Here is some of the Causes and Treatment of Feather Plucking

As common as this problem is, it is also one of the hardest problems to solve. Every one of these birds has undergone one form of stress or another. The secret of curing these birds is to identify the stresses, eliminate or minimize them, and then try to break the bird’s deep-seated habits. The more emotional and sensitive the bird is, the more susceptible it is to this problem. African grey parrots and cockatoos are over represented because they fit this profile.

A- Malnutrition is the number one cause of feather picking . These are birds that have been fed a seed diet containing large numbers of sunflower or safflower seeds. Parrots are exceptionally fond of oily sunflower seeds. However, a diet rich in sunflower seeds does not meet the bird’s nutritional demands. These seeds are too high in fat and too low in vitamin A and protein. With time, their skin becomes dry and flaky. Their cere becomes thickened and the nostrils small, scaly and irregular. Their body feathers lack luster and color. They suffer from sinusitis as well as respiratory infections. Sometimes the areas surrounding the eyes become puffy and swollen. Molts often becomes irregular or incomplete. Many of these parrots begin to over-groom and destroy their feathers. Since individual feathers are retained too long in this condition they also become torn and frayed. These birds need to be gradually switched to a high quality pelleted diet. However, the parrot may continue to pluck out of habit even when it is returned to balanced nutrition. In this case, the problem, though initially nutritional, has become psychological.

B- Psychological Stress is common among cage birds. When a bird is under stress, it often resorts to
excess grooming e.g. plucking its own feathers out. If the bird’s head is plucked, it is a cage mate that has the problem. One common cause of psychological stress is sexual maturity and the urge to bond and court a mate. If the owner is accepted as the birds mate and has the time to interact with the bird, things go fine. However, if the bird becomes frustrated, plucking often results. This problem is worst in grey parrots, cockatoos and macaws but it occurs in all parrots. Parrots normally come in to breeding condition shortly after day length begins to increase. Birds under artificial lighting are more erratic. Another cause of psychological stress is too small a quarters or housing that lacks stimulating and interactive toys and objects. In the wild, a parrot spends 50-80% of its time searching for food. When the need for foraging for food is removed, the birds have an enormous amount of free time on their hands. One way to occupy this time is to groom the feathers. Some birds literally groom their feathers off, for lack of other pastimes. The secret of success with these cases is to provide a stimulating environment for the bird. This should consist of toys, novel areas and raw branch perches of differing diameter that the bird can chew on. Along with placement of the cage near a window with a view, bells, hide-boxes, mirrors and any safe objects that the bird shows interest in, will help provide a stimulating environment. Adding craft paper bags for the bird to enter or a nest box for the pet to sleep in may also help.

Many of these birds that become veteran self-puckers have been doing it on and off for years and need medications to break the habit. Drugs that have been used successfully for this problem include the hormone Depopovera which alters mood and mood-altering medications that work directly on the brain, such as Elavil and drugs that decrease obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as Clomacalm.

C- Parasites are reported to occasionally cause feather itching and feather plucking.

D- Internal organ disease of a chronic nature, such as hepatitis or egg yolk peritonitis and abdominal tumors often manifests itself as self-trauma to the feathers.
Birds with feather picking should undergo a thorough physical examination by an experienced avian veterinarian as well as laboratory evaluation to determine the underlying cause and most appropriate treatment