Self-Mutilating African Grey Parrot

Self-Mutilating African Grey Parrot Question and Answer 06/06/2018

As flock animals, hand-reared African grey parrots are prone to plucking and self-mutilation problems.  One cause of feather plucking for African Grey Parrots is insufficient calcium blood levels.  Balancing the appropriate amount of calcium for your grey is somewhat tricky because over dosing and under dosing symptoms and health effects are similar.  I'd suggest having your avian veterinarian monitor your Greys calcium levels so that you get a good balance,  Not too little, not too much. As sad as it is to see, these behaviors can be managed and your pet can have a great quality of life.  Find the hope that you need in this blog.
The Parrot Hierarchy of Needs Reading Self-Mutilating African Grey Parrot Question and Answer 06/06/2018 3 minutes Next Discover Why Your Bird is Misbehaving With a Time Study


Hi Diane,

I purchased a collar for my African Gray, Spanky,  and she’s been wearing it for about a month now. I’ve had her confined to the bottom of her cage since she doesn’t seem to be able to climb on any perches and I’m afraid she may fall. 

She just had surgery under her wing since the treatments for her mutilation have not totally worked. We’re afraid that she might have to wear a collar all of her life (she’s already chewed the velcro at the top) and I’d hate to think that she won’t be able to ever be on a perch up high again.

Could you tell me your thoughts on this….. Will she ever be up on her perch, has any bird ever been able to not wear a collar after mutilation, is there a way that the collar won’t get in the way of her feet?

Thank you,




Thanks for your question about needing help for your self-mutilating African grey Parrot.  I've done a ton of research on feather plucking, but since I am not familiar with your particular case, I can't really offer an opinion for Spanky.  What I do know is that hand-reared parrots are especially prone to self-mutilation problems.  Parrots are very smart and highly social.  African Grey's are flock animals, making them a higher at risk for plucking problems. When hand-reared by humans, young parrots actually miss out on critical developmental milestones about how to preen, how to calm and entertain themselves.  This angst turns into emotional turmoil that causes the bird unbearable anxiety.   

What we know about self-mutilation is that it turns into an addictive process that is very hard to completely stop, but it can be managed.  Long story short, self-injury causes changes in brain chemistry and it is addictive. Research tells us that there are 4 main ways to manage mutilation and often, they need to be applied together.  First the collar.  It acts as a barrier.  But also, exploring both environmental and parrot husbandry care is important.  The most effective way to manage mutilation is to develop a behavior modification plan.   
Check out The Parrot Feather Plucking Workbook to create an individualized plan for Spanky.  Another great resource for you is to watch this video from Chloe Sanctuary: 


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