What can you do?
Most feather problems are due to one of five things:
- Nutritional deficiencies (seed and water is not enough)
- Viral infections
- Hormonal imbalances
- Psychological factors/boredom
- Parasites – lice and mites. I have put this last because in caged birds it is a less frequent cause than the others
Considering this list, make sure you are doing the following before you ‘give up’ on your bird!:
- Ensure varied nutrition – seed, grit, water, silverbeet (spinach), carrot, broccoli, native tree branches and their flowers, fruits, commercial bird food pellets, ‘egg and biscuit’ etc, mineral and salt blocks.
- Allow daily time out of the cage, if possible. (N.B. fan and hotplates OFF and windows and curtains CLOSED).
- Leave a radio/TV on if bird is alone in the house during the daytime.
- Ensure bird is getting ‘natural photoperiod’ i.e. normal length of day and night – cover cage at dusk and put in a quiet room.
- Do not overcrowd cage birds. They must have their own ‘territory’ within the cage. Provide areas of camouflage in cages with several birds – bushy shrub cuttings e.g. bottlebrush are good.
- Clean the cage daily, as feathers on the floor may stimulate further self-mutilation.
- Provide a birdbath or spray with fine water mist frequently.
- Protect from stressful situations e.g. dogs, cats, wild birds, extremes of temperature.
- ‘Last resort’ measures include plastic collars, buying a companion bird or placing the bird in an aviary. Before you do this, have your bird examined at the surgery for parasites or infectious skin diseases which may not respond to general changes (as suggested above) and may need specific drug therapy.