Need to vent! My bird plucks!

MTG

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May 22, 2019
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Cambridgeshire, UK
Parrots
Quaker Parrot,
Congo African Grey
Hello

This may be a bit of a long post, and a bit all over the place. But I feel like I just need to unload/vent, and this seems a safe and supportive place to do so.

Please feel free to give advice where you can.

So.... about a month ago I noticed that my beloved African grey, Zelda, had plucked a handful of feathers around her crop. I immediately booked her in for a vet check, and she is perfectly healthy, good news! the plucking seemed to have been a one-time thing at this point as she hadn't continued, and maybe lost a few more feathers in the next week or so.

I started researching, I think I have read every resource on the web about plucking at this point! after reading the most common causes I did some self-analysis.

  • She is 2.5 yrs old
  • There have been no changes in her environment or routine.
  • She has a wide variety of toys, foraging, shredding, chewing, etc. these get changed and rotated regularly. She spends a lot of time with me. We also do a fair amount of trick training. I believe her to be a well-stimulated parrot, and I don't think boredom to be an issue
  • She is on a diet of main pellets with a "no sunflower no peanut" seed mix as a bonus, with fruits and veggies added here and there. I don't believe diet to be an issue.
  • Her cage is on the smaller end of what is considered a good size cage for a grey. So I have bought a new big cage with lots of room for toys and fun. She shares a room with my quaker parrot called Yoshi, (only one bird is out of their cage at a time) so maybe jealousy could be an issue when one is out of the cage and the other isn't. I plan to move them both to their own room so that when one of the birds is with me the other can still be out of their cage and not witness me "cheating" on them with another bird! I am slowly introducing her to the new cage and new room so as not to overwhelm her.
  • I have also started bathing at least once a day. sometimes will aloe juice is added to the spray water.

From my analysis of her behaviour, it seemed to me that she would pluck mostly when she was in her cage and I was not in the room, maybe a separation anxiety issue or hormonal behaviour. I have started working on getting to be more independent either way.

At this moment in time, she has a lot of pin feathers that are almost fully grown in, which is good. She has, however, started to pull some of the pin feathers out when she is preening, which I imagine is painful. It also seems that her plucking is becoming more casual, today I saw her pluck when she was out of the cage, not something I had seen before.

I have read mixed views regarding supplements and sprays eg. pluck no more, featheriffic etc. I am holding off on trying these as I am not entirely convinced on their safety and efficacy.

I am struggling with this issue myself, I have days where I feel immense guilt that she feels she needs to pluck and that it must be something I am doing/not doing. Other days I feel positive that we will get this sorted and she will stop. Other days I am beside myself, not knowing how to help her and it all feels a bit overwhelming.

I feel I am trying all that I can to try and help her resolve this issue, and sometimes I feel like we have made progress and other times I feel like we've made none.

All I want is for her to be happy, I am trying my best to give her everything that she needs both physically and mentally. I love her so so much and hate the thought of her being unhappy to the point of plucking.

I feel a bit lost in this whole situation, I can't find a definite cause or trigger for it, and the things I have implemented to help haven't proved effective yet.

I would love to hear anyone words of wisdom or advice.

Thank you for listening.

Mitch
 

Scott

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Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

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Plucking is one of the most complex and vexing behaviors with parrots. Causes range from medical to psychological and in some cases cannot be reversed. An avian vet well-check may identify potential issues or rule out health considerations, placing them in the realm of behavioral. May find helpful information within this well written plucking thread: https://www.parrotforums.com/threads/plucking-a-search-for-answers.52217/

Wishing you and Zelda best of luck and feathering, please keep us updated!
 

Tami2

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Aug 18, 2017
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I'm so sorry to hear this. I fear this very thing w/ my grey.

I will tell you that my Levi without a doubt suffers from separation anxiety. Which is odd as he is always w/ us. He actually anticipates my behavior and knows my routine. As soon as he understands I will be heading upstairs to take care of my son, he is already reaching out his foot for me to pick him up. At times it is premature & quite frankly annoying. B/c he is relentless w/ his foot reached out to me accompanied w/ obnoxious chirping. LOL :rolleyes:

I had to purchase an extra cage for our bedroom after exhausting many other options that he refused. So, he can hang out w/ us when we are in the bedroom.

I have read much on this topic as Greys are prone to this self-destructive behavior. I found a thread here a few years ago that was very upsetting. It stated that it may not matter what you do. If the breeders breed birds that pluck, it could be handed down in the genes. I'll see if I can find that thread for you. I found it very disturbing to say the least.

The good news for you is, you've already determined that Zelda is healthy. So, now you can hone in on what may be causing this unsettling behavior.

Best of luck to you both. I hope you can figure it out sooner rather than later.
 

Tami2

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While searching for that plucking thread, I found this one. I had saved in my notes on my Mac. Hope this helps. I will continue to look for that thread.

 
OP
M

MTG

Member
May 22, 2019
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20
Cambridgeshire, UK
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Quaker Parrot,
Congo African Grey
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While searching for that plucking thread, I found this one. I had saved in my notes on my Mac. Hope this helps. I will continue to look for that thread.

Thank you!
 

Tami2

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As I continue to search for that thread. I keep stumbling on really good stuff. lol :) Here's another good read.👇
 
OP
M

MTG

Member
May 22, 2019
31
20
Cambridgeshire, UK
Parrots
Quaker Parrot,
Congo African Grey
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As I continue to search for that thread. I keep stumbling on really good stuff. lol :) Here's another good read.👇
Thanks for taking the time out of your day to help me. I really appreciate it.

That article has some great advice and information in it. I'm particularly intrigued by the patterning to music part. I will definitely try that for zelda.
 

Tami2

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Levi - 5 yr old CAG

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Oh my pleasure. I’m glad some of the stuff I’m finding may be helpful. I play rainforest sounds soothing music with running water & Native American flutes everyday. In addition, if Levi is acting nervous I speak softly & offer him chamomile tea. Or a distraction of some kind. :)
 

Tami2

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Aug 18, 2017
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Levi - 5 yr old CAG

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👇I believe this is thread I’ve been telling you about. Hope it helps.
 

SailBoat

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Jul 10, 2015
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Sadly, companion Parrots will pluck!

There is a medical foundation for it in about 8 to 11 percent of those that pluck. But a skin sample is required in the first couple of months. Once past that point, all plucked sites will have the same results by the action has likely become a habit.

We are in a long term evaluation, but Covid has disrupted the testing and likely faced with starting anew.

Love your baby!
 
OP
M

MTG

Member
May 22, 2019
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20
Cambridgeshire, UK
Parrots
Quaker Parrot,
Congo African Grey
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I found this article while researching today, very interesting.

I am trying to just accept that this is a thing that Zelda might do, and it isn't my fault, (by no means am I giving up! I will try everything I can, but just changing my attitude towards it) She still plucks a little bit, only around her crop and only once the feathers are nearly grown in (frustratingly). I try to just ignore it, not focus specifically on fixing it, and just offer her the best care that I can regardless. Including lots of love and compassion, good food offerings, toys, playtime, training, cage, environment, etc., and hope that a side effect of that will be that she will stop picking her feathers. And if not, at least I know that she is living the best possible life I can offer to her.
 

Laurasea

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it is difficult and frustrating. You've gotten such great advice.

If it wasn't mentioned, sunshine can be beneficial. Taking them out in a very secure cage in light shade and stay with them, the ideal is half hour a day. Greys need more vitamin D and Calcium and the two work together.

But I took in a rescue that had started to pluck around her neck. And 4 years later still does... I've had to accept it. Though at first I sure thought have a great life and food ect would fix it. When its not medical, and is well established, few ever stop...
Sometimes we get close and almost all will grow back...then she us back at it. Some success for us was she quit mutilation on her feet, and over preening...so I take that and am happy for it.

My newest quaker Phoebe from the pet store, was over preening and starting to pluck her shoulders.. thankfully it wasn't well established, and she just stopped doing it, almost as soon as I got her home. Her personality and young self just couldn't handle pet store life. She was one heck of a screamer, and after several trips to get supplies....i just had to "save" " pay a fortune " her. Wow on the screaming, the fear of hands. Both took a lot of work and months to overcome. Ha, now I'm venting!! We did work it out, and what a sweet girl she is now .

I know the stress article linked earlier, talks about offering a warm feeding by hand right before bedtime, as comfort feeding. As often its how they were weaned, and early food anxiety, that is linked with plucking later in life. Larger parrot species would be supported well past there first year of life by parents, and extended teaching.

Its something for people who get weaned young medium and large parrots to jeep in mind. Comfort feeding, guided foraging and meals. Guided social and environmental interactions, and contact. They wouldn't be far from parents that first year. Leads to more independent and confident and intelligent burd for life. But I hear so many say no that's spoiling them , that they have to be left to learn to be independent. I don't know where that comes from. They may look like adults, but they are like primates in having an extended time with parents, and even the next clutch of siblings.

Look to nature, and each species flock and family dynamics for ques . I do as much research for each species i have, in the wild as I can . Wild parrot research and observations can be hard to come by.

As parrots aren't really domestic yet. How tgey live in the wild , type if environment, tells you a lot of what they need, and what to expect.

Quaker live in huge flocks, community living, loudly vocal, extremely active, many social interaction. Spend time on the ground

Green cheeks live in small family groups, and a looser group flock. More tree living, less time ground foraging.
 

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