.
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Old 02-06-2013, 06:36 PM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

Has he had a full check up to make sure it isn't a healthy issue?
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Old 02-07-2013, 04:03 AM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

Does this also apply to feather-shredding?
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Old 02-07-2013, 08:16 AM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

From my understanding of plucking, it can either be a reaction to neglect or an outright mental disorder with no apparent cause similar to anxiety disorders in humans. I think at this point, consulting with a experienced avian vet would be appropriate to determine if theres something missing in his care or if its something that has just become misfired up in his head. A couple things you did not address in your post that may be contributing factors are:

How many hours a day does he interact OUTSIDE his cage with you and your family? Parrots need 4-6 hours every day of interaction time with their "flock", and I'm not talking about everyone rushing past his cage or sitting on the couch where he can see you because it's in the living room They need to be out of their home exploring their environment, bonding with their humans, and just generally being social. Another big thing is the toys. There are a lot of different types of toys out there for birds, and not every bird likes the same kind. Our Kiwi doesn't seem to care much about wood chewing toys like most parrots, but he loves the acrylic foraging toys and anything with plastic beads and knots. It's a waste of cage space giving him a large wood toy, because he isn't going to play with it, so we give him the types of toys he does enjoy instead. Perhaps you have been giving your macaw the wrong types of toys. You say he enjoys a mop head, maybe he would also enjoy some knot toys made of leather cord too. He may also like foot toys, the kind with little beads and knick knacks they can't really chew, but many parrots enjoy just playing with (baby toys like rattles and fake keys are great for these birds and can ge bought cheap at thrift stores). My final suggestion to try is including the little guy at the dinner table with you. Sharing your meals with your bird is a wonderful bonding activity, and makes a parrot very happy. There are very few toxic human foods, so once you are familiar with what you can't feed him, feel free to share just about anything else. Kiwi eats breakfast and dinner with us every day. He has his own dish, and we give him a spoonful or so of whatever were having (sometimes he steals an extra helping though lol). Again, you really need to consult a vet at this point and carefully follow their advise, but you can also implement some new habits into your bird routine as well. Best of luck.
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Old 02-07-2013, 09:22 AM
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Re: hahns macaw feather less plucking addict

Most of the data on shredders is geared toward the problem being behavioral, however Mattie Sue Athan, in her book Guide to the Quaker Parrot, offers a list of possible causes, including diet, environment & lack of stimulation.

Behavioral feather chewing, shredding, or plucking can also appear as a response to perceived abandonment…..when birds are removed from flock environments, breeding facilities, etc., and put into pet environments…..conversely, in issue 2, 05, of Parrot Life Magazine, in a discussion about a Moluccan cockatoo, it was noted that the bird, a feather plucker and habitual screamer, after 6 months of being in a public aviary with other birds and watching visitors, “he has stopped plucking (only a slight over-preening of his chest feathers is visible) and he is a very quiet and content bird.”

As with plucking, with no medical reason for the behavior, owners/caretakers are left with trial and error methods to attempt to resolve shredding/barbering.
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