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Regrowing Feathers on Feather Plucking Parrots

regrowing plucked feathers

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How do you tell if a feather has been plucked?

Regrowing feathers is a natural process for all bird species. We call this molting.  Molting is when a bird sheds its old, tattered feathers.  Usually, feathers are shed in a symmetrical manner over the course of a few months.  This makes way for the bird to grow fresh new feathers. 

Some people say that feathers are a bird's best asset. Feathers allow a bird to fly, of course.  They also provide insulation and waterproofing from the weather. And, Feathers attract a mate. 

 People have loved birds since the beginning of time. One of the things that we love about them are their beautiful feathers. So, when a pet bird begins plucking its feathers out, it's very concerning.

But, how do you tell the difference between normal molting versus a feather that has been plucked? It can be hard. One way to tell the difference between molting and plucking is to carefully examine your bird. Take a look at your bird. Examine under its wings and look at its back and chest. If you see bald spots in these areas that may be an indication that the bird is plucking its  feathers. Birds molt an asymmetrical manner versus entire patches.

Another way to tell the difference between molting and plucking is to examine the feathers that you find on the cage floor. First you'll want to look at the shaft. That's the thick center part of the feather.  Does it look like this shaft has been bitten off? Simply biting a feather off at the shaft is one form of feather destructive behavior.

Next, you'll notice that there are different types of feathers on the bird. Wing feathers are long and more slender while feathers on the torso tend to be more round in shape. Remember, birds molt in a symmetrical pattern. For instance, the first feather on the left wing comes out at around the same time as the first feather on the right wing. So when you're trying to tell if the feathers on the cage have been molted you May see two similar feathers.

Feather plucking doesn't usually happen in this symmetrical manner. Usually, feathers are plucked in patches.

Will feathers grow back after plucking?

Feather Plucking

So, now that you know how to tell the difference between molting and feather plucking, you're probably wondering, will my bird's feathers  grow back after plucking?

If you catch  a feather plucking habit early, the bird will likely grow back its feathers. Sometimes it may be a few months or until the next molt. Generally, it takes 1 - 2 years of  feather plucking to damage the actual follicle that the feather grows out of.

Regrowing feathers is nutritionally intensive. In other words, growing healthy feathers requires a lot of vitamins, proteins, and minerals. a bird that frequently plucks its feathers out may benefit from a high quality feather growth formula like FeatheredUp! FeatheredUp! contains biotin, a group of B vitamins, that are believed to support hair and feather growth. 

Plus, all that nutritional wellness can stimulate your bird's metabolism so that it begins producing new feathers.

How do I get my birds feathers to grow back?

FeatheredUp! supports proper nutrition for feather regrowth, but we found that a bird that develops a feather plucking problem often has numerous contributing  factors that come together to induce self-harming behaviors. In other words, several stressors usually come into play to induce such a drastic reaction like feather plucking.

That said, it will be important to learn about parrot wellness so that you can support the physical and emotional needs of your exotic pet. Parrot wellness, in effect, removes contributing stressors and columns your bird down.

When we're talking about parrot wellness, we're referring to, literally, how to care for an exotic bird. A bird that’s getting its physical and emotional needs met doesn't really have a reason to pluck its feathers out. Parrot wellness goes a long way toward preventing a feather plucking problem or turning it around after it's begun. 

 They are as follows:

Preventive Health Care & Pain Prevention. Preventive Health Care is so important for parents because our pet birds tend to hide their illnesses, injuries, and pain as a survival mechanism. Making sure that you stay on top of your bird's annual medical check-ups will help you catch a disease process early. Pain and illness is  a major contributing factor to birds that develop feather plucking habits.
    Enrichment.Sensory enrichment focuses on the stimulation of the animals' senses. You can divide it into four subcategories: visual enrichment, olfactory (smell & taste) enrichment, auditory (sound) enrichment, and tactile (touch) enrichment.

    There are several ways that you can offer your bird enriching activities. For instance, teach your bird how to forage  for its food. leave the TV or radio on during the day while you're at work. My birds love Bird TV for parrots on YouTube. Offer a range of bird toys that your bird can chew up and shred.  Birds love to figure out puzzles. Make sure that your pet gets plenty of exercise.

    Behavior Training. behavior training involves teaching your parrot foundational behaviors, like how to eat vegetables and forage. It also involves teaching your bird basic manners.

    A parrot that is encouraged to behave like a parrot and that knows the expectations of its flock mate, which is you and your family, is more content.

    If you're not sure where to start, I'd encourage you to grab a copy of getting started with clicker training for birds. This book teaches you how to use positive reinforcement to advance your bird's skill set. You'll learn important parrot care strategies like:
      • Coming and going from the cage
      • Leaving unsafe object alone
      •  Staying on a play gym
      •  Getting it to enjoy taking baths. and  other grooming activities
      •  Letting you handle its body to examine you tell condition
      •  Wearing a harness
      •  Taking medications
      Nutrition.  Parrots have a high metabolism and just like any pet, need a healthy diet. But did you know that pet birds need to be taught what to eat? Just think about it. There’s a plethora of lush, rich plant life in the rainforest or a jungle. Mom and Dad have to show their chicks which foods are safe and which ones are poisonous.

      Your pet bird relies on you to show it which foods it should be eating. So, if you put a bowl of vegetables in front of a bird that hasn’t been taught that the food is safe, it won't eat them. You literally have to eat the vegetables in front of your bird and entice it to try the veggies  on their own. For more about getting your bird to eat healthy check out my video called 9 ways to get your parrot to eat its veggies.

          How do you treat plucked feathers?

          Animal behaviorists have studied how to treat challenging behaviors and we know which strategies work the best.  For instance, we know that parrot wellness is the most effective thing that you can do to treat select feathers for most birds. Plus, it just enhances your pet bird's quality of life so much.

           But,  even then some birds need more intensive behavioral training in the form of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a series of high-level, science-based, behavior change strategies. Kind of like therapy or a bird.

          A qualified bird behaviorist has generally gone through years of schooling, engaged in supervised practice, and passed intensive examinations to hone their craft. If your bird is engaging and the worrisome problem of feather plucking a bird behavior consultation with a qualified professional can be of great help. 

          Behavior professionals are different from trainers.  They work with more complex behaviors and/ or comorbidities, by combining behavior assessment, management, modification, training, and sometimes medical management through a licensed veterinarian.

        1. Ron Hines, DVM: All About Your Parrot's Feathers - The Causes of Molt, Feather Problems and What You Can Do About Them
        2. Rob Harvey: Feather Plucking in Parrots
        3. Heidi Hoefer, DVM, Avian Practice: Feather Loss in Pet Birds
        4. Bird Channel: Bird Feather Growth and Health
        5. Tailfeathers Network: Blood Feathers
        6. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Feather Structure
        7.  

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