Feather Plucking in African Greys

Jean Pattison

Causes of Feather Plucking and Some Solutions

I had two wild caught greys that feather picked. All blood work was fine, and any other basic testing was good. Both have long since died. Both birds had extensive lesions where the surgical sexing was performed. The area encapsulated and kept walling itself off. One grew right up to almost the throat area, while the other, included liver and other organs. Both birds feather picking was caused by these encapsulations... or whatever you want to call them. I had one with a rare fungal infection, she plucked, and one with a tumor that plucked.

I received one grey that had plucked for about 35 years that we know of. She was a house bird here. After three years I put her outside, and even after all the years of plucking (naked) she is now in perfect feather. So do I assume she is now "happy" and quit plucking, or can I think the outside rain, preening, sun have made her stop. Again that would be a health issue. See Dr. Wissman's article on the Uropygial gland.

A lot of birds will pick (and chew their feet) that have PDD and you can't test for PDD, even when you know 99% it has it. If we can't test for the biggies, with blood work, cultures (which come back pretty normal, even with severe disease symptoms) etc. ... how can we know what to test for regarding bacteria and fungus that may irritate feather follicles, or skin?

We must also keep in mind a lot of the testing is new. For years we could not have tested for some of the micro organisms we now know about, but with new equipment we discover new things all the time. Back a few years it was blamed on behavior, simply because we didn't have the means to test.

When a bird has a bad wing clip, birds will start picking. Most of the cases I know of feather picking were caused by health issues, wing clips etc.

I do not think one can state feather picking is behavioral, because we can't find anything wrong, or anything on any tests.

Be very careful of the "flighted grey" not plucking theory. I have an instance of one grey that plucked. Her wings grew out by mistake and she no longer plucked. WOW greys need flight, or they may pluck! About two years later, she needed shots for blockage (being flighted she ate some silicone gasket she shouldn't have). She immediately started plucking when she was clipped. Just furthered my thoughts on not clipping greys.

She would bend and flutter her wings toward the bathroom, where she would previously fly to, to just hang out. So I carried her to the bathroom shower rod and let her perch there for as long as she wanted. She would call and I would carry her back to the top of her cage. All day long, day after day for about a year this went on. About a month into this I saw she wasn't plucking any longer. So, she could care less about flying, she wanted her private space.

I think greys need some "time out" for themselves. I have helped a few greys stop plucking by just adding a blinder in their cage, where they could retreat to. No, it doesn't help all of them, but has helped some.