Feather plucking or pulling behavior in parakeets can be frustrating and upsetting to bird owners, who don't know why their bird is mutilating his feathers. While there's no easy fix for this condition, it is treatable. Be patient and play detective to put a stop to this destructive behavior.
Often, your bird can begin feather plucking in response to a scary event, such as being pet-sat during your weekend away. Other times, a seemingly healthy and happy bird still can pluck out his feathers. Feather plucking may have emotional causes, medical causes or a combination of both. Medical causes for this problem include malnutrition, parasites, inflammatory skin disease, allergy, fungal infection or disease.
Caged birds, including parakeets, normally molt one to two times a year, intermittently losing feathers as well. Some amount of feather loss is normal. Signs of unhealthy feather plucking include damaged or torn feathers and bare patches of exposed skin where you feathered friend has removed his feathers. Since birds cannot reach their head feathers, these feathers appear intact -- except in cases where cage mates pluck their "frenemies." If your bird’s missing feathers and has sleek, full head feathers, he is not molting.
To treat feather pulling behavior, you must determine the underlying cause or causes. Your vet can run some physical tests on your bird and prescribe treatment for underlying physical conditions. However, vets cannot test for bird allergies. Water-soluble, over-the-counter products may provide your bird with some relief while you and your vet tag-team to determine what is troubling your parakeet. When treatment is prescribed, follow your vet's suggested treatment regimen consistently.
If your bid has plucked his feathers out but the underlying feather follicles are undamaged, feathers can grow back within a few weeks. However, your parakeet must molt for new feathers to fill in where broken or damaged feather exist. Even if you're treating your bird with medication and eliminating environmental causes, it can take several months for your bird to get better.
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