Why Does Your Parrot Pull Out its Feathers?

Why Does Your Parrot Pull Out its Feathers?

Parrots are among the most intelligent and sensitive of all the birds, which can mean that their environment will affect them more strongly than it would other birds. Feather plucking (pulling out the feathers) is one of the most common ways for a parrot to let you know it's unhappy or not feeling well. Finding feathers in the bottom of the cage doesn't necessarily mean your bird is plucking them. Parrots molt once or twice a year. However, if you see bald patches on your bird's skin, it's a sure sign of plucking. The reasons behind feather plucking can be difficult to diagnose, and it's often easier to prevent it from happening that to fix the problem. Keeping your parrot as happy and healthy as possible is the best way to prevent feather plucking before it even starts.

Reasons For Feather Plucking

The leading cause of feather plucking in parrots is malnutrition. If the bird lives primarily on seeds, its skin can become abnormal from lack of proper nutrition and liver disease. This causes irregular molting and the bird can begin to over-groom. Once the over-grooming becomes common, it can turn into a habit that's hard for you to break.

Another result of a seed diet can be excess calories and weight gain.  When the bird eats more food than it needs, this is a trigger to increase hormones for reproduction.  Hormonal stress and changes to the body can trigger feather damaging behavior. In some cases, the bird may progress to damaging skin and underlying tissues.

One common symptom of internal disease in parrots is pulling out the feathers. Illness can cause this behavior, as well as parasites such as mites or lice. Your veterinarian will be able to test your parrot to get to the root of this problem.

One reason for feather plucking that you can fix is stress or depression. As intelligent creatures, parrots are subject to being upset from a number of environmental issues. If your parrot is left alone too often, if his cage is dirty or cramped, or if he's bored and doesn't have any way to use his mind, he can develop bad habits such as feather plucking. These environmental problems are completely under your control. Giving your parrot the best environment possible will go a long way toward stopping this bad habit before it starts.  Foraging, positive reinforcement, and enrichment programs can both prevent and reduce feather damage.