Pet sitting for a Green Cheek Conure that plucks...

by Lindsey
(New Jersey)

Hi, I'm pet sitting for a green cheek conure that has a history of plucking. I've had her at my house for 4 days now and she'll be with me for another 12. Her owner said the plucking started about a year ago when another bird at her home began humping/harrasing her. They've since gotten rid of the other bird to aliviate the conures stress level but she stills plucks her chest and top of her wings on occasion.

She's on a mostly seeded diet supplimented with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and is otherwise healthy. The owners take fantastic care of her and she's in a large cage with PLENTY of toys. I have her in my guest room with my 3 other birds (an amazon, cockatiel, and parakeet)because her owner thought she'd like the stimulation of watching/hanging out with the other birds. I don't allow them to play together though because she can be a bit of a bully.

I noticed her 'over-preening' the second day she arrived and tried spending more one-on-one time with her. But today I came home from work and the area on her chest has gotten much worse. I'm pretty sure she's plucking because of the stress of her family being away and being taken into a new enviornment but I really don't want the owners to come back to a naked bird! Is there anything I can do to calm her down/make her more comfortable till she goes back home? My 1st reaction is to move her to my bedroom so she's away from my birds in case they're what's causing extra stress but her owner said that would make her feel isolated. Please help!

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Sep 15, 2011
Pet Sitting Mckinney
by: Pet Sitting Mckinney

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Aug 27, 2010
Pet sitting for a Green Cheek Conure that plucks...
by: Linda

Unfortunately, you are caught in the middle of something the owners needed to take care of a long time ago. There are many reasons for feather plucking, and I'll give you a link to some articles about it in a bit.

One thing that causes feather plucking is boredom. Toys have to be changed out once a month to keep a bird's interest up. Toys need to be the kind the bird can chew on to pass the time, and need to be kept fresh to keep the attention.

The other problem here is diet. An all seed diet is bereft of vitamins, minerals and proteins which are all the building blocks of healthy feathers and skin plus all the organs. All seed diets deliver large amounts of fat and not a whole lot else. Fresh fruit and veggies should be no than 10-15% of a healthy diet of organic pellets. Organic pellets, like Harrisons', deliver 100% nutrition with complete proteins, vitamins and minerals without the need for supplementation.

The other problem is that this bird needs to have been examined thoroughly by an Avian Vet to rule out physical causes for this problem. Birds with poor nutrition are on the edge all the time for all kinds of stress related problems as they just don't feel well much of the time. A healthy immune system which includes ability to handle stress begins with a healthy diet which this bird does not have. When the owners return to a naked bird possibly then, they'll take the correct steps to restore her to health. If not, she will die from infections related to chronic plucking and damage to the skin tissue. Once feathers are gone, these birds sometimes self-mutilate which means they tear holes in themselves causing even more chronic physical problems.

If the owners wish to have happy, healthy birds, they must take the correct steps to do so or all their birds will be like this one which is unhappy, stressed and starved for nutrition.

Feather Damaging Behavior article

Switching Birds to Pellets article.

Thank you for writing and good luck with the owners listening to how a bird is supposed to be kept in health. Save the two articles I've given you and this letter, and stress the importance of them helping their bird have a better life. Seeds just don't keep them healthy, and all the toys, large cages and such will not make up for a healthy diet. If you had them sign a release form, which I hope you do with any birds you take care of, you can take her to the vet to be fitted with a collar to keep her from further hurting herself. They will be held responsible for the costs incurred if you obtained a proper signed release form so you can legally take bird to vet if needed. If you have no such form, legally, you cannot do anything to help this poor bird.

Thanks for writing and good luck,
Linda

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