Feather Plucking

kme3388

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Hi everyone, I wanted to start a new thread about feather plucking. I know its a very debatable subject. There is so much that goes into why a bird will feather pluck. I also have done a substantial amount of research to try to help my ekkie Nico. Just because at times he pulls out blood feathers :-(. I will say when I first brought him home, and I woke up to find blood on the bottom of Nico's cage I cried, and was scared. I was not prepared for that. In my research I found so much misinformation, and contridictions. Alot of my research that I found online suggests that diet is the main reason for feather plucking. Other research suggested that ekkies just dont do well in captivity. There is information about ekkies needing a veggie diet, and other research suggests they can eat a regular parrot diet (mostly pellets). I'm a very confused ekkie owner. I take things day by day. Does anyone have experience with a ekkie who feather plucks? Was there anything in particular that helped?
 

saxguy64

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Plucking is very complicated. There's a huge range of things that might cause it to start. The other part of it is that even if you figure out what started it, you may not be able to stop it. It can become a habit, and very hard to break. Whatever started it, plucking gives a quick endorphin rush, and they continue so they can keep getting that.

Now, diet... Yes, a possible culprit as it can cause blood levels of various things to be too high or low. Calcium and vitamin A are big ones, but again, not the only things. Otherwise, stress is a common cause, boredom as well. Also, what is his sleep schedule? Very important.

Hormones... You mentioned in your other thread about Nico liking petting/snuggling/cuddling, and that he probably sees you as a mate. If you're petting or any of that stuff anywhere besides his head and neck, he sees that as sexual in nature, and that will cause lots of frustration (stressful) for him. Humans are not capable of satisfying THAT need, so yeah, very frustrating to him. It's a common discussion on the forum, and really boils down to sticking to head and neck only.

This is really tip of the iceberg, but some thoughts to get you looking in the right direction, and some support from one of us who's been there. We have lots of members here with plucker experience. You're not alone :)
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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Nico has his cage in a guest room. He only goes in there at night. He sits on a stand/parrot gym in the livingroom during the day.

Nico medical issues are a broken wing, he had a bacterial overgrowth (infection) on his skin. His vet treated that with medication. He isn't a dust ball anymore. He does have elevated labs. It is believed that he has boronavirus. I think it was active, but now its not? I don't quite understand much about that I got overwhelmed trying to read about it. He had an overgrown beak as well. He is on medications, and will be for the remainder of his life.

His diet conisists of pellets, veggies, and fruits sometimes. Nico doesn't like fruits as much as he does green beans, or red peppers. We had a very rough start with his diet because he loved his seed mix. He also grinds all of his pellets into powder, and then puts the powder into his water dish to make it mushy. It was advised that I avoid giving him mushy foods as it can trigger mating behaviors. That's been a challenge.

Yes Nico does regurgitate a lot. He did at the shelter as well. He'll even do that on his stands in his cage. He is very into his mating behaviors, and even shakes his tail feathers on soft blankets. I don't quite understand that.

Nico does take baths, and that was a huge accomplishment for him. He hated getting wet when I first adopted him.

I will never know Nico's background. The only information I can give is that he was at 2 shelters, and 3 different homes. Someone loved him because he talks a bunch, and loves just interacting with people. He was very attached to the lady that ran the shelter I adopted him from. He followed her around all day prior to me adopting him. He really loves people.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong at this point that he continues to feather pluck. I'm not sure if it's now a habit, and it will just take time to settle down. I don't really care if feathers never grow back, but I can't imagine that feather plucking is healthy. From my understanding feathers are a birds pride, and joy.
 

Emeral

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In human, a fever may be caused by many many reasons. Some of them are infection from virus or bacteria, or overheating sun, or other illness. The doctor will have to find out the real cause and treat it. I think this is also true in feather plucking. All of the information is correct at some point with some individual bird. But which is true for our bird, remains a mystery.

I wish there is a single easy solution to feather plucking. Say, If only the bird could tell us what would help or why did it happen? Since we all are muddling through this guessing game, close observation and conclusion....endlessly pondering....the best strategy, I think, would be.......

1) start at the beginning of the list, to rule out all the fixable problems one by one.


2) caught them in the act.

One morning, my sweet Emerald looked me in the eye, and pulled out a blood feather to wave in front of me. Luckily I have read about this. So I looked at her calmly, pretending that I don't panic and asked "what is it? Don't do that. NO."

But of course, I panic. So later, our family get in to discuss, went through the list of possible causes, one by one. Is it health, food, boredom, .....and so on.....

After ✔we are through with a couple of lists, it boiled down to the fact that, we all went out the whole day, yesterday, without her! Then some one said that a blood feather was found on the floor last week too. We checked the calender and we all went out that day too.

3) identify new things that was introduced before the plucking.

4) if there's nothing new, then maybe something is missing. For example, if someone say the bird already has toys, then I would ask is the bird standing near them, playing with them? If not, then, from the bird's point of view, I DON'T LIKE IT or there is NO NEW TOY! For Emerald, diffenition of toys is the thing she rush to.
Her all time favorite is tamarind seed, which she delicately crush and peel the hard outer crust to bits just for fun.


4)And bingo, remove or tweak that new thing or bring in new things to distract.

When our family agreed that Emerald pulled out a blood feather the day after we went out without her, we called this the cause. Now, to fix it, we tried many strategies and things. It is an on going, Never-ending process of trial and errors.
While we are at it, we agreed that she is spoiled rotten. But what can we do but love her!! And in the process, we have about 7 to 8 momentos of blood feathers in a jar.

Finally, luckily, one of the trial worked with Emerald. Yes, we can ALL WENT OUT for as long as 26 hours, without her and no blood feather too. Just as long as we tell her so. (I didn't think of this, I read about it a couple of times and tried it out. And I was surprised that it worked.) So far, no more blood feather, finger crossed.

Before we go out, we also take turn to tell her just to see. Yep, it works every time no matter how you say it or who say it. When I tell her, I would literally say, "Emerald we are going out, it's going to be many hours. Do you have everything you need? Food, water, safe toy? Love you, stay home." And when we return, we say hello.
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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Parrots really are attached to their flocks. Sense they aren't in the wild. We truly are their flocks. I only find feathers in the morning when I go to open Nico's cage, and to get him ready for the day. He primarily rips out down feathers. I find at least 10-20 each morning. The blood feathers is very few, and far between. I do have to agree with you here. I don't think Nico can stand being alone. Every once in awhile I put him on the top of his cage during the day if I'm downstairs. He will run down his cage, and out into our livingroom. He will search, and search until he finds me. Once he does find me he calms down. Even if he see's anyone else he just keeps searching.
 

saxguy64

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Nico reminds me so much of my Patches. Different in that he was a lifelong plucker well before he found me. I always got so excited when he'd start growing a new bit of green on his chest, or a new tail feather, only to find it gone next time I checked on them. :( He was super attached to me though, also climbing down from his cage to come looking for me. Cutest thing ever when he wandered the house, looked at other family members and said, "where's Jon?" and continued until he got to me. :) ❤️
 

wrench13

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kme3388 I really feel for you. None of my parrots have ever plucked, but i empathize with anyone who has this issue with their fid, it must be extremely frustrating. If you are lucky enough to figure out the root cause, at least it can be addressed, but as pointed out, sometimes it's gone on so long that now its a nervous habit and really hard to break. Its one of the reasons I always tell folk with parrots going thru puberty (which can last months and months) to not let undesirable behavior become a habit, like biting or screaming.

Make sure you are reading and using information from a trusted source when dealing with plucking, there are lots of snake oil type treatments and advice out there on the interweb, I've seen some crazy s**t being suggested as cures. But in the end, we love our fids for what they are, not what they might be, and that is something precious!
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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I bought a snuggle warmer for winter for Nico. I didn’t want him to get cold, or sick. Nico hasn’t been feather plucking at night when he is supposed to be sleeping as much sense I installed this warmer. I’m only finding 3-5 down feathers in the morning. He’s even let a red feather grow in. He has some green ones coming in as well. I hope he doesn’t rip them out. I’m so excited for him!!!!
 

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saxguy64

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Awwww! Fingers crossed for Nico to let those new feathers continue to grow in and stay put! 🤞 It's always so exciting when you see the new ones coming in. I never gave up hope with my boy Patches. Sadly, he had plucked for so many years that the new growth always disappeared within a day or two. Heartbreaking, but he always looked so proud when I made a big deal over each new one I found. He strutted around and wore them like a badge of honor... and still pulled them as soon as I wasn't looking. :( It was just how he was going to be, but it didn't take away from his incredible personality. We love them for who they are, appearance is secondary.

Hopefully, Nico turns the corner and decides to keep his lovely new plumes. Never give up!
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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Awwww! Fingers crossed for Nico to let those new feathers continue to grow in and stay put! 🤞 It's always so exciting when you see the new ones coming in. I never gave up hope with my boy Patches. Sadly, he had plucked for so many years that the new growth always disappeared within a day or two. Heartbreaking, but he always looked so proud when I made a big deal over each new one I found. He strutted around and wore them like a badge of honor... and still pulled them as soon as I wasn't looking. :( It was just how he was going to be, but it didn't take away from his incredible personality. We love them for who they are, appearance is secondary.

Hopefully, Nico turns the corner and decides to keep his lovely new plumes. Never give up!
May I ask the life expectancy for Eclectus parrots? I too make a huge deal about Nico's feathers. I like to make him hyper because he's so cute when he honks in excitement.
 

saxguy64

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Ahh, tricky question actually. With proper care and diet, no reason an ekkie shouldn't have similar life expectancy as other medium size parrots like amazons or greys. There was a time before people had a clue about their digestive system and dietary needs, that folks assumed 20 was doing good. (Same type of uninformed people also thought males and females were different species, and wondered why they wouldn't breed in captivity!) Advances in knowledge, and access to that information has changed the lifespan ideas drastically.
 

chris-md

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I dunno about drastically, my friend. amazons live to be upwards of seventy years. we’re still seeing lifespans primarily in the 30s, and that’s with decent care. The oldest Ekkie I’ve heard of, and it’s the ONLY one I’ve heard of, was early forties.

I agree we don’t know, and have more to learn.

My personal opinion right now (not that you asked - my apologies)? I personally suspect we’re actually not far off from natural lifespan, there’s not much further to go. Ekkies time and again prove to simply be DIFFERENT, from their diet to their feathers to their lifestyle, even dimorphism! I think it’s actually not a far leap, with those differences, to think their lifespan may be out of alignment with other midsized birds. More in line with alexandrines, of somewhat similar size.
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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Sense a lot of people who replied in this thread are ekkie owners, I wanted to ask a question?!?!? My ekkie is showing new behaviors. His cage has a play stand on top so I leave the door open so he can play up there, or flap his wings (there are toys on top of his cage, and in it). Lately when I am doing this he is running down his cage, across the room, to the door, and then starts banging his beak on the door to the guest room. He doesn't stop until its opened, and he can be with someone. Its almost like he has seperation anxiety. The only time he feather plucks is when he is alone. Is this typical ekkie behavior? From what I've read online (not sure whats accurate or not because there is so much misinformation) ekkies are supposed to be more introverted. I am just curious if I move his cage to my room at night if he stops feather plucking as he wouldn't be alone.
 

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I'm not an ekkie expert and only have experience with our 3yo boy, but he does not like to be left alone except when he is busy eating. He starts calling very soon after I leave the room. Even if I am in the next room where he can see me, he stares me down and begs for me to come back into the room by crouching and moving his wings up and down. I am not his chosen-one either.

So, he is not as outgoing as our conure in his behavior, but he is much more "needy".
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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I wonder if it's the female ekkies that are more independent, and quiet. That could explain why what I'm coming across doesn't make any sense. You have a male ekkie I'm assuming by your member photo.
 

chris-md

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Male ekkies are more rambunctious. Females tend to be calmer, if not more hormonal and opinionated.

but all things in perspective. An active male Ekkie compared to ANY macaw is practically a stoner.

In the wild, the females spend most of their time in the nest hollow - they get fed by assorted males, mostly. This it’s the males who are out there flying around, etc. Hence males tend to be a bit more vocal than females. They’re simply more active than females.
 
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kme3388

kme3388

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Male ekkies are more rambunctious. Females tend to be calmer, if not more hormonal and opinionated.

but all things in perspective. An active male Ekkie compared to ANY macaw is practically a stoner.

In the wild, the females spend most of their time in the nest hollow - they get fed by assorted males, mostly. This it’s the males who are out there flying around, etc. Hence males tend to be a bit more vocal than females. They’re simply more active than females.

These are the videos that I'm coming across to learn about the ekkies, their diet, feather plucking, and so on.
 

chris-md

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DO NOT USE BIRDTRICKS AS YOUR SOURCE FOR EKKIE KNOWLEDGE!

Birdtricks are great behaviorists, they aren't ekkie experts. They acknowledge their expereince with ekkies is limited, so it confuses me as to why they are making all these ekkie husbandry videos. Trust them for ekkie TRAINING? Sure, prinicples are the same, techniques are there to be adapted to unique personalities and temperments. Ekkie CARE? They don't own ekkies, have never owned ekkies, and will never own ekkies. NOT a font of pure ekkie knowledge.

What they put out for ekkies is typically harmless, generic stuff. But they've left me scratching my head on a few things, like applying stuff to feather unnecessarily.
 
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Hi everyone, I wanted to start a new thread about feather plucking. I know its a very debatable subject. There is so much that goes into why a bird will feather pluck. I also have done a substantial amount of research to try to help my ekkie Nico. Just because at times he pulls out blood feathers :-(. I will say when I first brought him home, and I woke up to find blood on the bottom of Nico's cage I cried, and was scared. I was not prepared for that. In my research I found so much misinformation, and contridictions. Alot of my research that I found online suggests that diet is the main reason for feather plucking. Other research suggested that ekkies just dont do well in captivity. There is information about ekkies needing a veggie diet, and other research suggests they can eat a regular parrot diet (mostly pellets). I'm a very confused ekkie owner. I take things day by day. Does anyone have experience with a ekkie who feather plucks? Was there anything in particular that helped?
Hi guys!
Please see my post in the scientific articles section and my attachment of Dr. Jenkins’ article on feather and mutilation disorders. Our rescue cockatoo is now fully feathered. This medical treatment works (along with proper diet, enriched environment, etc). According to an interview with Dr. Jenkins by Chloe Sanctuary, 90% of feather destructive behaviors are amongst hand-fed birds. Of studies done on wild-caught birds up to the 1980’s, they rarely exhibited these behaviors even in neglect cases. We need to change the aviculture industry to co-parenting and NOT removing from the nest early unless necessary (i.e. parents not feeding babies, etc). Ironically, I happen to be in that hand feeding situation right now, but that’s another story for another day!

If your avian vet is not familiar with these medical options, please show them the article. You could always change vets if not amenable or have a virtual visit with one who is.

Feather destruction is so heart breaking… it’s important to explore all the options!
 

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kme3388

kme3388

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chris-md There isn't a lot on ekkies to be found on youtube. I am more comfortable with my ekkie then I was months ago. I was really overwhelmed by Nico the first few months of ownership. I was on my own on trying to find good, and reliable information. Most things that are on the internet are just generalized, and not from people who actually own ekkies. I had nothing to compare Nico to, or to see if he is behaving as an ekkie should. His preening is very agressive compared to what any other bird I've ever came across does. That appears to be an ekkie thing. I didn't know that, and thought something was wrong with him is a good example of something I wish I could have found.​


Beak-Beak-Kiss Welcome, and your cockatoo is stunning. That is wonderful that you were able to stop the feather mutilation, and even get back all missing feathers. That is a huge accomplishment. Most of us struggle, and from what I gathered have no clue why our feathered friends are feather plucking to even address the behavior, or cause. It is a frustrating process. I am much more prepared for Nico my ekkies feather destruction then what I was when I first got him. I knew he feather plucked, but the adoption place where I got him said they never seen any feathers, or anything. The first week I had Nico I found blood all over the bottom of his cage because he plucked a larger feather. I am exploring all options. I am hoping with time something helps him. I get very excited about his new feathers coming in, and always cross my fingers that he won't pull them out.​

 

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