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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 7938
Experience:  35 years in general practice, including avian.
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I have an african grey. He has started plucking s feathers.

Customer Question

I have an african grey. He has started plucking his feathers. It started around his neck, but he does his entire body now, almost like he has fleas or something. I thought maybe mites. If its mites how do you trat them. There is no good bird vets where I live. The skin does look red. I can't hardly handle him. Apparently before I got him the previous owner had taken him to a vet to get his wings trimmed and he messed them up bad. After that he will not really let anyone handle him.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Bob. I'm sorry to read of Ferdinando's condition. Feather picking is a behavior pattern that may develop as a result of skin diseases, parasites (like mites) as well as others causes, but food and environmental isssues are by far the most common initiators of this problem. What does Ferdinando eat?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
He eats a nutritional blend of pellets and seeds and fresh fruits and veges
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Okay, thank you. HIs diet is vastly superior to that of most pet birds! Does he get 12 to 14 hours of sleep under a darkly covered cage in a quiet part of your home, away from conversational sounds, radio and T.V. noises?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
He was, but I recently moved him back in the living room I use, but he was doing this before I moved him. I thought he may be lonesome. The room he is in now, I can leave the tv on while I am working.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.

Okay, thank you. Did he start to pluck his feathers before the move, or after?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.

Thank you. Birds have an inborn instinct to preen or groom themselves. This instinct can become exaggerated to produce the symptoms Fernando is showing. Mites are highly unlikely in a bird his age who is housed alone and not exposed to other mite-infested individuals. Optimization of his diet, rest periods and exercise are what you can do for him at home. His diet should be comprised of 80% pellets, 20% vegetables, particularly leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, dandelions greens, carrot tops, cilantro, beet greens, collard greens, etc. Yellow and red fresh sweet peppers are often readily accepted and dried chilies are usually a treat. Raw or cooked pumpkin and squash are very good sources of fiber which contributes to intestinal health. Finally 10% or less of the diet may be seeds and nuts.

As mentioned earlier, 12-14 hours in a darkly covered cage in a quiet area in your home is ideal. Increased attention and time spent with him may also be very beneficial in helping to prevent boredom. Natural tree branches from safe trees (you can find lists of safe trees for birds online) in his cage can provide hours of climbing and chewing exercise. Finally a product called "Rescue Remedy" can be added to his drinking water to help settle his nerves and hopefully reduce the urge to pluck. You can buy Rescue Remedy online or from health food stores. One or two drops in a typical water bottle would be the effective dose for him.

While patience is called for in trying to break this self-destructive habit, if after 6 to 8 weeks, you have not seen any improvement, a trip to an avian specialist should be made. You can locate any that might be relatively close to your home by going online to If you should have any further questions, please let me know. Kind regards, *****

Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thankyou very much for your help. I greatly appreciate it. And I will try all of it.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.

You very welcome, please let me know if I may be of any further assistance to you.

Best regards, ***** *****

Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Hi Tammy,
I'm just following up on our conversation about Fernando. How is everything going?
Dr. Bob