Feather picking in pet birds.

What is feather picking?

Feather picking is a behavior where the bird inflicts damage to itself by pulling  its own feathers thus creating skin wounds.

Why is my bird pulling its feathers?

 In all cases, food and living conditions should be modified when they are not optimal.

In all cases, food and living conditions should be modified when they are not optimal.

Pecking means the bird is uncomfortable, but it can also indicate a disease. There are a variety of causes for feather pecking, mostly all medical and/or  behavioral.

Medical causes Non-medical causes
– Inadequate environment (dust, smoke, etc) – Stressful environment
– Skin infection (bacteria, parasites, yeasts, viruses) – Lack of stimulation (boredom)
– Internal infection (bacteria, parasites, yeasts, viruses) -Lack of socialization
-Kyst -Anxiety
-Tumor -Lack if sleep
-Wound -Sexual behavior
-Abnormal feather growth -Molt
-Hypersensibility or irritation -Inadequate wing trim
-Other systemic problem
– Nutritional deficiency

 How to determine the cause?

The veterinarian should get as much information on the current and past living conditions of your bird to be able to discover the origins of the pecking condition. Often, tests are necessary to ensure that your bird is not fighting an infection or any other medical condition. X-rays, blood tests, droppings analysis and other tests may be needed.

How to eliminate this behavior?

If a medical problem is diagnosed, treatment will be prescribed to resolve the condition. In all cases, food and living conditions should be modified when they are not optimal. In some cases it will be necessary to install an Elizabethan collar around the neck of a bird to prevent it from continuing to hurt itself. Some birds suffering from anxiety can also receive medication. Recommendations adapted to the condition of your bird will be done.

How to stimulate my bird?

In nature, birds travel long hours every day and spend much of the day  foraging. They live in social groups and interact a lot with each other. It is when these natural needs to search and socialize are not met, that  a bird can redirect his energy on excessive grooming. For his psychological balance, you must keep the bird busy: it is enriching for him.

1- Make your bird work for his food: hide food in a ball of paper or in a cardboard box. Suspend food from a perch and keep inedible toys in his habitat.

2- Provide various toys. Offer alternate Toys: birds, like children,  get tired quickly of a toy they’ve had for a long time. Provide different colored toys,  with different textures and materials.

  1. Spend as much time as possible with your bird. Install the cage in a place where he will see you and you can talk to him (while avoiding the kitchen). Install a perch to your height so your bird can follow you. Avoid leaving it perched on your shoulder. Teach him basic commands (left, up, talking, etc.).

What to do if you ‘catch’ your bird pecking?

1- Ignore the  unwanted behavior. The fact of going to the bird when he pulls feathers tells him that he will have your attention if he keeps this pecking behavior. Reprimand is never a good option because it will increase the level of anxiety.

2- Divert his attention. Have him execute a command (e.g, rise, take an object, etc.).

3- Monitor his condition. If you notice the appearance of sores, promptly contact your veterinarian.

Pecking is a problem that can sometimes be frustrating for a bird owner. You must first be patient and optimistic. In some birds, it will take a long time to solve the problem. The more the situation is chronic, the harder it is to deal with, so it is important to consult your veterinarian promptly.

Ideas to enrich the environment of your bird can be found at http://foragingforparrots.com

A DVD (Captive foraging)  is available to rent at the clinic.

About the clinic: The Lachine Veterinary Clinic offers an unmatched and personalized service to pet owners from Lachine, LaSalle, Dorval and Pointe Claire, but also across the West Island of Montreal (West Island) and Laval, and has done so ,since 1982.

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