Birds sometimes suffer from behavioral disorders that force them to do involuntary behavior, including plucking their feather. Feather plucking disorder is similar to hair-pulling, a mental disorder in humans. The vast majority of parrots can develop this problem, especially cockatoos. The cause could be environmental, nutritional, or pathological in origin. Let’s look at each case individually.
Feather plucking environmental factors
One of the factors that may stimulate feather plucking is the stress and discomfort of birds in their environment. Boredom may also make the bird pluck its feathers until it can reach the last feather. Moreover, lack of bathing, poor lighting, temperature fluctuations, high humidity, poor ventilation, excessive noise, narrow space, and overcrowding can all be causing factors.
Treatment: Providing water in a bowl for bathing at least twice a week, improving ventilation, lighting, humidity, and temperature, expanding the breeding area, and reducing crowding caused by placing many birds in a small space.
Furthermore, anything that causes stress to the bird should be avoided, and the breeder must create things for the bird to distract and occupy itself with, such as providing it with thick ropes or a toy or a tree stick to bite. The bird will spend hours playing with it. This trick is suitable for parrots. As for chickens, providing a pumpkin can help distract and amuse the chicken by picking on it.
Pathological factors may depend on the disease itself and may be limited to certain types of birds. For example, in the African gray, Chlamydia or bird fever can cause the bird to pluck itself. In cockatiels and conures, the parasitic disease, Giardia, may also induce the bird to pluck its feathers. Most of the cockatiels in the United States that practice feather plucking suffers from Giardia, but in Europe, it is rare for this bacteria to spread in cockatiels. Also, mites such as the northern chicken mite, which lives and reproduces on its victim, can cause feather picking.
Treatment: If there are clear symptoms of illness besides feather plucking, the bird should be diagnosed and cured. Treating the underlying disease associated with feather picking will treat the problem. Keepers may also take their birds to the vet for a check-up.
Feather plucking nutritional factors
Studies on chickens have demonstrated that a lack of proteins and grit motivates these birds to pluck their feathers. It is worth noting that birds that peel their seeds, such as goldfinch, canary, and parrots, do not need grit. For these types of birds, grit may cause more harm than good. Lack of protein and amino acids in nutrition is common in caged or confined chickens in a specific area or any bird whose food is limited to seeds only.
Treatment: The nutritional content must be modified to include vegetable proteins and amino acids. Gravel and grit should be added to birds that do not peel seeds, such as chickens and pigeons. The release of chickens in a garden or barn helps them obtain proteins and essential vitamins from plants and insects.
All factors must be taken into account to determine the underlying cause of feather plucking, including health, nutritional and environmental factors. The breeder must take the necessary corrective measures to stop feather picking. If nothing works, the breeder should consider using a neck collar to force the bird from plucking.
The breeder must also be aware of the molting season, where feathers fall naturally and annually depending on the type of bird and at specific times of the year. During molting, the bird will gradually lose its feathers until it acquires new ones, but the bird must not appear bald in any area and in any way. If the bird becomes bald, the cause should be investigated. Occasional plucking of feathers during molt is normal, but the bird may begin to learn this habit and practice it after molting.