I have a Congo African Grey parrot (22 months old), who began to feather-pick about five months ago, mainly on her chest. She is sweet, but also hyper. Her diet consists primarily of African special pellets; the remainder is veggies, fruits and treats. I have tried both sprays once a week, and every night I spray just her chest. It seems to get better for a while, but she resumes picking again. We also tried using the cone, with moderate results. She is a great talker and loves to please. Any suggestions?
G.S., Miami, FL Mar 13, 2011
Feather-picking (often to the point of extensive disfiguring and self-mutilation) is an all-too-common problem with caged birds, especially parrots. An avian veterinary specialist must rule out possible physical causes like feather mites and nutritional deficiency. Then focus on possible psychological causes and try various remedies for the same. These causes can include boredom, prolonged confinement, lack of exercise, and stress associated with the placement of the cage near a noisy or high-traffic part of the house and any other environmental factors that could make your bird fearful. Many birds improve when given more freedom, a large flight cage and a compatible, adopted, healthy bird of the same species from one of the bird-rescue and rehabilitation centers across the country. The bottom line for me is to see the phasing out of people keeping parrots as caged animals, because so many do not adapt well (with rare exceptions) to such a deprived, abnormal existence. They need space and the companionship of their own species, in many ways more highly developed than ours. Many become refugees in adoption and parrot refuge centers. Many people engage in the commerce of breeding parrots and other nondomesticated species in captivity, which they erroneously equate with conservation. But unlike goldfish, hamsters, ferrets, guinea pigs and other species that have been selectively bred over thousands of generations to adapt to being kept captive in our homes and thrive when properly cared for, these are captive-bred wild species. Many captive-bred, nondomesticated species like your parrot develop behavioral disorders indicative of stress and maladaptation to their environments. Other species become too difficult to handle, and some that are released into the wild, like pythons and other reptiles and amphibians, pose ecological problems, most notably in Florida. There are also public health, humane and environmental reasons to set federal and state laws to prohibit the breeding of all captured wild and captive-bred wild species (and hybrids thereof, such as those of wolf and dog, house cat and wild South American or South African cats) for commercial purposes.
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