by Diane Burroughs July 28, 2018 7 min read

If you're dealing with parrot feather plucking, don't overlook the role of hormones.  All adult birds experience parrot hormonal season and that's to be expected. It is a stressful time for the bird. But, a lot of people are unaware that they are actually inducing a chronic hormonal state in their bird that wreaks havoc on its physical and mental health.  The problem of chronic hormones in parrots contributes greatly to feather plucking parrots.

What is Chronic Hormonal Stress in Parrots?

In the wild, birds only mate for a short period of time each year, only when a precise set of physical and environmental conditions simultaneously come together to bring about the hormonal surges that a parrot needs to mate and rear young. After the seasonal period ends, parrot hormones resume the dormant phase.

Domestic parrots, on the other hand, have been found to be prone to chronic and debilitating hormonal states that the mind and body just can’t handle. Sadly, this disorder is often preventable with attuned parrot husbandry practices. Avian vets describe that they see case after case of chronically hormonal parrots each week. These birds are displaying significant behavioral issues such as aggression and feather plucking or dealing with life-threatening health issues related to the disorder. What can you do to prevent a chronic hormonal state in your feather plucking parrot?

5 Links Between Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking

Let's explore 5 sexually arousing conditions that induce chronic hormonal stress in Parrots (

  1. Bonding with a perceived mate:Your bird is not racist or even species-specific in its love interests. It may perceive you as a mate. Or, in my case, my chihuahua, Pilar! Birds have been known to develop a mate-like bond with other family pets, a stuffed animal or even their own image reflected in a mirror. A bird that is “in the mood” displays crouching behavior, it may coo and ruffle its feathers. Who may your bird have sexually bonded with?
  1. Diet:High levels of fat, starches and/or protein physically prepare a bird's body to mate and create young. Warm, moist food, in particular, can bring on hormonal surges.  We often think that we're showing our birds love by treating it with high-fat nuts, starchy table foods, and starchy foods. But, really, we're just satisfying our own needs while preparing the birds' body to mate. Birds in love to regurgitate foods rich in protein, fat, and starch to feed their mate as a form of foreplay. If your parrot is regurgitating when it is around you, it is likely that it is hormonal. A better parrot diet can be found here. What dietary "treats" should you ease back on?
  1. Access to perceived nesting sites and materials:A bird’s idea of a love nest and your idea of one may be completely different. Your bird would be perfectly happy building a nest in a cardboard box, under your sofa or dresser, behind couch cushions or even in a shoe! Any dark, confined place will do. And, in terms of nesting materials, the only requirement is that it cushions the eggs. Carpet fibers, toy fibers, and especially shredded paper all work fine. Take a look around. Does your bird have accessible nesting spots and materials? Is it constantly trying to shred things? This needs to change immediately. Commit to eliminating access to nesting materials and sites altogether.
  1. Petting:What loving pet owner doesn’t enjoy giving their parrot a good massage? After all, your bird loves it. So, you end up stroking its back and massaging it under the wings, and maybe even around the vent area.  Your bird just coos with pleasure. Who can blame it!  Really? Who doesn't love foreplay? Just like you, your parrot's body sexually responds and prepares to mate with a good massage. Stop giving your parrot the wrong idea. Limit petting to the head and feet. Your bird will probably through a hissy fit for a while until its hormones get balanced, but once balanced, it will feel so much better.
  1. Sleep:I know that I just talked about foreplay and now I'm talking about bed?! What the heck! All joking aside, the lengthening days, whether it is from natural sunlight or artificial light, tells a parrots body that Spring is coming and that its time to breed. Simply put a parrot needs 10-11 hours of complete darkness each night. So, if the sun rises at 7:00 am, bedtime needs to be around 8:00 pm. Long photoperiods cause a birds’ sexual organs to increase in size and secrete reproductive hormones into the bloodstream. The bird’s body is fooled into responding as if it were breeding season.

Take a moment to identify how you'll curb the constant hormonal influences so that your pet can achieve hormonal balance.

Remember earlier when I mentioned that wild parrots only mate seasonally? Constant hormonal states not only damage important body structures but they can also mentally affect your pet, causing significant stress. This constant mental stress is known to induce parrot plucking.

Take a few minutes to jot down your thoughts on which of these conditions you could improve upon? How will you protect your bird?


  1. ___________________________________________


  1. ___________________________________________


  1. ___________________________________________

How Constant Hormones Affect Your Parrot

Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking

When a parrot is hormonal, it becomes sexually driven and hyper-vigilant to create mating opportunities. Its only intention is to breed, create a nest and rear chicks. It works great in nature but not in a domestic environment. Imagine how frustrating it must feel to be all primed to mate, but nothing can happen... A parrot that can't satisfy its needs becomes full of sexual frustration. Thus, in a  sexually frustrated state, one way to relieve tension is parrot plucking or act out.

Because cockatoos are so cuddly, they are especially prone to hormone-induced feather plucking. And sadly, Cockatoo's are one of the species that is highly prone to self-mutilation. Hormone-induced parrot plucking usually starts in the chest region or between the legs, but it may progress to other areas of the body as time progresses. You must be especially careful with species prone to engaging in self-mutilation behaviors.

What Does a Hormonal Parrot Look Like?

How do you know if your parrot is hormonal so that you can prevent feather plucking or other unwanted behaviors? Here are signs that your bird is experiencing hormonal surges. Make note of the behaviors that you’ve noticed in your parrot recently.

  •  Panting
  • Regurgitating by rapidly bobbing the head and neck
  • Quivering
  • Vocalizing
  • Drooping its wings
  • Raising its wings so that you can pet its sides
  • Putting its tail or vent in the air
  • Males may try to mount your hand or anything else
  • Masturbating by rubbing the vent area on anything that is handy 
  • Chronic egg-laying in females

Of course, the more symptoms that you circled, the more hormonal your parrot probably is. Now, do you remember the list of conditions that arouse sexualized behavior in parrots? Reflect on the conditions that your parrot is exposed to.

  • Bonding with a perceived If your bird perceives you as its mate, it is more likely to become hormonal. This is highly preventable.
  • Diets rich in calories, starch protein and fat, such as bread, pasta, meat, beans, nuts, and cheese.
  • Nesting opportunities consisting of access to dark, small areas such as Snugglie’s, boxes, being allowed to go under furniture and into closets. It also involves having access to nest lining materials such as paper to shred, cotton or fibers, or any other cushioning material.
  • Petting sensitive body parts that sexually stimulate a parrot
  • Sleep dysregulation

How to Change the 5 Sexually Arousing Conditions


Make sure to socialize your parrot with all family members. Certainly, your bird may have a preferred person, but when all family members socialize the bird, it is better adjusted and has less of a chance of sexually bonding with just one person. If you’re not sure where to start, explore Clicker Training with the family. Teach your parrot that everyone can be a pal.


Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking


Check out the Parrot Food Pyramid below. Notice that it is recommended that the bulk of the diet should consist of premium parrot pellets. Supplemental foods, should consist of about 10% of the diet. Notice that the recommended intake of fat, protein, and sugars is low. Reserve tasty goodies for training purposes.

Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking


To reduce nesting opportunities, remove bird beds or “Snugglies” from the cage. Examine whether your parrot is shredding anything in the cage, from tray liners to fluffy toys. Instead, increase foraging toys and add foraging stations, so that your parrot has to problem-solve to obtain food, just like a wild parrot. If your parrot seeks nesting sites during out of cage time, eliminate those opportunities. A lot of parrots crawl down from their play stands to hide under a sofa or in a closet. Use Clicker Training and positive reinforcement to make staying on the stand more rewarding that hovering around in a make-shift “nest.” Again, creating foraging stations on the play stand is a good option.

Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking


Since adolescent and adult parrots can become stimulated with sexually arousing petting, learn how to properly pet your bird. Even wild parrot pairs only fondle sensitive places during the short window of the breeding season. The image below shows you how to properly pet a parrot to prevent creating a chronically hormonal condition.

Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking


If you work all day, of course you want to socialize your parrot in the evenings. But, remember, parrots are from equatorial areas that have minimal seasonal variation in daylight and night hours. You can expect that your parrot needs between 10-12 hours of completely dark, uninterrupted sleep each night. Likewise, the parrot will benefit from between 10-11 hours of full-spectrum lighting during the day. The figure below shows you where your species of bird is from and how many hours of sleep and daylight are recommended. If you are unable to filter out light during much-needed sleeping hours, consider covering your birds cage with a blanket or cage cover to keep the bird away from excessive light and lack of sleep, known hormone inducing situations.

Hormones and Parrot Feather Plucking

In conclusion, one cause of parrot plucking is being in a chronic hormonal state. Yse the area below to jot down an action plan to get it under control.


  1. ____________________________________________


  1. ____________________________________________


  1. ____________________________________________

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.