If your bird’s plumage is looking a little patchy, see your vet as soon as possible. Although many of the reasons your pet pulls its feathers out are treatable, the habit could be a sign of something more serious.
Nutritional deficiencies or allergies
If your bird has an all-seed diet or isn’t getting enough water then its moulting cycles may become abnormal. Birds moult once to twice yearly (depending on species), there is a high nutritional demand during a moult and many birds can also become itchy and irritated from a moulting. A good diet should incorporate fruits and vegetables, grit, mineral blocks, and pellets – contact your avian vet for species-specific dietary requirements.
Infection or disease
Your local Greencross Vets can check for a broad range of viral, bacterial and fungal infections that may be behind your bird’s plucking habit. These conditions may lead to dry skin, lesions or malformed feathers – meaning your bird may over-groom itself.
Dr Matthew Gosbell from Greencross Vets Springvale says plucking could also be a result of diseases not directly related to the skin, such as liver disease.
“Sometimes the pain associated with diseases affecting internal organs will cause the bird to pluck at skin over the area,” Dr Gosbell says.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)
Your vet may want to check for PBFD, a highly contagious disease particularly common in young cockatoo species. Symptoms include abnormal feather growth, feathers falling out, and abnormal beak growth – resulting in cracks, chips and breaks and abnormal beak shape.
“Some birds die quickly from the virus while others have long-term feather, beak and health issues,” Dr Gosbell says. “Mature birds can catch the virus without signs, carry the virus for a period and then throw it off without disease.”
Dr Gosbell advises testing for PBFD when buying species at risk of the disease.
Stress, anxiety and boredom can also lead to plucking. To help improve your pet’s mental health, try the following:
- Stimulation – leave the radio on while you’re out and give your pet time outside the cage while you’re home
- Offer foraging toys as well as play toys
- Hydration – provide a waterer, birdbath or regular mist shower
- Lighting – expose your bird to natural light during the day, avoid fluorescent light and cover its cage at night keeping it in a quiet area of the house
- Other animals – other pets and wild animals can make your bird stressed so try to protect your pet where possible. But consider getting a second bird for companionship.