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Feather picking

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Feather picking

Postby Imgram44 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:28 am

I have a Senegal that picks her feathers. This started when her green cheek companion died. I bought a parakeet for her which she ignores. What else can I do to help her? I have tried different diets to no avail.
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 1
Number of Birds Owned: 3
Types of Birds Owned: Yellow nape amazon; senegal; parakeet
Flight: No

Re: Feather picking

Postby Pajarita » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:05 am

Hi, Imgram and friends (no names?) Maybe you should have posted this in the Health forum but it doesn't matter, we will reply here anyway. I have a male senegal that plucks for the same reason. He lost his second mate in two years (she was a very old, wild caught Nanday with advanced liver damage from many years of bad diet) and he just couldn't cope with it. He has gotten better but he still plucks because his new companion, a female senegal, tolerates him but doesn't really love him so she doesn't preen him. Now, Sweetpea is NOT people friendly (took 3.5 years for him to stop attacking me at every chance he got and 2 more after that for him to stop completely) so the loss of his mate meant loneliness and, because he doesn't allow people to touch him, reduced oxytocin (the love hormones) which, in turn, makes him depressed - hence: plucking.

There are several factors that affect their mental wellbeing, diet being only one of them and the others being light schedule and quality and one-on-one and out-of-cage time (with flying included, of course!). I don't know which diet you decided on after trying three different ones but, in order for a diet to start 'working' you need to give it time because the body doesn't 'bounce back' in a matter of a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. It has taken me up to two years of a good diet to start really seeing big progress in a bird's body. Going by my research of 25 years into their natural diets and my personal experience with many birds (in the hundreds - I used to run a rescue) and, in particular, with 6 senegals, I have decided on gloop and raw produce for breakfast (at dawn) and all day picking and, for dinner (at dusk), a measured portion (heaping tablespoon) of a good quality cockatiel seed mix (one that doesn't have too many sunflowers seeds and where these are all striped ones) with some nuts (I vary them but to give you an idea, right now, they are getting half an English walnut and either a small almond or a small pecan).

Light schedule is VERY important because the wrong one causes their endocrine system to become out of whack (birds being all photoperiodic) and makes them overly hormonal which means not only constant sexual frustration but also chronic physical discomfort if not outright pain (please research avian photoperiodism, avian endocrine and reproductive systems) so a strict solar schedule with full exposure to dawn and dusk (at least, 1.5 hour for each event) is essential for their health and emotional wellbeing.

Then we have light quality. Birds need good light and that means a full spectrum (NEVER an UV light!) with the right specifications (CRI 93+, Ktemp 5000). The reason for the good light is not only for their vision (birds being the most vision-dependent of ALL the vertebrates) but also because it affects their endocrine system by promoting the production of the good hormones (the 'happy' ones : serotonin, endorphins, dopamine).

Finally, we have the 'love or cuddle' hormone: oxytocin - which I firmly believe (this is one of what I call my 'off the wall' theories which basically means that there are no studies done on parrots about it but which I have come to believe from extrapolation of other studies and personal experience and observation) parrots need in larger doses than other social animals. And this is where the one-on-one time comes... Senegals bond very deeply and need a lot of 'company' and love. Whether the bond is to another bird or to their human, it's a strong and very needy one so, if the bird doesn't have a mate, it needs many hours of 'company' - and the reason why I put it in quotation marks is that the actual interaction varies with the bird but, in my personal experience, senegals don't really require a whole lot of work when it comes to this, they seem to be satisfied with just perching on your shoulder or some other part of your body (my Zoey Senegal is on my right knee, where she usually perches when I am on the computer) and as long as you talk to them and give their heads a little scratch every now and then, they are happy so, in truth, although it's time consuming and one needs to make the time for them, it's not really onerous. But they all seem to need a lot of out-of-cage time which, of course, needs to include flight time because flight is the ONLY way nature gave them to dissipate bad hormones (stress and sexual) and also because they enjoy flying just for the fun of it. My senegals zoom from one end of the house to the other without any other apparent reason or objective than they flight itself.

I hope that I was able to offer some help with your problem and, please, let me know if there is anything you need to be further clarified or if you have any doubts.
Norwegian Blue
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 17889
Location: NE New Jersey
Number of Birds Owned: 30
Types of Birds Owned: Toos, grays, zons, canaries, finches, cardinals, senegals, jardine, redbelly, sun conure, button quail, GCC, PFC, lovebirds
Flight: Yes

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