Birds may pluck their feathers on many occasions. This behavior, also known as feather pecking, can have several causes. These can range from health problems to behavioral changes related to seasonal changes.
While it may be a behavior that causes concern for their caretakers, feather plucking is often normal for different species of birds. In fact, this is a fairly common problem in captive birds. Sometimes only some feathers are affected, but in other cases the bird may remove all of its feathers and leave only the down. In more extreme cases, skin lesions may occur.
Reasons for plucking feathers
- Boredom or stress. Birds tend to be intelligent and active animals. As such, they require constant mental and physical stimulation. In case a bird is bored or stressed, or even if it does not receive enough attention, it may pluck its feathers as a compulsive behavior. A bird that does not have sufficient enrichment in its environment may pick at its feathers to release stress and anxiety.
- Health problems. Certain conditions such as skin infections, external parasites, hormonal problems or nutritional deficiencies may lead a bird to pluck its own feathers. That is why it is important that when you observe this kind of behavior you go to the doctor to rule out health problems.
- Normal molt. Birds molt their feathers and during this period it will be natural for them to seek to shed their old feathers. This will help them to grow their new feathers. However, if you notice that this behavior becomes excessive or is not during the molting period, it could be another type of problem.
- Learned behavior. Birds are social beings and, in fact, can learn behaviors from other birds by imitation. A bird that has observed another member of its group plucking its plumage may simply start plucking its feathers itself, even if there is no medical, stress or boredom reason for doing so.
In any of the cases, it is convenient that you observe the behavior of your bird, since this will give you indications about whether everything is all right. In case of strange, compulsive or self-destructive behaviors, it is advisable to consult the opinion of a specialist. This way you can rule out diseases and find a solution for the welfare of your winged pet.
Your veterinarian will be able to perform a thorough evaluation of your bird’s condition to determine the possible causes of the feather-pulling behavior. He might recommend changes in routines or also specific treatments to treat possible ailments.
To enrich the environment, you can provide simple toys and mirrors, until you find what most amuses and entertains the bird. Their cage should not be isolated from household activities and it is recommended that they have sunlight every day and that they can see and hear movements at all times.
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