: He is the perfect pet except for his feather picking which makes him
: look like hell at times.
Have you read any of the behaviorist oriented articles which try and look
at all the possible different causes and 'cures' for feather picking?
There are a few sample articles at www.companionparrot.com in the
In any case, every bird is a bit unique as to what started it and why it
continues. It may have been caused by a physical issue, an injury, an
internal problem originally and then become habit over time. It could
still be caused by some medical problem. It could be an allergy, low
humidity making skin dry or 'psychological' (ie: to help you 'think' about
it, many people/humans self mutilate for a variety of reasons. Some pull
out their hair, some use sharp objects to cut themself with, etc.) It
could be nutritionally based.
The best thing to do, is to attack this problem as methodically as you can
and don't give up. Try and eliminate every 'cause' that you can think of.
If you feel 'confused' where to start, start by reading everything you can
get on the subject. LOts of articles have been written by behaviorists
such as Sally Blanchard, Phoebe Linden, Liz Wilson and others. Ask
questions, ask your vet questions, or if you don't feel comfortable with
your vet, find another. Keep a log as to when you MIGHT see the bird
picking. And take photos of the bird's current condition and past them in
the notebook, date it, so you can reference the condition visually later.
Sometimes improvement is slow, and having photos and written descriptions
You may, or may not, find hiring a behaviorist helpful. If you do, check
out their history, credentials and any articles they may have written. You
should feel comfortable with their philosophy and ideas and they should be
open to questions. They should also be willing to 'stick it through' with
you as the case progresses. Any smart behaviorist or vet knows change is
not going to happen overnight and should be willing to stick with you as
long as you two can work together productively/comfortably. I personally
recommend Liz Wilson and Phoebe Linden. You can find their contact info
and articles of material they've written at sites like
www.originalflyingmachine.com or www.companionparrot.com . I also
personally like both those magazines which have produced great articles on
So besides the journal, photos and descriptions of bird's activity,
surroundings and habits (much like you typed here,) I would start with a
visit to the vet. It sounds like you may have done this already. Did you
feel comfortable that your vet looked at all possibilities? What were some
of the suggestions and how did they work out?
If the vet says the bird is healthy and has done testing to your
satisfaction to eliminate any cause of the picking being medical, and to
make sure there is no obvious illness or infection,
internal or external, that might still be causing this, then perhaps the
original trigger is gone (it sounds like this is a long multi year, off
and on problem,) and its now habitual. In which case I would make sure the
bird is getting the best, most nutritionally dense (and emotionally
interesting,) diet possible, plenty of exercise and bathing (4-7 times a
week, he's a macaw, its not possible to overbath them. :) A good 20 minute
misting every day of the week, first thing in the morning, helps
moisturize the skin and keeps the bird busy preening in a healthy way
usually, and keeps the feathers in top condition. Its also exercise and
helps use the bird's energy up, which is important.) Basically all the
basics, including lots of toys to play with, pick, preen and comfort and
occupy his time rather than pick.
Again, try and log all the times in your memory that you can, when the
picking was bad. Does it only happen in the winter when skin is dry and
might be itchy? Maybe only after eating one food? Maybe only when ____
happens? Or maybe you can't see a pattern, and that's ok, but keep
logging anything you might think would be useful. This is going to take
patience, dedication and lots of thought and consistency. Many times the
cause isn't initially clear, or its a habit that takes a lot of time and
work to break. No one has an easy answer, or consistent answer. All you
can do is try and make a list of anything that might be a cause or
anything that might show improvement and just find out what works for you.
Good luck, everyone here is good at suggestions so I hope you get plenty
to start thinking about.