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Pet Bird Food and Feather Plucking

How to Stop Feather Plucking in Pet Birds

Many pet birds exhibit obsessive behaviour and will pull out their own feathers. This unfortunate tendency can prevent feathers from growing normally. The birds which self-mutilate will develop patches of bare skin but the head feathers remain as they cannot be reached by the bird. Occasionally birds living together will pluck each other’s feathers and then head feathers may also be removed.


Medical Causes

Changes in hormone levels, parasites and infections can all cause pet birds to pluck at their own feathers. Most self harming is the consequence of stress or boredom rather than illness. However, medical causes for the bird’s behaviour should be investigated first and then either ruled out or treated.

Psychological Causes

Birds rarely exhibit this type of behaviour in the wild because they are far too busy trying to stay alive, sourcing food and breeding. Captive birds face very different challenges including the stress of an unfamiliar environment, containment and boredom. If boredom is diagnosed as the root cause of the problem then it is you who will have to make the appropriate changes to enhance the wellbeing of your bird.

Creating a More Interesting Environment

If your bird is bored then you need to spend more time with it every day and to make that time as interactive as possible. Provide more toys and change them regularly to provide the bird with new challenges. It is especially important to include items which can be chewed. Chewing is important for birds and will distract them from attacking their own feathers. The items you include do not have to be costly and could include cardboard rolls and egg boxes which would otherwise be thrown away.

Position the cage in the busiest area of the house so that the bird has plenty of distractions. It can also help to switch the television on, to provide a radio or to play music. Each bird is an individual and so some may not relish be moved about or exposed to too much noise. You will have to experiment to see how you can adapt the bird’s environment to suit their particular needs.

Pet Bird Food

A good is essential if your bird is to remain healthy and happy. Check that you are providing an appropriate pet bird food for the species that you keep and introduce a little variety if your pet is showing signs of boredom. An inadequate diet could leave the bird feeling week and stressed and this in turn might cause them to pluck at their own feathers. Malnutrition also leads to poor skin condition in birds and this will predispose your bird to plucking.


If you smoke in the house then this could be behind your pet bird’s self-harming behaviour. A smoky atmosphere leaves deposits on the bird’s feathers which will be irritating. If you handle your bird with nicotine stained fingers then this can also irritate their skin and they could begin pecking and plucking to alleviate the itch.

If you spend time with your bird, provide sufficient distractions, invest in high quality pet bird food and vary their diet then you should be able to tackle the self-harming behaviour.


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