I am always saddened when I hear from an owner whose bird has begun feather destructive behaviors. Once medical possibilities have been ruled out, it is heartbreaking to imagine that your bird has been so emotionally distraught in it’s environment that it would resort to these measures. Unfortunately, many owners feel a lot of guilt.
Sometimes the cause of the upset can be found within the birds immediate surroundings, and sometimes the problem is so internalized that it is only known to the bird. We rearrange the furniture, re-outfit the cage and adjust the diet and hope we hit upon something that will make life more settled for the parrot. Usually, should we be lucky enough to find the cause, it is too late. For reasons that no one can be 100% certain of, the plucking often continues even once the source of the problem is eliminated. Eventually the follicles in the skin become too damaged for feathers to regrow, and we have a bird that is, to many people’s way of thinking, ugly.
To my way of thinking, these birds have a special kind of beauty. When you strip away the outer layer that attracts the eye, what is inside can more easily shine through. A plucked bird can live a happy, healthy and enriched life – if you allow it to.This is a bird who truly enjoys his life.
If your bird is plucked, it is likely that you care more about it than he does. Try not to feel embarrassed by his appearance, and if you carry guilt, let it go. It is pointless for you to assume blame for something unforeseen and impossible to understand. There are NO experts in this area. No one fully understands why birds do this. We can only scramble to try to find a solution when it happens.
However, if you let him suffer a lack of socialization and deny him happy outings because you find it uncomfortable to answer questions about why he looks the way he does, that fault is yours. I’m sure that if you search your heart you will find that you love your bird as much as you did before he lost his feathers, maybe even more.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.