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Feather Plucking in Cockatoos

Cockatoos are fantastic creatures: beautiful to look at, intelligent, comical, adorable natured, all the things you want in a family pet, BUT can you really cope with the attention seeking, noisy, messy child that NEVER grows up, never leaves home and might pluck its own feathers out if it gets bored or stressed.  Are you sure?


The families of so many feather plucked cockatoos thought they could. Everyone thinks it will never happen to their bird. Take a look at the photos below which are some of the resident cockatoos here at our Sanctuary.

Feather plucking in our pet cockatoos and other parrots is such an emotive subject. No-one wants to think it is their fault. We all look for reasons as to why our birds are feather plucking and/or self mutilating. 

Reasons can be many and varied. Such as health related. Your bird may not be getting an adequate varied diet. Does it really eat all the fruit and veg you put in the bowls, or perhaps you do not always put fruit and veg in the bowls?


Or maybe the plucking is stress related. Is you parrot happy in its environment? Are you sure?


Perhaps he/she is unhappy about a dog or cat constantly walking past or jumping up the cage, or unhappy about being placed in front of a window, or frightened of noisy children, frightened of visitors to the home, frightened of being left alone, or just plain bored - all these possibilities and more are potential reasons for a parrot to pluck its feathers.





















You Don't Need A Vet Initially And Forget The Drugs


I have seen so many posts on social media from people who think they are the best person in the world to have a cockatoo but still their bird plucks, they can't understand why:  their bird goes out with them, travels around, gets lots of attention etc....some people never accept it is their own doing and always look for reasons why the bird is plucking whilst ruling themselves out of the equation, (maybe their bird doesn't want to go on outings and meet lots people?) they then undertake visits to the vet for unnecessary treatment which usually entails prozac or similar which don't work by the way.  All these drugs do is mask the problem - not cure it.


By the way - drugs such as prozac (anti-depressant) and others such as tramadol (pain killer) are extremely dangerous for use in cockatoos and other parrots. NONE of these drugs are licensed for psittacines.

Here at the Sanctuary we have a very high percentage of feather pluckers, some far worse than others. In saying that I mean they arrive feather plucked. However being around other cockatoos and having a lively environment often works wonders, always having something going on around them prevents the boredom and many of them stop plucking, (not all however). Cockatoos are flock creatures and not meant to be on their own.  I immediately know when one of our cockatoos is not happy, slouchy position, perching on 2 feet not 1, closed eyes, sleeping a lot during the day, not eating just picking, abnormal droppings and of course feather plucking.

Sometimes the feather plucking can be health related as mentioned, but that doesn't mean you have to dash off to the vet for unnecessary tests. Take note of when your bird is normal, its routine and you will learn to read the signs when your bird is unhappy or unwell.

Feather plucking isn't an exact science, we don't alway know exactly why it happens but often the signs are there in front of us if we only took the time to notice.

Whatever the reason(s) for feather plucking (and you may not ever truly know why) one thing is for certain. We cause it. Yes - us. Loving and caring pet owners,  we think and hope we are doing everything right or at least try to do everything right. Unfortunately it must be the case that obviously we are not if the parrot is plucking right?

Something we are - or are not providing in its life is always the cause of the problem. Birds only pluck and/or self mutilate if something is not right in their lives - their way of showing us they are unhappy.

If your cockatoo starts to pluck even the tiniest feather(s) then you really need to take action immediately. Don't leave it till it gets worse, once these sensitive birds get so far down the line of feather plucking they never return to the bird they once were.

Some cockatoos, (and it is usually cockatoos and not other parrots to this extent) - get past feather plucking they then self mutilate. Mostly this seems to be on the middle of the chest and they can pick a hole in their chest right down to the bone which leads to all sorts of other problems.

Cockatoos are THE most sensitive parrot on the planet. They really do crave so much time and attention which often is in abundance at first, the joy and excitement of having a new addition to the family, then as time goes by often the birds are more and more confined to their cage with little or no human attention simply just due to life circumstances. 

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