The Shocking Truth About African Grey Feather Plucking
African Grey feather plucking is a serious issue for many parrot owners. It can be heartbreaking to see your beloved pet go through this, but there is hope. With the right knowledge and care, you can help your feathered friend heal and prevent future plucking episodes.
What is Feather Plucking?
Feather plucking is a common avian behavior seen in many species, such as the African Grey parrot. In the wild, it can be beneficial for the female parrot to have feathers for protection and display purposes. However, in captivity, feather plucking can become a harmful and dangerous problem.
Through the use of proper techniques, and if necessary medical treatment, feather plucking can be prevented.
Feather plucking is defined as the act of pulling out feathers from an object, or in this case, a bird. Sometimes feather plucking is also referred to as feather picking, but this can be misleading since picking at things like your hair or nails can be a completely different behavior (though it can still be done on feathery objects).
Why Does Your African Grey Pluck Its Feathers?
An African Grey may pluck their feathers for a number of reasons: when they’re depressed, stressed, lacking mental stimulation, or suffering from a host of various illnesses.
These are the more common reasons for African Greys to pluck their feathers:
Lack of Sunlight
Sunlight provides vitamin D and if your bird isn’t getting enough that can lead to malnutrition, depression, and of course plucking. You don’t want the cage in direct sunlight where a risk of overheating can occur, but it also shouldn’t be in constant darkness either. Nearby windows that allow sunlight into the room is the best placement.
Other than lack of sunlight, other forms of malnutrition can present in your African Grey. Birds can be picky eaters, picking to only eat the foods they most like, so even if you’re providing a well-balanced blend of feed for your bird, if you notice that it has been eating only certain bits of the feed while avoiding or tossing (spitting) other bits of it from their bowls, then it may be the bird just isn’t getting the right mix of nutrients.
A change of feed may be in order, and it is a good idea to talk with your vet about what dietary change might work best.
Illness or Pain
If your bird is sick or having chronic pains it doesn’t understand this so they will pluck because instinct tells them to remove whatever is irritating them.
You’re going to need a veterinarian to diagnose and recommend the right treatment in this case. The problem could be anything from feather cysts to parasites or some other form of pain that will require a professional diagnosis.
Be sure to bathe your bird regularly to avoid skin irritations that can lead to plucking.
This is typically the first thing bird owners look to, but as you see above there are many other, and more serious, reasons that a bird may begin plucking, so it’s always best to be sure of the root cause rather than assuming it is simply behavioral.
If it is behavioral, it can usually be addressed with a bit of consistency and time. Spend more time with your bird bonding, they crave attention.
Also, provide plenty of toys for their mental stimulation, and ensure they have adequate room in their cage for hopping and flying about, exploring, and that they’re getting plenty of exercise doing so.
Encouraging and teaching your bird foraging behavior is a great way to keep them stimulated and avoid behavioral plucking issues from arising, it also helps occupy their minds away from screeching and screaming too!
Can an African Grey Die From Feather Plucking?
There is no evidence that suggests the act of plucking will kill any bird, however, it’s important to understand that the plucking may be due to an underlying illness that if untreated could have devastating effects or even become fatal.
Even if the plucking is strictly a behavioral condition, a percentage of birds who begin to pluck will escalate to self-mutilation where they’re not just pulling their feathers out, but also ripping into their skin and muscle tissue.
This is why we encourage you to look for and attempt to treat the causes of your bird’s plucking, but also have a conversation with your veterinarian as well.
Will African Grey Feathers Grow Back?
In most cases, providing you’ve addressed the underlying condition that led to the bird plucking, their feather should come back within a year during their next molt.
When You See Signs of Your African Grey Feather Plucking
If your African Grey parrot is feather plucking, don’t despair. With the right care and knowledge, you can help your feathered friend heal and prevent future episodes. Look for any obvious signs of the root cause of the plucking and consult with your veterinarian.
Aerika Pedersen – Full-time writer, bird owner, and mother.
Aerika spent three years caring for birds at the Antwerp ZOO in Belgium before deciding to start her own family and write from home to share her experience and knowledge with other bird lovers.