How Can I Stop My Parrot Plucking Feathers?
"I need your advice."
FlockCall has been my love hustle now for over a decade. Love and parrots are my jam. So, when an email starts with "I need", I am so there. And when the need reveals sadness, fear, and lost hope. I pay more attention to the human than the parrot.
"I have a mini macaw who I love but he plucks. It has recently gotten much worse. I have spent years and countless hours researching, trying all my Avian Vet's best suggestions and nothing helps. What makes it worse is that a few months ago he started pulling out feathers with a short scream of pain! My avian vet has giving up on him (us) and says my anxiety is adding to the issue. How can I not be stressed when he constantly vocalizes pain! I have a friend that is a famous breeder who will take him and that is what my Vet suggests. I will do it for him if that would make him happy. But I also think he would miss me. We are very close. Please tell me what you think is the best thing for him? (Right now, as I write he has screamed 4 times as he pulls out new tiny feather - and chews on them). He is relaxed in the steam shower, his favorite thing."
A person needs to know they are not alone and that someone hears them. And cares about what they love and fear for at that moment. Listening fixes, a lot. I wrote back.
"What is your parrot’s name? I ask because I don’t want to disrespect him or you in our conversation. I have a couple thoughts, but I’d like to use his name in our discussion."
It wasn't long into emails and my asking lots of questions, and her answering them with clarity and personal determination that we found how to help Ollie. She didn't want to send him away, but an authority figure suggested another authority figure. We talked lifestyle. We talked food. We talked health and happenings. Ollie wasn't going anywhere. Ollie was home, he just needed some understanding.
Where do you find causes for feather plucking and barbering?
- Health checkup
- Triggering events
- Triggering changes
- No Febreze anything.
- No sprays or surface cleaners used.
- Clean cages, cleaner trays, clean towels washed in free and clear detergent.
- No smoking. No vaping.
- No plugins, air sprays, or scent infusers.
Food was adjusted slightly. We removed grapes and nuts, also known as sugar and fats. A plucking, pulling parrot may be struggling with hormone surges. Fats and sugars fuel hormones.
Water. Filtered water if at all possible. Tap water straight from the city or well could carry triggering elements. Water quality throughout the US has fallen drastically in the last five years. Drastically. We serve filtered water, always. Filtered water to all our companions, guinea pig, rabbit, lizards, and dogs as well as parrots.
Sleep. Parrots self level through sunlight. The sun comes up and the sun goes down. Its time spans trigger Spring flings, or Fall fallbacks. We apply twelve hours of dark year round. They aren't asleep in all those twelve hours, but that's not the point. It's the light quality and length that helps a parrot. When Snickers is plucking we give him thirteen hours. It helps.
Triggering events and changes. For Snickers, there is no such thing around here. We are so embedded and so routine. For Ollie there were massive changes and events. A hurricane, a death in the family of someone he saw as his, family members moving in due to flooding (who did not appreciate parrots at all). Chaos, human frustrations, noise, struggles and the like, for months on end. And here's where she and I found the key to Ollie's locked answer box.
First, he lost his dad and all his loving attention. Then he lost his mom due to storms, family, flooding, and all those demands that come from all those threats. He was alone watching all this play out around him. He lost his sense of flock. He lost his idea of family. You can be right next to your parrot all day long, but if you and your parrot aren't communicating well, your parrot loses sense of flock family. This is huge for a parrot. Fix that, and you fix more than you can hope for at times. So it was for Ollie, a fabulous mini-macaw.
"I LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN!! I have looked for comfort, guidance, knowledge, medicine and support everywhere and I have come away largely disappointed until now. Your unique view of our relationship with our companion animals (family) has offered me my first hope in a long long time. I have already tried something NEW that I can see has real potential. I started singing and dancing to Ollie with the music from Toy Story - "You got a friend in ME". It happened naturally when the song came on while I was thinking “Ollie is not going anywhere!” I pointed to him stood close to let my happiness show. His eyes got bright and I could tell he feels what I am feeling. We have started doing this 2 to 4 times in a row a couple of times a day. It is a short song. I am noticing less plucking …"
And a bit later in time ...
"Lots and Lots of Laser Focused Love! That is what he needed (and I needed to know the loving thing was not to send him away!) I can keep him and that made me so HAPPY - I just had to Sing!! I am singing and dancing with my little guy meanwhile ignoring when he plucks - and he seems to Love it!! He just Stares at me and fluffs up his feathers! So many unsuccessful efforts for so long - and now he has areas of New Feathers coming in that he has not instantly removed!!"
When working with parrots and their humans I prefer using email. Our conversations collect, and at the end of our journey they have a personal User Manual for their bird. And I have a collection of happy endings. I really love my collection.
A parrot's behavior is directly linked to their human's behavior. Never underestimate your influence on your bird. We are that important to them.
Love your unique perspective and that although it is parrot centered, it also really looks at the parront, too. You Rock, Kathy LaFollett!!!