Feather Plucking

chris-md

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2010
4,062
536
Maryland - USA
Parrots
Parker - male Eclectus

Aphrodite - red throated conure (RIP)
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!

Thank you for this.

I've read the document you've mentioned. Unfortunately ekkies have their own suite of problems beyond your typical parrots.

I could see a situation where handrearing is a culprit: it sets the birds up for a life very different than they were adapted for, generating a whole suite of new issues that they otherwise wouldn't face.

Unfortunately for eclectus, they're also perpetual slaves to their hormones - very unlike other parrot species. Plucking as an expression of hormonal behavior is a HUGE source of feather destructive issues in the eclectus species.

The other great source is poor diet. The eclectus diet is...tricky. Humans do NOT mimic the wild ecletus diet well at all, and when we do it creates behavior problems as well as hormonal problems. They're also very sensitive to certain aspects of their diet, such as excessive vitamins. Some foods, like foods treated with sulphur or salicylates, can REALLY create issues and get you a naked bird in short order.

So essentially, once again you can't quite lump eclectus in with other birds. YES to everything you've said, but its almost TOO generic to be applicable to this very unique species and this unique situation.

my own ekkie is a cyclical feather picker. Always starts barbering right around Christmas, and finishes down to the downy greys by March. The cycle is SO strong and so consistent that it is DEFINITELY hormonally driven - they line the next with feathers. Unfortunately, theres nothing that can be done for hormonal plucker. Hormones express themselves in eclectus in a number of different ways: regurgitation, barbering, searching for dark places to nest in, masturbation, aggression, appetite modification, need for attention...the list goes on. Any indiviual bird may wind up with any combination of these behaviors: some may JUST be aggressive, others may be avid nesting site seekers and regurgitators, others may barber and eat less. Or they may not express much at all.

And of course, theres the learned behavior: attention seeking: bird plucks human screams "NO DON"T DO THAT", bird notices it gets attention. Bird plucks, human screams again, bird gets attention. So a health issue can also become a behavioral issue as well.
 

chris-md

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2010
4,062
536
Maryland - USA
Parrots
Parker - male Eclectus

Aphrodite - red throated conure (RIP)

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.​


I totally relate to that, I only had this forum! Granted, I previously owned budgies and a conure in my youth, so that confidence in handling DID carry over. But those birds were unfortunately neglected - the conure literally died because nobody fed it in my absence for 4 days (its a horrible tragic story, and parker benefits from the lessons learned from that poor bird's tragic life every day. I make sure of it).

So though I had the understanding of what it meant to own a bird, I was actually lookking to TRAIN and DO stuff with him, which I never did. And the fact that I was starting with an eclectus meant I was starting from zero, not to mention an eclectus is literally 7 times larger than any conure. I had a mentor on this forum, Anansi (he a moderator, but hasn't been around much lately, I think life's catching him at the moment), whom I paid very close attention to. I allowed myself to be put on a very steep learning curve because of how different eclectus are.

There are other very stealth ecelctus owners as well. Our dear moderator Terry is one, I REALLY wish she would speak up more on eclectus stuff beause she's REMARKABLE. AND shes got a big, diverse flock, so she has profound perspective on the differences between eclectus and other species, even if her ekkie likes her husband more (story of my life, too) 😁

My point: youre better off relying on the ACTUAL eclectus owners here for ecelctus specific information. By all means, Glean what you can from birdtricks, lord knows I have (training/behavioral, mostly. they had never messed with ANY ekkies when I firstt found them - I'm glad they're getting that experience, actually). But keep that in perspective: ekkies are different, and they don't know ekkie-specific care.
 
Nov 6, 2021
36
Media
1
88
Parrots
Rico
Angelo
Zazu
Commodore Norrington (Norrie)
Hopper
Pistachio
I very much hope you find an Ekkie solution! We were lucky with Rico that he hadn’t sustained significant follicle damage. We are his fourth owner in his young life thus far (he’s 5 years old and we got him in the throes of puberty over a year ago). I also have a 15 yo daughter, so someone is always going to be in a mood in this house!

Rico’s Story:
When we adopted him he was already barbering his legs and plucking under wings. The previous owner had him on an all seed diet and he only ate the sun flower seeds. She would pet every “no-no” spot (this was her first bird and after a year she realized she was unable to provide adequate care). He was too loud for her home phone job and she kept him covered in the laundry room during the day. She had gotten him from a car dealership. His first owner had divorced and gave him to his brother who owned the dealership. Apparently, he was at the dealership for more than a year.

I was easily able to convert him to pellets and he flock feeds with us as well. He spends most of the day outside the cage. Despite all this, He started accelerating his plucking 2 months after we got him, now removing feathers from his chest and shoulders. Once we started haldol and titrated to the right dose, the plucking stopped. He would relapse if my husband left for more than 4 hours in the day and we’ve learned increase the dose on any day he’ll be gone for a while. The haldol only makes him sleepy for an hour and then he’s back to his normal, gregariousness self. He takes it twice daily.

His wings were already clipped when we adopted him and we’ve let them grow. He can now fly around a Rico-proof house. Except for the wood-work. He’s done some impromptu carpentry work!

I’m 46 and my husband is 52. We are well aware that Rico could outlive us both (lesser sulfur crested may live 40 to 60 years). Our son will take him on if that is the case.

I cannot even imagine him not being part of our family. It’s amazing how a creature so different phylogenetically can share the same expressions, love, and emotional sensitivity as us humans. God must certainly have a special place in his heart for parrots!
 

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