Why Do Parrots Pull Out Their Feathers?

Do you have a feather-plucking parrot? Here are some possible reasons why your parrot might be pulling out its feathers and what you can do to help.


The sight of a parrot plucking its feathers can be distressing for any bird-lover, but it is important to understand why this behavior occurs in pet parrots before taking action. The problem is often rooted in the bird’s environment or health, and there are several steps that bird owners can take to address the issue and help reduce this behavior.

In order to better understand feather plucking, it helps to understand why parrots may feel compelled to do so in the first place. Feather plucking can have a variety of causes, both physical and psychological – everything from boredom, stress or illness to an uncomfortable cage environment or even an underlying nutritional deficiency. If an owner suspects their pet might be pulling its feathers due to any of these potential causes, it is essential they seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Causes of Feather Plucking

Feather plucking is a common behavior in parrots and can be caused by a variety of factors. Plucking can be a sign of stress, lack of stimulation, boredom, health issues, or underlying psychological issues. This article will explain the different causes of feather plucking in parrots and what can be done about it.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can be significant causes of feather plucking in parrots. Most of the time, birds are acting out and trying to cope with stress through feather plucking. Environment is the most frequent cause of tension and nervousness in parrots. The bird may feel unsafe or uncomfortable if it is kept in a noisy environment, close to unfamiliar or aggressive pets, or living with a lot of commotion in its area. A stressful environment like this can lead to severe psychological symptoms including plucking feathers as a self-soothing stress relief technique.

Boredom is also an often overlooked cause as even while they are interacting with people they may still feel stressed and cannot vocalize these feelings leading to feather damage. Parrots have complex mental stimulation needs that give them something interesting and enjoyable to do which affects their overall wellbeing. Unmet physical needs such as the need for exercise and appropriate shelter can also lead to psychological issues such as overeating, plucking, screaming or other signs of distress.

Other medical reasons for feather plucking include hormonal imbalances due to sexual maturation, feather follicle mites or Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). If you are concerned about your bird’s health then consult a veterinarian who may be able to provide solutions such as hormone balancing protocols designed for birds or antibiotics that could treat mite infestations.[1]


Boredom is one of the most common explanations for why parrots pull out their feathers. Parrots, as intelligent creatures, need stimulation in order to remain healthy and happy in captivity. Without enough mental stimulation, parrots can become frustrated and begin to self-harm by plucking out their feathers. Providing ample challenging toys and activities for your parrot will help meet its mental needs and may help reduce feather plucking behavior. Additionally, pairing your parrot with other compatible birds can give them a playmate to interact with and provide physical comfort during periods of stress or drastic environmental changes.

Lack of Exercise

Lack of exercise is one of the most common causes of feather plucking in parrots. Parrots who are kept as pets require plenty of interaction and physical activity to stay healthy and happy. If this is not provided, parrots may resort to self-destructive behaviors such as feather plucking.

It is important for bird owners to provide their pet with a spacious cage that allows the bird to move around freely and roam, along with plenty of stimulating toys and activities. Parrot owners should also spend at least several hours each day out of their cage interacting with their pet through playing, talking, gentle handling, etc. This helps to keep the bird physically active and mentally stimulated.

In addition, it’s important for owners to provide a good night’s sleep for their parrot by covering the cage at night. This helps ensure that birds receive enough restful sleep on a daily basis so they don’t develop behavioral issues such as feather plucking due to boredom or stress.

Poor Nutrition

Poor nutrition is one of the most common causes of feather plucking in parrots. If a parrot isn’t getting enough of the right kinds of food, its body can’t produce a healthy plumage. The lack of key vitamins and minerals can lead to nutritional deficiencies that cause or contribute to feather plucking.

Inadequate diet aside, a wild-caught parrot may never have adjusted to living with humans in captivity. If a parrot was not exposed to enough exposure by humans while it was young, it will never learn correct behavior — including how to interact with its habitat correctly through foraging and natural play behaviors — and may overpreening itself because it’s bored or stressed out from being isolated from its flock. In such cases, companionship and lots of attention can be key for resolving the matter.

Finally, improper caging can also contribute to feather plucking in parrots — when their environment isn’t stimulating enough, they don’t have access to high quality food sources, or their perches are too small for them spend time adequately preening themselves (which helps them maintain their feathers). To address this problem completely, you need examine whether your bird has sufficient cage space, an adequate variety of toys that promote exploring activities as well as good nutrition in terms of foods like fresh vegetables and fruits combined with a balanced pellet diet.

Breeding Issues

Breeding issues are one of the most common causes of feather plucking. Parrots in captivity are bred to reach certain aesthetic and physical standards, but this can land them in a stressful environment. The parrot may pluck its feathers due to stress or frustration from too much handling from those unfamiliar with how to properly handle an exotic bird. It is important for parrot owners to understand that when these birds are handled incorrectly, the stress of physical contact can cause the bird to be more prone to plucking.

Other potential causes include psychological issues such as boredom, lack of stimulation and rivalry with other birds, hormone-induced feather destruction (regardless of sterility) during sexual maturity or dominance behavior, defensiveness in over-handled hyperactive birds, nutritional deficiency (such as calcium or vitamin-A deficiency), organ malfunctioning and even some serious diseases such as canker disease – which is a fungal infection caused by Candida albicans. It is essential for parrot owners to consult with their avian vet if they suspect any medical condition is causing feather destruction in their feathered pet.

Preventing Feather Plucking

Feather plucking is an unfortunate and frustrating behavior in pet parrots. It is important to understand why parrots pluck out their feathers, in order to help prevent this behavior. There can be a variety of causes, ranging from environmental to nutritional, that can contribute to parrots plucking out their feathers. Let’s examine some of the common causes of feather plucking and how to prevent it.

Provide a Stimulating Environment

Providing a stimulating environment for parrots is an important part of keeping them healthy and content. Providing physical and mental stimulation through play, opportunities for exploration and activities that keep their minds sharp can help discourage feather plucking behavior.

A regular schedule can also help reduce stress in parrots, which is another potential cause of feather plucking. Parrots are social animals that can easily learn to recognize cycles in their daily routine – such as morning playtime, an afternoon siesta in the sun or evening treats at sunset.

Parrots should be provided with items such as swings, ropes or ladders to provide enrichment during the day. Additionally, parrot owners should avoid keeping them caged all day with nothing to do — give your feathered friend enough space to move around freely. Offering new toys regularly and rotating old ones will keep your parrot engaged and stimulated.

Varied diets are essential for parrots as they need a variety of nutrients from fruits, vegetables and even grains to stay healthy and happy — plus consuming different foods won’t become too boring! Finally, plenty of positive attention from humans in the form of petting, interacting or engaging in conversations will help prevent boredom-driven feather plucking as well.

Offer Regular Exercise

Parrots are highly active and require regular exercise in order to stay healthy and maintain their natural behaviors. Proper exercise helps to reduce boredom, stop feather plucking behaviors, and keep parrots physically fit. Make sure your bird has access to plenty of floor or play gym time for activities such as flying, climbing, playing with perches or toys, bathing, and engaging in other types of physical activities outside their cage. This type of activity helps give them the mental stimulation they need.

Parrots need daily physical activities that mimic those in the wild: foraging for food, flying from place to place, perched skills (climbing up trees), etc. Spend some time each day providing ample opportunity for your bird to practice these behaviors by providing interactive toys that promote physical exercise both inside and outside the cage. Offer mentally stimulating activities to continue encouraging learning even after you have left the room. These may include puzzle toys with hidden treats that require exploring and problem-solving skills, swimming baths (especially enjoyable) or access to outdoor aviaries where they have plenty of space and stimulation while they fly around freely. In addition to exercise, ensure your parrot has a healthy diet with balanced nutrition made up of fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to pellets specifically designed forbirds.

Provide a Balanced Diet

Parrots that are nutritionally unbalanced may turn to feather plucking as a coping mechanism. A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients – as well as a variety of interesting food items – is key to keeping your parrot healthy.

Commercial parrot diets are commonly enhanced with natural dietary supplements, such as salad mixes containing seeds, grains and vegetables like kale peas, corn, chickweed and dandelion greens. To ensure your parrot’s overall health, create an enriching regimen that encourages foraging behavior by supplying bird-safe treats throughout the day.

Fruits like apples and pears can also be supplied in moderation – berries should not be given. For additional calcium intake and mineral supplementation, provide cuttlebone or a mineral supplement specifically designed for parrots; make sure it does not contain copper sulfate. Other recommended supplements include probiotics for digestion support and vitamin B for added nutrition that can help decrease self-mutilation behaviors stemming from nutritional deficiencies or stress issues that may lead to feather-plucking behavior.

Seek Veterinary Care

It’s important to take your feathered friend to a vet at the first signs of feather plucking. The cause may be medical and can include illness, parasites, or an allergy. If identified early on, it is much easier to rectify the health issue before it progresses. A veterinarian may also run tests to check for nutritional deficiencies as these are another potential cause of feather damage.

Your vet might recommend switching your parrot’s diet or prescribing supplements based on the results of any necessary tests they run. Vitamins and minerals that can be supplemented in cases where feather plucking occurs include: zinc, Vitamin E, iron, selenium, Vitamin A, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Your vet might also suggest adding digestive enzymes or probiotics to help with digestion.


It is difficult to pinpoint a single reason why parrots pull out their feathers, as the potential causes are numerous. From boredom and stress caused by lack of stimulation, to medical conditions such as feather mites or psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), there are several possible explanations for why a parrot may engage in this behavior.

In most cases, if a bird is found to be plucking its feathers, it’s important to rule out any underlying medical issues first. Once any medical problems have been ruled out, it’s then necessary to look at ways the bird can be more enriched and stimulated so that such behavior stops. Options range from providing toys and interactive activities, adding new companions into the bird’s home environment, or beginning increasing adhering to a more regular schedule with consistent visual cues in parrot’s daily routine. It is also worth considering whether too much preening has been going on as some physical activity of this nature can trigger over-grooming and feather plucking.

Although it may take some time and patience for behaviors to resolve entirely – with diligence you can help your feathered friend adjust back into a state of contentedness by providing them a healthy environment filled with variety.

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