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Old 05-09-2019, 11:37 AM
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African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

Hey all, I hope someone can shed some light on Yoda, my CAG. He is 14 years old and I have had him since he was just a baby and hand fed him myself. He has always been a sweet sociable little guy and has lots of play time, toys, and things to keep him busy throughout the day. He also has a great diet of pellets, fresh fruit, and veggies.

Last Friday, he suddenly started acting very odd... almost a bit erratic. He will very quickly climb all over his cage and face towards the outside of the cage on his perch and slightly sort of keep his wings out and flap them all while bouncing up and down. His feathers are tight against his body and his eyes are open wide, pupils large. Then, all of the sudden he begins frantically pulling out feathers. Mostly on the top of his chest, and also under wings, but now seems to be mostly just down feathers and the odd regular feather. It is so bizarre and I have never seen this type of behavior before and I am hoping someone has witnessed such a thing before.

The only thing that has changed in our household is that late last summer I started working from home full time. So I am here all day with him and we are never really more than 10 feet apart. He now gets treats throughout the day and we talk back and forth randomly throughout the day, lots of attention which I would assume would be a very good thing for him...

After doing lots of research I am thinking that this might be a Springtime hormonal/nesting type of behavior? When I received Yoda I was told that he is most likely a male due to his size...but the breeder of course assured me that this is not 100%.... but I have stuck with it over the years. I recently learned that there is a way (not 100% certain of course) to see if a CAG is male or female by looking under the tail at the ventral feathers. Yoda's are indeed tipped with grey... so perhaps he is a she?

Perhaps she/he has bonded with me to the point that I am perceived as a mate? And perhaps the fact that I am home for the first time during the spring season has caused a sort of surge in hormonal/nesting behavior especially with all of the interaction and treats like fruit?

What are your thoughts? Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Any tips or suggestions on what to do to curb this behavior? Thank you all so much for your help!
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Old 05-09-2019, 11:40 AM
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Re: African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

Since this is a new behavior it could be that he has something medical going on. Skin infections or mites will cause parrots to mess with their feathers. Also dietary deficiencies and metal toxicities. My advice is to have him checked out by an avian vet.
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Old 05-09-2019, 04:08 PM
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Re: African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

I second the above. A sudden change in behaviour is a good enough reason for a vet trip.

As to the gender of your bird. Bars in the tail feathers is a determining factor in Cockatiels not African Grey parrot.

Only 100% sure way is DNA test.

There is one thing I read that may work visually.

While looking at the back of your bird with wings folded up at normal rest.
If the ends of the wing feathers meet at the tip of the tail feathers you have a female.
IF the ends of the wing feathers meet above the tip of the tail feathers you have a male.

I don't know for sure if this works bit I thing it might.

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Old 05-12-2019, 11:35 AM
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Re: African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

I grew-up with a CAG that my mom brought home from his breeder just after he weaned, I was 9 years-old at the time...He's now 32 and lives with my mom and step-father, and I visit him at least once or twice a week (he really is my brother, I have no human siblings but Jagger is my brother)...So I'm very familiar with CAGs and their typical behaviors, but honestly what you are describing is not a behavior that is specific to CAGs but rather all parrots...My 2 year-old, DNA-confirmed male Senegal Parrot does exactly what you're describing, except instead of frantically climbing all over the inside of his cage, Kane starts frantically and quickly spinning around and around and around his perch on his feet, and then he slightly opens his wings up a holds them away from his body just a tad, eyes pinning, and then he starts the head-bobbing/bouncing his entire body up and down...With Kane it's absolutely 100% hormonal-behavior, HOWEVER Kane has NEVER plucked himself at all, neither during hormonal periods, during either of the 2 natural yearly Breeding-Seasons (Spring and Fall), nor at any other time...So that's what you need to be most-concerned about with your CAG for sure.

***CAGs are known as being one of the parrot species who commonly suffer from Feather-Destructive Behaviors, but what's important to keep in-mind is that even though a lot of pet parrots are pluckers, the reasons why they are plucking (the causes of the plucking) can be very, very different. It's not uncommon for parrots to pluck themselves while they are hormonal, which is probably what is going on here (though you don't know that without a CAV doing a complete Wellness-Exam, full Blood-Work, and full Fecal-testing along with a Skin Swab to test for external Yeast), [B]but since you do not know the sex of your CAG and you cannot go by the color of the tail feathers because that is not a trait that all females have, just like a lot of those little "If your bird has this color feathers in this spot, then they might be a boy because more males have that than females", which usually only means more than 50% of one sex have that trait. So that just doesn't work, and the only way to confirm your CAG's gender is by having a DNA-test done, either by blood or by freshly-plucked feathers.[/N]

***I too HIGHLY SUGGEST that you get your CAG to ONLY a Certified Avian Vet (CAV) or Avian Specialist Vet as soon as possible for a complete Wellness-Exam, which must include a full visual exam and then a full physical exam, a Fecal Gram-Stain and Microscopy that should be done in the office right on the spot while you're there, and then also a Fecal "Culture & Sensitivity", which they have to send out to an outside lab, an External Skin-Swab that they will do a smear of on a slide and look at under the Microscope right there in the office on the spot, and then full, routine, "baseline" Blood-Work (bring a fresh Fecal-sample with you to the appointment, it can be up to 24-hours old as long as you put it in a baggie or container and put it in the fridge immediately after he passes it)...If you don't already have either a Certified Avian Vet or an Avian Specialist Vet, there is an excellent world-wide Avian Vet search-tool here all over the forum that only gives you results which are either Certified Avian Vets or Avian Specialist Vets, not just "Exotics" Vets, which you absolutely DO NOT want to take your CAG to for this, UNLESS the Exotics Vet is also a Certified Avian Vet, which some are, though these are few and far between.

It's extremely important that you take your CAG to only a CAV/Avian Specialist that has lots of extra education and experience treating parrots, not only in-general as far as Diagnostics and Treatment, but also has much experience with Diagnosing Feather-Destructive Behaviors, as well as what is causing them, and then what Treatments work for each different cause. "Exotics" Vets in the US are nothing more than a General dog/cat Vet who is willing or wants to see all species of pets, while a General Vet only sees dogs and cats...Any licensed Veterinarian in the US can just call themselves an "Exotics" Vet, but they typically have NO additional education, experience, or training with any animals/pets other than dogs and cats, which is what all Vets in the US study for most of their 4-years of Vet School. With Feather-Destructive Behaviors they are obviously something that the Vet must be very familiar with in order to be able to diagnose the cause and then choose the correct treatment, not only to stop the plucking, but to also stop the "Trigger" of the plucking...We can help you find a CAV/Avian Specialist, I'll see if I can find the link to the search-tool and post it...

****I'd say that your CAG is definitely hormonal, regardless of the sex of your bird, as both sexes become hormonal and a lot of hormonal-behaviors that parrots display are displayed by BOTH SEXES...HOWEVER, what you have to worry about here, besides the plucking which is very serious in and of itself because it can and does often become chronic and continual, is that since you don't know your bird's gender, if your bird is in-fact a female CAG and is obviously hormonal, then the underlying-cause of your bird's plucking could very well be related to the formation of Follicles, the developments of those Follicles into Infertile-Eggs, and always with the development of Eggs comes all kinds of health/medical issues, everything from Overall/General-Malnutrition, Nutritional-Deficiencies of specific Vitamins, Minerals, Proteins, etc., and most-seriously is the bird being/becoming Egg-Bound, which requires immediate medical attention. Now I don't at all think that your CAG is Egg-Bound, as you haven't described anything that resembles that at all, so don't freak-out or start worrying about that right now. The main sign/symptom of Egg-Binding is the bird continually and constantly "straining" to pass the Egg, which looks like the bird trying to poop but they can't, along with the bird constantly acting like they are very, very sick and in-pain...You can tell when a bird is Egg-Bound, and the response of most bird owners when they see their that their bird is Egg-Bound is to rush them to the emergency 24/7 Animal Hospital or their CAVs if they are open, and that's without the owners even knowing that Egg-Binding is the problem...That's how obvious it is that the bird is in horrible pain and needs immediate help when they're Egg-Bound...So don't worry about that, that's not what I was trying to suggest at all...What I was trying to say is that you've got a hormonal CAG who you don't know the gender of, and he/she has started to pluck the Down-feathers from both her Chest and from under his/her Wings...And one of the most-common reasons why birds suddenly start plucking themselves out of nowhere is because they are either in-pain, feel sick/are sick, and yes, if they are actively producing/carrying Follicles and/or Eggs. And every Egg a bird has to lay presents a chance for Egg-Binding.

There are many different methods/treatments to get a bird who has suddenly and out of nowhere started to pluck themselves to stop, especially if the underlying-cause of their plucking is due to a Medical/Health issue, a Nutritional Issue, or a Reproductive Issue. What you need to be concerned about figuring out is WHY he/she has started plucking, [B]because you absolutely need to know what the underlying-cause of the plucking is, and to rule-out any of the more serious causes, and then to figure out the best way to stop it....And only a CAV/Avian Specialist performing the above listed, very basic Diagnostic Tests is going to be able to do that...

***One last thing, I don't know if you're aware of this, but the reason why parrots become "Chronic" Pluckers isn't due to the underlying INITIAL-CAUSE of why they started plucking themselves to begin with, whether medical, nutritional, behavioral, hormonal, etc. It's actually because when a bird plucks a feather out, it causes the sudden, immediate release of Endorphins by the Brain, which causes a pleasant, good-feeling for the bird, similar to what happens when people use drugs, or they smoke/chew something with Nicotine, or what they call a "Runner's High", etc. So once that happens to the bird, some of them go "Hey, that was nice" and they don't ever do it again...And others go "Hey that was nice, I'm going to do it again...And again...And again..."; It's not much different from the discussion of "Why some people who use a drug for the first time become addicts, while others never use it again...Same situation. So the take-away for us bird-owners when it comes to our birds starting to pluck themselves is the sooner we can get our birds to a CAV/Avian Specialist Vet, have the proper Diagnostic Testing done, and we diagnose the underlying-cause of why our birds started plucking in the first-place, and WE THEN TREAT AND ELIMINATE/CURE THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OF THE PLUCKING, the sooner we can then see if their plucking stops after the underlying-cause is removed, and if not then we can try to treat the plucking itself as a totally separate, secondary-condition. So the sooner you get your CAG to the CAV, the better...
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:46 PM
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Re: African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

Thank you all for your experience and insight! I made an appointment and drove Yoda 3 hours to see an avian vet (we don't have any in town sadly!). They did a fecal test and also did bloodwork. They ended up finding a high number of bacteria in the fecal test so also tested with a throat swab which also ended up producing a large number of bacteria indicating an infection! His bloodwork came back great with exception of a high enzyme count due to the stress on his body from the infection. I have a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine that we are treating him with... Crossing fingers for my little guy! Thanks again for your advice!
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:19 AM
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Re: African Grey Sudden Hormonal Plucking?

I am SO happy to hear that you took him in for a check up. And thrilled to know that you now have answers plus a treatment plan. He'll be good as new in no time.
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