Congo Grey started featherpicking above his tail.


New member
Aug 10, 2011
Congo Grey started featherpicking above his tail. [closed/update]

His name is Jacob and I've had him since September 2012. A while back, he was over-preening his tummy but it resolved when I introduced a humidifier and gave him stricter covered 12-hour day/night cycles. Aside from that, everything else is/has been fine; poop is fine, diet and appetite's been consistent, I haven't noticed feathers on the bottom of his cage any excessive preening, etc.

This had to have started within the last week, and I found out about it yesterday when he stretched while I had him out. I can take a picture if it helps. The red feathers at the top of his tail are basically amputated down to the bloodfeather quick, in a horizontal strip. The rest of his feathers are fine. I've had him out with me since I found the tail damage, and I'm crying while I type this because I wish I'd caught this sooner.

He's terrified of water and he's gotten baths very infrequently because of it; he does bathe in his water bowl, get "steam baths" on his shower perch, I try to model the shower being a good thing by taking him in when I shower, and I do sometimes pull him into the shower even though it upsets him. It's very difficult to get anything besides the backs of his wings and his head wet.

I also haven't taken him out as much lately as I should be doing; I'm in my third year of college and things have become busy. He does have many toys in his cage (two foraging ones, a couple with bells, some hanging ones) and seemed overall happy enough.

Looking above his tail, there are a LOT of pinfeathers there by where he's picking; could they be itching him as they come in?

My girlfriend managed to get most of him wet in a very good bath last night, and he's had as much time out of his cage as I've been awake. He's only preened his back once, and he's preening his chest normally as I type this, so I'm hoping that giving him "out time" every second that I'm at home and giving him multiple baths a week will change this behavior and allow his feathers to grow back to a safe point. But I'm worried to go to school on Monday because if he keeps chewing when I'm not there, he could hemorrhage. He has two vet appointments set: one at 9 am before class, one at 3pm between classes.

My question is:

-- is there anything else that could have caused my poor bird to do this that I haven't accounted for? If so, how can I change it?

-- is there anything else I should be doing for him that I'n not?

-- what can I do right now to keep that vulnerable picked area safe, not infected, and not picked anymore?

I'm sorry this post is so long.
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I'm so sorry you and Jacob are going through this :(

If he is plucking because he is itchy / bothered by new feathers coming in, then more frequent baths should help because they will soften the sheath so that it will (hopefully) not bother him as much. Some people also use aloe vera juice for birds who they suspect are plucking due to itchy skin. There is some information on this page about aloe vera gel.

Obviously, taking him to the vet will be your most important step right now and it looks like you've got that part covered. I don't have a plucker, so any knowledge I have is only theoretical.. but I do know I have read that often times plucking is a medical issue rather than behavioral.

Here is some general information about reasons why a bird may pluck.

I have heard of people having success with deterring birds who are over-preening/plucking by providing them with cloth toys that they can pluck at instead. I would make sure to offer him plenty of things that he can shred (like paper) and trying something cloth to redirect his beak to.

Please let us know how Jacob's appointments go.
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Cloth toys are a great idea. He loves shredding paper, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thank you so much for your advice. :(
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Hey, just to bump my own topic...I looked at the bare spot today and it seems like there's a pinfeather that's ingrown under the skin. Could that be causing the plucking/preening/chewing?

He's certainly seemed happier lately but still won't stop trying to groom that spot, and when I tried to touch the ingrown feather he aggressively started trying to preen around it.
You need to take him to an avian vet before this gets out of hand. He's in obvious discomfort and needs professional care. This could be an inflamed/infected preen gland, or something else. None of us are vets on this forum. Hope he makes a speedy recovery whatever it is, but if it's still going on its a problem.
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Yes, this isn't something I would ever try to handle on my own. But I'm on my own with it until 2pm tomorrow, and I'm trying to both understand what's going on and find ways to mitigate his discomfort until then. While nobody here is a vet as far as I know either, my hope is that somebody has been in the same situation and can contribute anything that helped their own bird.
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The vet said the area around his uropygial gland was swollen slightly and it seems like an infection was probably irritating him, along with a couple of dead pinfeathers. After some antibiotics, Jacob should be fine. :)
Glad to hear! Feather mutilation can often be caused by medical problems rather than just emotional/psychological problems. I'm glad that you were able to find the cause of the problem and that Jacob will be looking lovely as ever after his treatment. :)

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