From Cockatoos to African Greys, pet parrots have been a favourite throughout the world for countless years. If you have the time, money, and patience, raising a parrot can be a very fulfilling experience. Undoubtedly, their exotic physical appearance is a factor in why they are so popular and it can be alarming when your pet parrot starts to shed its feathers. If you have noticed this happening with your parrot you may find an answer in one of the five common reasons below.
Your Parrot Could Be Molting
Don’t panic, this is exactly what you wanted to hear. Just like dogs and cats shed their fur, parrots also go through molting phases. Old feathers are being shed to make the way for new growth. You will often notice a molting pattern with your parrot and will be able to recognise the signs that they will be going through a shedding.
When your parrot has molted, you will notice small patches on your parrot’s body where feathers are sparse or only lightly coloured. If your parrot is displaying completely bald patches, this is not molting and will likely be one of the issues below. If you are ever concerned about your parrot make an appointment with your vet so they can receive the best care.
Your Parrot Could Be Feather Plucking…
You are likely to notice if your parrot is pulling out their own feathers if you spend the majority of your time at home. If not, you will begin to see bald patches and wounds on your parrot’s body. Feather plucking can come on suddenly and is often due to emotional or physical pain.
Due to Skin Disease
The most common reason your parrot is feather plucking is skin disease. Of all parrots displaying this symptom that visit a vet, 40% have an illness relating to their skin. No matter how well you take care of your parrot there are environmental elements and things in the home that could cause issues. These can include:
- Air fresheners (plug-in and spray)
- Dusty environment
- Excessive humidity
- Unhygienic living conditions
- Scented candles
If you suspect that one of the issues above could account for your parrot’s feather plucking, eliminate it immediately. Also make sure to take your parrot to your vet in case they need any treatment for their skin irritation.
Due to Boredom or Loneliness
Another common issue that causes feather loss in parrots is due to mental factors. Most species of animal will display emotional distress physically and parrots are no different. In the wild parrots are naturally sociable and having a pair would be the ideal. However, this is not always feasible. To stop your parrot feeling bored or isolated ensure they are not cooped up in their enclosure all day, let them wander about and interact with members of the family, human or otherwise. In their cage make sure they have a number of items and toys to keep them stimulated and engaged.
Boredom and loneliness can trigger a number of psychological disorders in parrots as they crave interaction. This can lead to feather plucking as a way of alleviating feelings of loss, anger and frustration. Make sure you spend enough time with your parrot and use training as a way of keeping your bird stimulated; they are incredibly intelligent. Otherwise, let them spend time with you around the home and get some exercise, it is crucial for their wellbeing.
Other Reasons Your Parrot Could Be Feather Plucking
Whilst boredom and isolation are the most common reasons for feather plucking, there are a number of emotional and physical issues that can lead to it too:
- Other diseases
- Abuse or neglect
- Changes in the home
- Changes in hormones
- New feed
Your Parrot Could Be Malnourished
If you are not supplementing your parrot’s diet with the correct nutrients it could lead to malnutrition – a very serious form of feather loss in parrots. When you parrot isn’t receiving adequate minerals, proteins and vitamins, symptoms can range from lack of energy and behavioural changes, to general lethargy and signs of other illnesses. Sprouting from all of these can be feather loss. Sometimes it is due to a Vitamin A deficiency, which is a very common preventable disease but is often left untreated for too long.
Getting your parrot’s diet back on track is essential. Your best port of call is to seek advice from your vet, who will point you in the right direction. They will likely recommend feeding your parrot a premium pellet formula which has excellent nutritional value. If Vitamin A is the issue you can add the following fruits and vegetables to your parrot’s diet:
- Cantaloupe melon
- Dandelion leaves
- Sweet potato
Can Feather Loss Be Reversed?
Feather plucking and loss is common in parrots and it is always worth remembering that obvious bald spots equates to a serious problem, like the ones listed above. If you catch the problem in time and the feather loss is stopped in its track, your parrot will grow new feathers. It won’t happen overnight, but over the months and years your feathery friend will be looking like their old selves.
Sadly, if your parrot has wounded themselves from feather plucking using their beak or talons, they may have damaged the feather follicle. This is the root from where the feather will grow and any injury could prevent future regrowth. To make sure your parrot does not get to this stage always act at the first sign of feather loss and seek advice from your vet.