Goffin's Cockatoo Plucking Problem

Avian Vet's response to Goffin's Cockatoo picking feathers.

Original question posted under Ask the Vet:

I have a Goffin's Cockatoo. I got her from a rescue center 7 months ago. She had previously been at breeder who treated her terribly. The rescue center said that she was plucked completely on her chest and legs when they got her.

When I got her the feathers were almost completely grown in on her chest and legs. She has a large cage although she is really only in it at night and for a few hours during the day. She has lots of toys that I rotate every couple days. She is on a pellet diet with fresh fruits and vegetables. I only give her seeds occasionally as a treat.

I think she is picking at the feathers on her chest. She is molting right now so there are some new feathers and I think they are irritating her. She is very generally very agreeable and really does not yell.

I read that using aloe vera juice when I mist her will help relieve the irritation. Should I try it? I am not sure what to do and I do not want her to pluck her feathers.

I would really appreciate any help!

Avian Vet, Dr. B responds:

This is a very common problem in Goffin’s cockatoos. Most of the Goffin’s I see in my hospital come in for plucking and other feather damaging behaviors. My first recommendation is to establish a relationship with an avian veterinarian.

Take your bird in annually for regular check ups and vaccinations. Take her in as soon as possible to have an exam and work up to see if this is a medical problem. One of the tests that you need to have done in an effort to diagnose this problem is the test for PBFD virus.

If it is a medical problem, your Dr. can prescribe treatments. Even if the plucking is not medical based, there is often secondary problems that occur due to the plucking that need treatment.

There are some other things that I recommend that may help. It may be that not one of these things alone will make a difference, but all of them together may be enough to stop the plucking. It is also possible that you may not be able to stop the plucking. Try these suggestions:

1. You should feed Harrison's pellets as 80% of the diet. I recommend this food for two reasons, one it is organic so it contains no artificial ingredients, not preservatives, and no sugar; all of which are know to cause problems in birds. And two because it contains omega fatty acids (not found in any other pellet) which will make the skin and feathers more healthy. Continue with the fresh vegetables and other treats.

2. You should provide your birds with a full spectrum light. This is the only way to provide UV light, which is filtered through glass, so is not supplied even in a bright room with windows. The UV light makes them more active, feel better, eat better, see better, and improves their environment.

3. You need to bathe your bird every day. One day you need to use plain water and really get her wet. The next day you need to mist her with Avi-x Bird Rain, which is a supplement that will prevent and reverse dry skin and feathers. Then you need to continue daily bathing, alternating these two type of baths. Continue this indefinitely or until her feathers come back and she stops plucking. Then go to 3-4 baths weekly, again alternating the Avi-x Bird Rain and water.

4. Put a humidifier in the room with your bird. Keep the humidity above 40% if possible. You should also consider putting in an air filter. No the kind that produces ozone.

5. Put your bird on a water bottle. These are more sanitary than a bowl. Water bowls grow bacteria within 3 hours; a bottle takes up to 4 days. If you cannot change the bowl every 3 hours then a bottle is going to be better.

Change the bottle every day and check it twice daily to be sure it is functioning properly. After getting her on a bottle, you should try using the Pluck-No-More (PNM). This is very good product and has help many (but not all ) birds. It is best dispensed in a bottle to prevent wasting the medication. With the PNM you can change your bottle every third day safely. Use it for at least 30 days.

6. Finally, the next most important thing you can do (second only to vet care) is to teach your bird to forage. She should be foraging for nearly all of her food. Start slow with a treat wrapped in paper, or an easy foraging toy. Then quickly move to more complicated toys and then into feeders, filling them with her pellets. Your goal is to get to a point that she has no open dishes of food in the cage, only foraging feeders. You should get a scale and weigh her to be sure she is eating enough by foraging.

To learn more about foraging you can watch the Captive Foraging DVD and purchase some foraging toys.

Hope this helps. Please let me know.

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