Q: Do any of the anti-plucking products available actually work?
Gary M., New London, CT
A: There are two types of products on the market that address the issue of plucking: one approaches the problem medicinally, the other physically prevents access to the affected areas.
The following is my opinion. It is based on research of the ingredients in the herbal products and on the opinions of trusted sources who have used them and other products:
There are a few varieties of these products available, but there is one main brand whose name you would recognize. I am not going to mention this name (you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out) because I don’t wish to give any attention to a product I disapprove of. This un-named product is distributed by a company whose main product I LOVE, own and would recommend to anyone. It is a strange affiliation that I have never understood.
This product is an herbal liquid that is added to the bird’s daily drinking water. The company does provide some testimonial claiming that it works. I know of a few cases where owners have seen results. It seems reasonable that the product has had some successes, but at what cost.
This product contains ingredients which cause lethargy It’s aim is to stupefy. Plucking is most often a behavioral problem. To the manufacturers way of thinking, the best way to eliminate a behavioral problem is to eliminate the behavior. Unfortunately, it eliminates many behaviors, even those that aren’t problematic, leaving a bird that is too zoned-out to enjoy the good parts of its life.
This product has been “reformulated” to address biting and screaming issues. The bird that is too stupid to pluck is also too stupid to bite or scream. Further, some of the ingredients in the formulas are considered toxic to birds. These ingredients aren’t present in large amounts, but there is no room for toxicity in any bird product – ever.
There are several of these available online. They are simply garments that are worn by the plucking parrot that cover his “areas of interest”. There are patterns, templates, out there that can teach you how to make one of your own. Some people just use tube socks with holes placed in the appropriate places. However, any self-respecting parrot could have his way with any one of these in a very short time.
People’s opinions on plucking suits vary. Some have found success with them. Some think they irritate the plucked areas thereby calling attention to the very place you would like your parrot to forget about. Others think they work great – until they come off and the parrot resumes its unwanted activities.
Both of these options fail in one key area: they solve nothing.Your bird has a plucking problem – accent on the word PROBLEM. It is the problem which needs your attention. There are no quick fixes out there. You cannot give your bird a pill or a bandaid to make this go away.
The idea of medicating a behavior away is insane to me, and covering a problem with fabric to prevent access to it won’t fix anything, The problem will still be there when the suit comes off or the drug wears off. If you need to eliminate a behavior, find the source of the behavior and eliminate IT.
**NOTE – ALWAYS have your bird vet checked for any possible medical cause for the plucking problems. There are certain illnesses and conditions that might be responsible for this behavior.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
How miserable do you think the bird is after being diognois with ? She took her mess and some feathers were coming back and she rips them out and screams. Is it better to put her out of her misery or let her continue this behavior. Like the majority, this is a behavioral problem my vet said she has been doing it for A long time and she is older than I thought. She was a rescue
My quaker “Ozzie” was injured, then began plucking as the sore was healing, that was 6 months ago and he still is plucking, had him to the avian vet numerous times to have a collar fitted, but that caused his neck to be rubbed red raw as he now constantly tries to get the collar off. On about our 6th proto type collar – have had every modification made possible to make him comfortable, finally we think this one will work. Can only hope when it comes off the plucking has been forgotten. Fingers crossed.
I have a gray that was plucking when I got him at two, I tried spraying him several times a day, was told that they do not pluck when wet,WRONG,,, but have since used red palm oil on a cracker with almond butter daily..and the behavior stopped…
Just saw a feature on tv about a plucking bird. Sh has swallowed 74 zipper teeth and was being poisoned by zinc. So remember it could be a medical condition.
My Macaw freaked out during an earthquake and plucked out all her chest feathers in one night. She continued the behavior, despite changing her environment, increasing attention, soft music, and consulting numerous vets and behaviorists. I’ve heard that when a bird has plucked for years, they damage the hair follicle to the extent that feathers will never grow back. Does your research support this? Thank you. Your good information is always welcomed!
Hi Susan, Unfortunately, yes, the follicles become damaged beyond repair after a long time of abuse and feathers will not regrow. Think how traumatizing an earthquake might be to a bird: having your world begin shaking without provocation, and being without escape while trapped in a cage… That is enough to make a bird terribly insecure about it’s environment. Poor thing!
Beautifully written! I appreciate your common sense attitude.
Thank you for all the interesting information. I am from Cape Town, South Africa. Please tell me more about palm oil. My two year old African Grey is starting to pluck for the past few weeks. My vet recommended Premolt 5.
Our half moon conure started getting really nervous (he was passed around a few homes in his first 3 years and had/s abandonment fears). He lives on his cages (doors open at all times) with a lot of things to do outside so he isn’t confined too much for a pet bird. He still started plucking (a little). We found a Greencheek conure (a girl as we found out later) that needed a home and the boy’s nervousness was calmed down. He still wants his humans but now has somebody who’s with him all the time and understands him as we never could. He still plucks just a little but mainly when they are molting. His chest doesn’t get bare anymore. Another thing that may have helped is that we had him treated for mites (predominantly because we heard that he had lung issues and fortunately demonstrated his sporadic wheezing when we were at the vet for a general exam). This treatment was by the way amazing – the wheezing which I think he came with never recurred within more than the year he was treated.
Rosemary Southard here: I do agree of a lot of these things i have read: my sister had a Jenday parrot,and the front of the bird: the belly was abs. raw. I told her to change the diet, and use a spray bird bath that had a little oil: Just a tad of it, and take out the food, and water then spray like a mist maybe twice a week. Bird usually like it. Also put two drop of vitamins in the water. Now the feathers are growing back, and looks pretty good. I think it did need those things,and the parrot is doing much much better. Like you said check out for the medical first then try those things. I bet it will work, because it was tried. I like all of these answers i read.A lot of things will cause it, but i also think the vitamins, and the spray for the dry wings, and diet make up a lot of all of it. Most of the time it is because of preemin, but the dry wings is important. I found this out myself.
Thank you for your comments about the quick remedies and bird plucking. My cockatiel Beenie was being rejected by Baby my other cockatiel. Beenie wanted to preen Baby and Baby would not allow this. This caused Beenie to pluck out his leg feathers. I took action as soon as I saw Beenie plucking. I gave him some chamomile tea which is safe to give cockatiels for diarrhea according to my cockatiel hand book. I also started to give Beenie more attention. He requires more attention then some bird might. I make sure my birds get equal attention though. Even though Baby might now show as much emotions as Beenie, Baby could be feeling left out too. They get their daily pets, time on my lap and I try to eat my meals with them as often as possible or they won’t eat. We are a flock :) He had a veterniarian check up and had no skin problem and I make sure he gets water every day.
I just love the picture of the Umbrella Cockatoo holding a humans finger. I can tell the cockatoo really loves that and he requires that kind of bonding with a human. :)
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