Ask Lafeber

Question:

March 8, 2021

Feather plucking


thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us. I was wondering what do you recommend from your experience for an African Grey that is self-mutilating. We are already on the 2nd month with an e-collar but I am worried about when it comes off in a few weeks. How do you feel about the use of anti-anxiety medications?


Answer:

Hi Natalie,

Feather destructive behavior is a very complicated issue. Sometimes it is only caused by an emotional issue. In these cases, it is normally something that happens suddenly, and immediately following a change in the bird’s life. However, more often there is a medical cause. Because that can take time to diagnose and treat, the feather plucking becomes a habit, so the bird needs to be treated and cured medically, and then is sometimes fitted with a collar while the feathers grown back, to help him break the habit. If you start off with a collar, you are only treating the plucking and not the cause. I’m not sure if medical tests have been run yet, but the bird needs blood tests and probably a feather biopsy. There is a possible link between feather destructive behavior and Avian Bornavirus so this test is highly recommended. It is expensive to do a lot of testing, but unless the physical cause is diagnosed and treated, the collar is only a temporary solution and the bird will just start again once the collar is off. There are mixed results with anti-anxiety medications, and again, those are only going to be effective if the cause was only a behavior issue. I would recommend that you as the owner do as much research as possible, and definitely use a Vet who is Board Certified in Avian Medicine. Feather destructive behavior has been widely researched for decades, and there have been many new findings, particularly the possible link to bornavirus. But your Vet needs to be up to date on all of this, as well as to know exactly how to do the biopsy and testing, because part of the findings have resulted in recommendations on how to collect the samples.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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