Feather Plucking in Birds

PetMD Editorial
Jun 27, 2008
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Birds usually pluck their feathers to preen and groom themselves. Feather plucking becomes a serious behavioral disorder when the bird moderately overpreens or even self-mutilates its self.


There many causes for feather plucking disorder; they include:

  • Disease like feather cyst
  • Parasites like ringworm
  • Allergies to environmental factors or food
  • Emotional stress
  • Boredom
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Skin infections or inflammations
  • Poisoning by heavy metals like zinc
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Malnutrition
  • Dryness of the skin due to low humidity
  • Dyes and preservatives in the food
  • Disturbance in the normal light and dark cycles of the bird
  • Lack of natural sunlight and fresh air

Birds that are overactive and overstimulated frequently pluck their feathers, as do birds that are bored. Such birds also show anxiety and aggressive behaviors. Anxiety can be caused by a lack of fresh air, lack of light, and a disturbance in the bird's circadian rhythm (a physiological 24-hour cycle). Another stressful situation occurs when the bird is moved from one place to another, or when there is a change in its habitual environment. Nevertheless, stress in any form can cause the bird to indulge in feather plucking.

Insufficient diet also leads to skin and feather problems, which the bird tries to solve by feather plucking. Similarly, birds affected by internal or external parasites can resort to feather plucking due to discomfort.

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