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Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 1759
Experience:  Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens.
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My bird eats my hair.

Resolved Question:

He is a patagonian conure and about 16 years old. He is a great companion but he has started eating my hair. Since shaving my head is not an option please inform what the possible cause for this might be. He also has had feather destructive behavior which is deemed behavioural and not physical He has had that problem for at least 5 years. But JUST started to eat my hair. He is much loved and almost never caged. He does get all the most one on one attention that I can give him.
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Patricia replied 10 years ago.
Hello. It sounds like he is transferring plucking of his own feathers to trying to pluck your "feathers". It appears you have a very close bond with him and he with you so that's not really that unusual. Hopefully he is not actually ingesting any of your hair and I'm sure you know that if you use any kind of gels, mousse, or hair spray of any kind, it can be toxic for him to get it in his system. If he is seeing this as "mating" behavior or even if he is only wanting to allopreen, there is not going to be much you can do when he is out, other than to cover your head with a scarf or something that blocks his access to your hair. Somehow the habit needs to be broken, for both of your sakes. Since the plucking has been established that it is behavioral, I'm sure you've been through all the suggested methods to try to distract or discourage it. I'm sure you are also very well aware just how difficult it can be to deal with this problem, once it gets a foot hold and becomes a habit. I really don't see anything you can do beyond, keeping him away from your hair by using a head cover of some kind, and maybe returning him to his cage, if only for a short "time out", period, and providing lots of shredding type toys. Everytime he goes for your hair, intercept that beak with one of them. There are many things that can be used but one of the most effective I've seen is easy and cheap. If you have not tried it yet, it could be worth giving it a chance. Go to the Mexican food area of your grocery and pick up a package of the dried corn husks intended for wrapping tamales, etc. Clip some to his cage bars and keep a hand full handy for when he decides you need to be preened. you might also try very gradually, increasing the amount of time he spends in his cage. Also, if you haven't tried it, give him a whole roll of paper towels to shred and tear up. Much like a dog with separation anxiety, it is very easy for us to allow our birds to bond too tightly to us, making them less and less capable of being able to spend some time entertaining themselves. Of course that becomes a vicious circle. The more we baby them, the bigger babies they become and the more dependent they are on our constant attention. Don't be kicking yourself over it. It's one of the easiest, (and worst) ways we can spoil our birds. I wish I had a magic cure answer for you but if there was one, I'm sure you would have found it long ago. I just hope these few suggestions might be something you have not thought of nor tried yet. You never know which thing might work, even if only a little bit. Best of luck with it and let me know if you think I might be able to help any further. Patricia
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