Sun Conure wearing cone, obsessed with plucking/mutilating

egg

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Mar 29, 2017
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this is gonna be a long post but I've been needing some help on this issue.
Beforehand I would like to say that if this isn't informative enough, I wrote my specific observations with environment and my bird on paper for my vet to see. if anyone is interested in reading that, I will scan it and upload it here.

in early 2019, my Sun Conure had plucked himself entirely bare and dug a hole in his chest in the 3-4 hours we were gone from the house. Around this time he was about 5 years old, and we had never seen issues with him like this. We took him to the emergency vet and spent 1.5k + on bills on him, only for him to be given antibiotics and a cone. Once his feathers grew back, we took off the cone and he didn't pluck again for a year.

October 2020 came around and the same exact thing happened while my roommates were out grocery shopping for 1-2 hours. Half his chest was bare and he was trying to dig another wound into his chest. So I put the old cone on him hoping this would stop it again.

However overnight he had chewed the cone off and successfully dug wounds in his chest. All the vets I have taken him to insist that this is a behavioral issue, but why is he going from 0 to 100 in hours??

Today April 2021 he is wearing a bubble cone and has managed to pluck even while wearing it, only preventing his mutilating. He is extremely fixated on plucking that I will only be able to stop him if my eyes are on him 24/7. As in, I would have to keep my eyes peeled on him if I were showering, eating, and working because he tries to pluck every second, every minute, and every hour of the day. Even when he is out of the cage socializing with us (my roommates care for him when I am gone from work and take him out) he will still try to pluck. The only time he doesn't pluck is when he is eating his pellets, but even still when I observe him in his cage he will do it in between eating. And realistically, this isn't possible for me to do.

I am really lost as to what caused this because both instances happened overnight... not even overnight, more like in two or three hours.

He has been on a pellet diet his entire life and prior to plucking he wasn't picky with his fruits and veggies. I have observed that after plucking, he refuses to eat them now and eats only blueberries when I leave them in his bowl. I still leave veggies and other fruits he used to eat often hoping he'll pick them up again, but he doesn't. Prior to plucking too, he played with all the toys in his cage. In 2019 literally the day before it all happened, he was shredding his paper and wood toys in his cage and ever since then he doesn't touch them anymore. I even bought him an entirely new set of toys to play with and he hasn't touched a single one since I put them up there a couple months ago, and the new toys I bought for him in 2019 and 2020 have been untouched. In the short time he was feathered, he was playing with his toys.

These are the only observations I have made and there is no trigger to the plucking, because he is obsessed with trying to rip himself apart every minute of the day. I have been around 5-6 vets telling me to buy him new toys and take him out more, but he gets play time every single day and refuses to touch his toys anymore. He was recently prescribed to take Valium, but even on it he still acts exactly the same.

I am at my wits end and this wouldn't be so bad if it was just light plucking, but i have an extreme mutilator on my hand and I would love for him to be able to live without his cone. :orange:
 

LaManuka

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I'm so sorry that you and your Sun are going through this. The plucking in itself is one thing, but the self-mutilation in particular must be a horrible thing to witness. Your situation reminds me of another from a little while ago, a member with a quaker which is a species that can be somewhat more prone to mutilating. Included below link to that thread below because of the wealth of information and advice that it received, particularly in relation to different types of collars than may be of help to you.....

http://www.parrotforums.com/general-health-care/85832-my-poor-bird-hurting-herself-i-m-lost.html

I do not know if the vets you have seen so far are avian specialists. There is rarely one "silver bullet" that will completely fix this situation but the avian vet should perform full blood panel testing to determine if there is a physical or medical condition as the root cause. The link below may help you to find one if you are not already seeing one, or if you'd like to get another opinion.....

https://www.aav.org/

I hope that some other among our membership will have some practical advice for you. The behaviour may have had it's genesis in stress, boredom, illness or nutritional deficiency and it has now become a dangerous and destructive habit for your Sun, and I do so hope you can get some help for him soon.
 
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noodles123

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I'm sorry you are going through this..Noodles as doing a bit of plucking and minor self-mutilating when I adopted her as a rescue, and I know how maddening and scary it can be even at lower levels.

Have the xrayed him to see if there could be something wrong internally in that area? Also, a bird should get a CBC blood panel run at minimum, every 3 years. Sometimes they pluck due to internal issues.


An extremely hormonal and frustrated parrot will often become sexually frustrated and implode (via increased neuroses, including plucking it).Some lash out and start getting bitey/scream, others pluck like crazy etc etc due to the unhealthy level of anxiety and hormones associated with being in a sexually heightened state with humans who can't keep that promise. If this is his problem, you can prevent it by modifying your behavior and the environment *pllllease don't get him a "friend" to try and solve it-- that is often a disaster*..

1. Have you made sure to remove any huts, tents or shadowy spaces?<-these are bad news for hormones and can lead to blockages...boxes, coconuts, anything even remotely shadowy should not be allowed. If not, this could be a contributing factor. I am not saying yank it out while he is looking or anything...but definitely consider removing these sorts of things...That may initially stress him out more (is the issue) which is why they should not be introduced...but read the other things below and see if changing behavior etc decreases this. ALL BIRDS like shadowy spaces because it is tied to a breeding instinct but your parrot does not need any sort of bed or special sleep space other than the perch and it can really mess with their heads and change the way they perceive you and the general environment as well.

2. How much sleep does he get each night on a set schedule (they need 10 solid hours--- covered in a noisy room doesn't count)..You said you have roommates which makes me worry he may be sleeping in a living area that has noise at all hours.

3.Do you (or others) pet him on places other than the head or neck? Anything other than the head or neck (no matter how much they like it) is very sexual *unless brief and for medical purposes only*-- stroking down the back, under wings, along the beak, etc etc all are places only the mate would be allowed to touch in the wild, so by touching their, you are advertising yourself as a mate which is something you can never be. This alters the parrots hormones and mental state, as well as their expectations with regard to you.

4. Do you allow him to cuddle under blankets, wrap him in towels or fabrics when not at the vet to "cuddle", or allow him in/around couch cushions/pillows, under shelves, under furniture, under hair etc? If so, also stop this...Anything that can be perceived as a nesting material (piles of paper, paper shreds, loose fabrics etc) should not even be in his environment (whether in or outside the cage- exploration of these types of things should be discouraged)--- it's not just about covering with them..often, just allowing access to the exploration of such surfaces/textures is a trigger for nesting behavior and hormones.

5.Do you ever partially cover the cage during the day (this is also very bad news for hormones-- cage should be uncovered until the moment of lights out, bed time.

6.Also, did a favorite person leave his life ? That can upset them too..

7.How many hours does he get out of the cage daily?

8.Did you clip his wings around the time this started?<--this can also upset some birds to the point of plucking etc..but normally, there are also other contributing factors.


Plucking is an addiction, like cutting, but cutting stems from anxiety and depression etc---- so by controlling hormones, you can often seriously reduce the behavior (although, as it has gone on for so long, you are also looking at an addiction). If you haven't already, you must first address all of the hormonal factors above, as they are true for adult parrots whether or not they pluck.You also have to be mindful of the fact that increased anxiety could increase the behvaior-- it's definitely tricky.
 
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egg

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In 2019 when this happened we took him to the vet and I spent 800+ on testing. The first time this happened, I was told that it was a skin infection and that no other health issues were present.
The other vet I took him to didn't do any bloodwork.
Someone did suggest to me that if this is confirmed a hormonal issue, that there is a shot avian vets administer to ease their behavior.

1. We have never had those to begin with :( just perches and toys. However we do drape his cage with a blanket when it's bed time
2. The living room is inactive around 11pm and I wake up for work around 9am to lift the blanket.
3. I did when he was younger, around 1-2 yrs of age but when I learned that was an issue I stopped immediately. When I was doing this I was 15-16, I am now 22.
4. This is also something I used to let him do at that time, but now when we spend time he stays perched on my clothes while I do chores like washing the dishes, and perches on my knees when I am watching TV/movies.
5. !!! This is something my roommates do. If this is an issue then I will ask them to stop.
6. I am the favorite person :( I also wonder if it is because I began working full time for the first time around July, and me not being around agitates him.
7. 30mins-2 hours, but we leave his cage open for 3-4 hours after i get home from work.
8. His wings have not been clipped since 3 yrs ago? Right now he is fully flighted; with the "bubble" cone he is wearing it weighs him down so he flies so slow lol
 

noodles123

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Jul 11, 2018
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Never ever partially cover during the day (unless dealing with a bird in medical shock or something) and yes, it could be due to his being away from you (the routine change). They need to stop that cage covering during the day (period/full-stop). Birds regulate hormones and immune health in relation to light and partial covering during the day is unhealthy for a variety of reasons, but it impacts hormones significantly.


I would also ensure that he gets at bare minimum, 2 hours out per day. 30 minutes is not enough for an animal that would fly up to 40 miles a day--I know we cant come close to that in captivity, but when their normal environment would be miles and miles, confined to a cage all day is so unnatural and anxiety inducing. Even if he can't fly, he needs to be out and included more.I'm confused about what you mean when you say you let him out 30 min to 2 hours but have his cage open for 3-4...Does he not exit on his own?

be careful about allowing him on your lap-- it can be okay, but my bird gets hormonal on mine (especially depending on the time of day, amount of petting, lighting in the room etc) because it's a shadowy, cloth covered place with her favorite person. Hormones aren't always obvious, so just because your bird isn't regurgitating etc doesn't mean they aren't triggered by an activity.


It's okay to cover the cage when it is time for bed-- aka, when the room becomes inactive and lights are out


There are shots for hormones, but they aren't without risk. There are also lupron impants etc, but again, not without risk. I don't think there is enough information right now to opt for either, but until all of the hormonal triggers are removed for a long period of time, you can't rule them out.


Any x-rays or imaging?


Also, if you could post a picture of the cage, that might help, as size can also be an issue.
 
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egg

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When his cage is open like that he goes outside to the top and chews on the blankets on his cage, watches the house do things. I think it makes him feel like he's hanging out with us.

No x-rays yet. I found a new avian vet in my area and I think I'm going to take him there.

I am currently not home but this is his cage:
https://www.googleadservices.com/pa...jblLjau_7wAhWE7Z4KHSpDDVcQ5bgDegQIARBk&adurl=
this has been the cage for the 6 yrs he's spend w me and I recently bought a new one because the bolts are getting rusty:
https://kingscages.com/product/new-locks-8003223play-pen-bird-cage32w-x-23d-x-69h/

I notice too once he started plucking he stopped playing with his toys. I've been putting dried fruit inside foraging toys and it helps, but it seems he's only interested in them when theres dried fruit/veggies in there
 

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