Meet Archie, an adorable Green Cheek Conure that had been through a lot. That is until he found Jibriel.
When Jibriel first brought home his GCC, Archie, he knew he was starting at ground zero. For one thing, at the tender age of 7 months, Archie had been rehomed twice.
In his previous home, Archie had developed the habit of picking out his chest feathers. This is one example of something that required immediate attention. Archie was also extremely timid and easily scared, which made it difficult for him to be held and trained.
When Jibril met Archie at a local pet store, he was looking for a forever home. Between the two of them, there was a quick attraction that caught the staff's attention on the spot.
"When we got Archie we were shown his chest which was plucked and also told he ha been returned to the store twice. The first owner just didn't have enough time for him and the second time the owner had a cat and that's when we were told he started his plucking."
Jibriel knew his poor bird had been lonely. To fix this problem, he set up Archie's new home with tons of toys and placed it in a sunny spot. He also took Archie to the vet for a check-up and some recommendations for how to fix Archie's plucking problem.
A veterinarian suggested a bird collar to stop the plucking cycle. He also suggested some dietary changes to improve Archie's overall health.
But Archie's reticent nature was hindering his ability to adjust to wearing the collar. He would spend the whole night trying to get it off, and things were starting to go downhill from there.
Archie had started to pull out dozens of feathers a day. That’s when Jibril reached out to BirdSupplies.com for a consultation. “I decided to contact you about tips or ideas to help Archie, hoping to solve this issue.”
"I learned about BirdSupplies.com from two ways. One was from the recommendation of my vet and the other was just viewing online forums and seeing your products used by many people."
Jibriel wanted to interrupt the plucking cycle with a bird collar as the vet had suggested, but Archie was having none of it.
What We Did
One of the first things that we talked about was using positive reinforcement to help Archie cope with wearing a bird collar.
Over the next few months, he patiently tried a couple of different bird collar designs to find a style that suited his bird. Between the positive reinforcement and finding a collar that Archie liked, Archie's demeanor calmed down.
"As for clicker training it was somewhat difficult at first because he wasn't very responsive to the stick. clicker, or treat."
Archie had no idea about normal parrot behavior like playing, exploring, and foraging. He was becoming a "couch potato," suffering from boredom. He'd spend the whole day quivering on his perch.
We wanted to solve the plucking problem once and for all. So we decided to try to discover the root cause of the plucking. Jibriel and I talked about how research shows that the most effective way to achieve long-term results for feather plucking is by improving parrot health and wellness and what that means.
Jibriel was determined to get Archie’s diet back on track. He began feeding Harrison’s Bird Food and plenty of fresh veggies. He also taught Archie how to forage for food, which occupied him throughout the day. And, he increased Archie's social interaction and exercise by getting him out of the cage much more.
Infographic by Diane Burroughs, LCSW
"This is tough! I did it though and it worked!” Look at Archie now!"
We thought about ways in which a rewards-based system can really help encourage a variety of natural behaviors in the parrots, all while providing enriching activities for the bird’s well-being and staving off boredom.
Jibriel ‘stepped up to the plate’ by rewarding Archie with positive reinforcement for behavior he knew would be good for his bird. But, perhaps even more importantly, he avoided rewarding Archie for the feather-damaging behavior.
Sure, the right collar can stop feather plucking. But, there is more to resolving plucking than just a bird collar. Jibriel’s green-cheeked Conure, Archie, was plucking for months before Jibriel discovered the root cause that nipped the problem in the bud for good. He boosted both parrot nutrition and enrichment.
But, Jibriel didn’t stop there.
So, he began using a range of parrot wellness strategies. And, he discovered how positive reinforcement could change Archie’s behavior sufficiently to grow new, beautiful, healthy feathers.