Is your cantankerous conure
persistently pulling out his primaries? Perhaps your
balding budgie never grew her feathers at all.
Feathering abnormalities are one of the most
common and obvious conditions affecting pet birds.
After all, many people choose birds as pets because
of their bright beautiful colors. Feather picking,
deformed feathers, feather loss, and prolonged molts
can all point to feather disease.
Not all feather loss is reason for concern. Your
bird will drop feathers periodically as new ones
grow in. This molting process usually occurs twice a
year over several weeks. Although the feather loss
can be alarming, you won't see large bald patches on
your bird during molting, and new pinfeathers
But if your pet loses so many feathers that you
see bare skin, you need to investigate. Is your bird
pulling her feathers out herself? Many intelligent
birds compulsively pick their plumage and mutilate
themselves out of boredom, sexual frustration,
separation anxiety, or the need for attention.
Itchy bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal
infections also may cause your bird to pick at and
pull out her feathers. Pets who dine exclusively on
seeds often develop nutritional deficiencies that
lead to dry flaky skin, brittle feathers, and
infection. Allergies and environmental factors such
as high heat or low humidity also can irritate your
bird's sensitive skin.
If the feathers are falling out on their own,
your bird may be suffering from hypothyroidism,
which causes prolonged molting. Small, club-shaped,
or twisted feathers with cracked shafts often
indicate Polyomavirus and psittacine beak and
What You Can Do at Home
If you suspect a nutritional deficiency is causing
your bird's feathering abnormalities, talk to your
veterinarian about adding more fruits, vegetables,
and other supplements to her diet. But if you're not
sure what's causing the problem, see your
veterinarian right away.
As with other illnesses, feather abnormalities
need swift treatment. If your pet was exposed to
birds exhibiting similar signs or if she was
recently imported, the doctor will test for
contagious diseases. If your bird is pulling out her
feathers, the doctor will check for infections and
allergies using skin and feather biopsies.
If test results are negative, a behavior problem
may be the culprit. This complex condition calls for
behavioral modification therapy and possibly
While many feather problems improve with medication
or a change in diet or environment, others are more
difficult to control. Behavioral feather picking can
be frustrating but not impossible to treat
effectively. It requires patience on your part. The
bottom line: With proper treatment, most pets regain
their spectacular plumage.