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Why do caged birds pluck their feathers?
Whether you love their intelligence, behaviour or unique looks, you’re sure to know how rewarding keeping birds can be. From budgies and parrots to cockatiels and canaries, birds are often much-loved members of the family. With this in mind, there’s no doubt that you will always want to do everything possible to keep your bird happy and healthy.
That’s why it can be a real worry when your feathered companion displays concerning behaviours. In particular, feather plucking (also known as feather picking or Feather Destructive Behaviour) can be especially worrisome, as it’s not always possible to determine the cause straight away.
While it’s important to visit your vet as soon as possible if you have any concerns about your bird’s health, we’ve put together some helpful information to get you started with learning more about this type of behaviour.
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What is feather picking?
Feather picking is when your bird damages or picks at their own feathers. You may find that your bird pulls out feathers entirely; snips away at small pieces or chews them off where the feather connects to their body.
It’s important to remember that while your bird can seem happy and healthy in every other way, feather picking usually has one or more underlying causes.
What can cause your bird to pluck their feathers?
Feather plucking can be due to medical or non-medical reasons (or both).
From a medical perspective, your bird may be experiencing an illness or condition that could lead to feather picking. These could include:
- Skin infection (bacterial, fungal or viral)
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Organ damage or disease (e.g. Liver)
- Latrogenic illnesses (caused by treatment e.g. poor wing clip)
The cause may also be related to their environment, their diet or their care. These could include:
- A diet that doesn’t meet their needs
- Stress or anxiety (sudden changes to their environment, for example, can cause stress)
- A behavioural issue
- Poor bathing facilities
- Not enough fresh air and sunshine
- Environmental contamination (like cigarette smoke, for example).
It’s not always easy to determine the exact cause of feather plucking, which is why it is important to ensure that you’re giving your bird the best possible environment to help them lead a happy and healthy life. Even experienced bird owners may need to objectively evaluate their homes to ensure that there is nothing there that could be causing their birds to feel stressed or anxious.
What to do if your bird is feather picking
No matter what the severity of your bird’s feather picking, it’s important to visit your vet straight away. If ignored, feather picking can become a real problem for your pet.
Choose a vet who is experienced in working with birds too, as they will be best placed to diagnose and treat your bird. Your vet will look into both the medical and non-medical potential causes of your bird’s behaviour and provide you with advice on what to do next.