feather plucking

by ginner
(mansfield ark)

my quaker is pulling out his feathers and bleeding .
the vet here seems to be more worried about him being over weight and wonts him to eat harrison's high potency bird food ( organic formula) and she wonts him to not have any food other than this ( straight from his usually food to this ) now i admit he maybe alittle over weight but im worried that changing food now will make him more stressed. she says he is molting and that is why he is pulling out his feathers , but why is he bleeding? will he die?

Comments for feather plucking

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May 10, 2008
Bleeding Feather Plucker Part 1 of 2
by: The Vet

He may be molting, but molting is not the cause of the plucking and self mutilation, neither is bleeding ever involved in the molting process. Quakers are one of the most common species seen for feather damaging behaviors and self mutilation. Often times it is a behavioral issue, but sometimes it is a medical issue caused by something internal. My approach to this problem is from many angles. KEEP IN MIND I HAVE NOT SEEN YOUR BIRD, and for me to diagnose it I would need to see him. But, I can give you some guidance that is general for feather damaging and self mutilating birds. Not all of this advice or speculations will apply specifically to your bird but the recommendations will help him be healthier, even if the plucking and mutilation does not stop.

First, if there is mutilation where your bird is biting and chewing his skin, this has to be addressed first. The only way to stop this is with a restraint, such as a collar; not the e-collar that looks like a satellite dish. I use a tube collar that is much more comfortable and effective. In addition, the wounds are going to need to treated and there are a few ways to do this depending on the severity and location of the wounds.

It is an excellent idea to switch your bird to Harrison's High Potency; in fact, it is the best thing you can do for your bird right now. The nutritional quality of this food is the best available. It has Omega Fatty Acids that reduce inflammation and speed healing. In addition, it will help reduce his weight, and reverse the changes in the liver caused by fat deposits. It is good to feed only Harrison's, after he is completely switched, for a period of time to rule out food allergies. The conversion needs to be semi-gradual, and can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks. (There is an article on this site under bird training that gives the details on how to switch your bird to pellets.)

The next thing that can make a huge difference for your bird is to teach him how to forage. Give him toys that allow him to work for his food. Make him spend more time finding and getting the food than he spends eating it. This will occupy his time and be a distracter. There is a DVD that everyone should own. It is called the Captive Foraging DVD. (Sold here on this site.) Buy, and follow its guidelines. I have several patients that eat only by foraging and have no open bowls of food in their cage. There are many many ways for you to offer foraging opportunities for your bird.

Please continue reading Part 2, this blog does not allow long posts.

Dr. B

May 10, 2008
Bleeding Feather Plucker Part 2
by: The Vet

Part 2

Environmental conditions can contribute to this problem, too. If the air is too dry it can cause discomfort. The humidity should be 60%; if it is not, then buy a humidifier. Also, regular bathing helps. Everyday bathing is beneficial. One day use water, preferably distilled, and the next day use Bird Rain from Avi-x. DO NOT BATHE HIM IF HE IS WEARING A COLLAR OR OTHER BANDAGE. Frequent bathing will also be a distraction and force him to take care of his feathers instead of plucking them. Other environmental concerns are allergens such as tobacco smoke, pollen, and tray liners. Are using paper in your cage? You should not be using anything else, such as corn cob or cedar shavings.

Finally, a good work up is going to vital in determining the cause. Blood work, cultures, thorough physical exam, and even x-rays can help to diagnose the cause. If this has not been done, then certainly make an appointment and have it done. If these things have been done, then the next level of diagnostics could be considered, such as protein electrophoresis, skin biopsy, and endoscopy.

There there are the issues of cage size and set up. Your bird should be in a cage that is 24 x 24 or larger. He may want some mirrors to keep him company because one of the theories for Quaker Mutilation Syndrome is the fact that they are colony breeders and their natural history does not allow them to be happy when they are alone. However, I must caution that getting a second bird is probably not the answer to this problem. Do you have a mite protector on the cage? If so TAKE IT OFF NOW. These things are horrible and cause skin and respiratory disease. What kind of perches are in the cage? A variety? Natural branches, rope, pedicure should all be available to provide comfort and variety. Toys? I hope so. Give him things too chew. Quakers love to weave things in their cage bars; give him Shredders.

(Tracie sells the Shredders, Avi-x and other shreddable toys here at reduced prices that you can purchase. Shredders come in long rolls and last a good while for a very low price.)

This is the most difficult and frustrating problem in birds that anyone (vets and owners alike) face. I am sorry to hear you are experiencing this problem. I hope this information has been helpful. Please let me know, and if I can do anything else.

Dr B

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