Ask Lafeber


April 10, 2019

Picking her skin

I have a 16 yr old female sun conures and a 17 yr old Male. They live in separate houses which are huge. They are allowed 3-4 hrs out of there house to interact with each other. The last 4 yrs my female has been ripping/tearing her stomach a part too the point of bleeding and having a huge hole. It is terrifying! The last 2 times she did it it was associated with egg laying (infertile). Ember has had 4 collars now until her wound heals. What causes this and the treatment offered to us is pain medicine from the Vet? None of this makes sence to me at all?!
I would appreciate your thoughts, suggestions on this issue please.
Thank you


Hi Jennifer,

I’m sorry your bird is doing this. It is very stressful for the owner, because we really do not fully understand the cause. In a case like this where the bird picks at her lower front, hormones are a likely cause. But why some birds do this and others do not is a mystery. Possibly she is more sensitive than the average bird or experiences some pain when her ovary is active or an egg is forming. One thing to do is to try to prevent her hormonal behavior. Ember will respond to environmental changes which trigger her hormones and make her want to nest. When the weather gets warmer, days get longer and she has a lot of good foods available, she is likely to start wanting to nest. Also, interaction with the male can contribute to hormonal behavior. If she is doing this at the same time of year each time, try making some changes ahead of time. Cover her cage early in the evening to make sure she has 10-12 hours of darkness. Don’t let her have anything she can shred or anything she can nest in – no boxes or bird tents or dark areas she can crawl into. Reduce the amount of fresh foods you offer to no more than once or twice a week. If you handle her, only pet her on her head – any petting on the body is something only her mate would do. Rearrange things in her cage and even move the cage to another part of the room. And limit her interaction with the male, even if they have to be out at different times. Also try not to have her room too warm.

If these things do not work, then use a collar again, but this time put it on her as soon as she shows signs of plucking and before she injures herself. In extreme cases, the vet can administer a hormone shot. If your vet is not a board certified Avian specialist, you might see if there is one in your area. There are new advances in avian medicine all the time and it is hard for a general pet vet to keep up with these new treatments.

I have also asked one of our Avian vet for suggestions in case she has anything new to add. The above advice is what she tells her clients but as I said, there may  be some new information. I will post it here if she adds anything.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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