I have a question...

serenity

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Dec 26, 2019
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Hi folks. I'm wondering if anybody knows of an African Grey who was a chronic feather picker until given a companion of the opposite sex. I've had my 33-year old female CAG "Junior" since she was hatched, and she's been either picking or shredding her feathers for almost 30 years. According to her Avian vet (who's considered a renowned expert in Avian Medicine), Junior is in excellent health aside from the feather picking. I've tried pretty much every tactic and remedy out there, but nothing helps.



Unfortunately she's steadily gotten worse and reached a point where I'm very concerned about her emotional well-being. I know someone whose female CAG stopped picking after being caged with a male, even though they're not a breeding pair. Before I adopt another Grey, I'd like to know if anyone else has tried this, and what was the result.



Thanks!
 

Scott

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noodles123

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Jul 11, 2018
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Umbrella Cockatoo- 15? years old..I think?
Never get another bird for your bird-- the risk is too huge. You might end up with 2 birds who cannot even be out at the same time (due to fighting etc), so unless you have the time and money to deal with 2 separate schedules of interaction/play etc, I wouldn't take that risk.

I just posted some other suggestions on plucking for another member, so I will post those here. It is often hormonal, but humans often inadvertently trigger the very hormones that cause it. I didn't mention it below, but any regurgitation/kissing on the mouth etc should be avoided and not encouraged...

The post below was written with regards to a cockatoo, but it all remains true for the most part:


"What kind of cockatoo do you have ?

How old is she?

When was the last time she had blood-work? ***Before I tell you the other suggestions, make sure you have taken her to an avian certified vet (not just an exotics vet if you can help it)**** It is important to rule out health issues first and foremost- that should include a CBC---not just a physical exam.

What does she eat daily?

Have there been any major changes in your house of lifestyle (new family members, loss of family members, new furniture set-up, new work hours, change in schedules etc?)



Hormones often play a huge part in bird moods/anxiety and an anxious or frustrated bird is more likely to over-preen.

1. Make sure you are not stroking he/cuddling her/wrapping her in blankets or petting under wings. Pet on the head and neck only and do not spend too much time even doing that. Make sure your bird doesn't have access to shadowy spaces (under blankets, in clothing, under furniture, drawers, low shelves, huts or boxes). Yes- they like this type of petting and yes they seek out dark spaces, but it is imperative that you not indulge these desires, as they can become sexually frustrated, aggressive or self-destructive when they are stimulated like this...Plus, it can lead to egg-laying in females that that can lead to a whole box of complications (including dangerous things like egg-binding and prolapse). The whole "cuddle-monster" stereotype is true of cockatoos, but it's very sexual for them, so you have to draw a firm line and not give into their demands...They need physical contact, but it has to be the right kind, and it should be more playful/interactive than sedentary snuggles.

2. Make sure there is no access to nesting material (shredded piles of paper, piles of fabric, wood-chips etc).

3. 12 hours solid sleep every night on a set light schedule =important for all large parrots (some cockatoos night closer to 14 and some need about 10 or 11 but they need more sleep than other large parrots). She should go to bed and wake-up around the same time each night (covering/uncovering). If cage location is too noisy at night, consider a sleep cage to ensure proper sleep. It regulates immune health as well, so it is very important (especially for cockatoos).

4. Lots of time out of the cage to play and interact (not just petting) but real activities to keep her engaged and busy and burn off any extra energy (they would fly 40 miles a day in the wild in some cases, so try to get her physically active if you can).

5. Check the humidity in your home (shoot for 55%--no higher and not below 35%). Encourage bathing at least 2x weekly but make sure you do this well before bed-time so she is dry when she is covered. Keep away from drafts and make sure the house is quite warm during this time as well. Dry skin and excess dust can cause itchy skin and over-preening. If you cannot take your bird into the shower, consider misting her with a spray bottle or providing a very large basin of water (e.g., a huge pyrex or something) for her to splash around in. Even if you cannot take your bird into the shower, you can try turning the water to hot, shutting the curtain and door, and allowing your bird to sit on you in the steam BUT!!!! DO NOT do this if there is a chance she would fly into the hot water!
Temperature shock is just very important after any sort of bathing--think about how cold a 70 degree house feels when you get out of the shower and then remember that birds struggle much more than humans when it comes to regulating temperatures. If you use a space-heater or blow-dryer, please verify that that is is teflon/PTFE/PFOA/PFC free! The coils are often coated in these harmful chemicals and they can kill your bird.

6. Limit sugar intake (including fruit). Salt and preservatives can also increase plucking.

7. Establish a routine and try to figure out WHEN your bird is over-preening (is it at night, is it while you are away?) I am not sure if it is related or not for yours, but it has helped me to use key phrases when leaving ---different phrases for different lengths of time. If I will be gone for 6 hours or so, I say "going to work", but if it will be 1-3, I say "going to the store". This seems to help mine anticipate my absences and fret less.

8. Make sure you are not using any chemical cleaners (bleach, windex, lysol, scrubbing bubbles, kaboom, 409 etc) or scented products in the home. Cleaners, candles of any kind, perfumes, air fresheners, plug-ins, heated oil/wax burners, glues, polishes etc all are extremely irritating to their respiratory systems and can cause internal and external irritation (leading to plucking in some cases). Vaping, smoke of any kind and nicotine are also very dangerous. If you smoke or vape, you shouldn't handle your bird with smoke/vape residue all over your hands and body. Also-- if you wear any lotions etc, that could be causing irritation.

9. Does she play with toys? If not she may need to be taught or she may need different toys. If she is timid about new things, don't just shove a bunch of new toys into the cage or that could actually increase anxiety and make the problem worse.

10. Where is her cage located in the house? If it isn't bright enough that can lead to issues and if it is too bright that can also lead to issues. It should definitely be located in the main hub of activity within the home.

11. Try not to pay attention to the behavior if you do see it or she could learn that it gets her attention.

12. My too likes to twiddle around plastic c-links and I have found that to be a good replacement behavior. Aside from hormones, boredom is a huge culprit, so keeping your bird entertained without creating a needy monster is also important (you want to teach independence).

13. Some birds will overpreen a specific area of their bodies if they are having an issue internally in that area, so keep that in mind when you talk to the vet---for instance, a bird with a UTI might pluck its vent area...a bird with a crop issue might pluck its chest. Note: plenty of "toos" pluck at their chests even though they are healthy, but you do want to rule out yeast/ fungal issues/ blood-work before brushing it off long-term.
"
 
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serenity

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Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I utilize nearly all the suggestions on a daily basis, even being able to give her year round sunshine and outdoor time since we live in Southern California. Plus, I eat a plant-based diet so Junior eats a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and other legumes. I work from home so she doesn't spend long hours alone.



The links everyone posted above were helpful, though. I realized she doesn't display any of those behaviors of breeding stress/frustration so maybe getting her a male isn't the solution. And Noodles123 confirmed my fear that the risk of getting another bird is huge.


I'm going to try a few things I learned from those links like Aloe Vera spray and the calming holistic meds because some people apparently had success with them.



Thanks again. Further opinions will be most welcome.
 

Laurasea

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It could be his problems stem from how he was weaned long ago. African greys stay for extended time with their parents. And many breeder rush weaning or sell unweaned babies to be weaned by owners. This causes life long problems.
This is a great article. I think it talks about reintroducing a bedtime warm hand feeding. I know it hasots of good advice. Though for me I'm not a fan of clicker training, I say good birdie as the bridge and works fine for me. I post thisink all the time because I think it is a good read for every parrot owner
https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/stress-reduction-for-parrot-companions/

Edit: after doing some reading, hand reared parrots do have a much higher incidence of becoming pluckers. 17-25% of hand raised parrots become pluckers verse less than 1% to 1.5% of parrentraised chicks becoming pluckers. No evidence of wild parrots becoming pluckers it is a disease of captivity. In my Ornithology thread on page 12 I have added scientific articles and regular articles on feather destructive disease.
http://www.parrotforums.com/general...hare-discuss-scientific-articles-parrots.html
 
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serenity

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Thanks, Laurasea. That Lafeber article does indeed have a lot of great advice. Junior's vet informed me that her picking is likely a result of hand-rearing. And that sadly, many breeders know this but continue to remove eggs for incubation so the pair will lay another clutch and double the profits. 33 years ago I didn't know this, and bought into the idea that she'd be a better companion because she was raised by humans.
 

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