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Overpreening From Boredom

Discussion in 'Enrichment and Foraging Park' started by ❤ Rosette ❤, 12/28/16.

  1. ❤ Rosette ❤

    ❤ Rosette ❤ Meeting neighbors

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    Hello, everyone.
    I'm having a problem with my Quaker Parrot and only just now realized that he overpreens his feathers.
    His belly and back have been reduced to down, he very frequently preens and nibbles his feathers, and I notice him ending up accidentally plucking out feathers and promptly tossing them away.
    (Pictures can be provided if you'd like.)

    I think he's bored. We provide him with gnawing toys and swings, but the only thing he really enjoys playing with is his mirror and bell. (He doesn't really pay much attention to his reflection, but he likes pushing around the bell a whole lot.) He enjoys picking at blankets, shredding toilet paper, and biting my clothes, but that's about it. He has wood, twine balls, popsicle sticks, etc available to him, but he refuses to do anything with his toys. I've attempted foraging toys, too, as he simply adores food, to no avail.

    Even outside of his cage he overpreens, he'll be sitting on a pillow or waddling around on my sister's bed and suddenly begin preening himself. I try to discourage it, but I'm just stumped.

    He frequently gets baths and he doesn't seem to have any skin problems, so I believe his main problem is boredom. How do I get him to play with his toys and stop this destructive behavior?​
     
  2. iamwhoiam

    iamwhoiam Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Veteran

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    You seem to be providing him with a variety of toys and giving him baths. How much attention does he get daily?
    Sometimes overpreening/plucking can be due to a medical issue so you may want to take him in for a vet check and have that ruled out.

     
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  3. ❤ Rosette ❤

    ❤ Rosette ❤ Meeting neighbors

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    Usually several hours of playing time daily.
    I offer him a lot of toys but he is very selective about his toys and doesn't play with most of them.
    He isn't frightened of them but is just not interested in them at all.​
     
  4. AYA

    AYA Walking the driveway

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    My conure is slowly getting out of the habit of overpreening (she got stressed out during a big moult and started snipping off the coloured ends of her feathers), and I've found foraging toys to be great for her, as well as a preener toy up near her roosting spot. You should definitely take your boy to an avian vet though-- I took Lawrence to one after trying to fix the problem on my own, and it helped out a lot, and also ruled out any medical issues that might have been causing it.

    What's Maui's diet like? What's his cage like? And are there any other pets around that might be stressing him out?

    Good luck! :D
     
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  5. Calpurnia

    Calpurnia Sprinting down the street Celebirdy of the Month

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    Our recently adopted Sennie is a chronic plucker/barberer. The rescue told us the behavior was likely a habit and triggered by hormonal cycles. Right now she is actually at her worst: I find dozens of snipped feathers at the bottom of her cage every day. Coinciding with her increase in barbering is a lack of interest in her toys. Up until a few weeks ago she would gladly sit chipping wood for hours, now no bird toys seem to interest her.

    So when we find something she DOES like we just let her have at it. Today it was a roll of toilet paper and a woven placemat. o_O While I would normally discourage her from destroying things that are not birdie-approved, at this point I'm just happy that she is occupied. Otherwise, like your Maui she will just sit on a perch in her cage and preen, preen, preen..... Maybe just give Maui things that he likes and not worry too much about him playing with actual bird toys?

    Also what kind of foraging have you tried so far? Maybe the difficulty you're starting out at is too high? Or you haven't tried enough ideas?
     
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  6. ❤ Rosette ❤

    ❤ Rosette ❤ Meeting neighbors

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    I surely hope it doesn't come down to a medical issue! But I'll gladly take him to the vet if nothing seems to help, poor little guy.

    Maui has constant access to Zupreem pellets and fresh water at all times. I refill his seed container once a week, because he will gladly fill up on those and not touch his pellets if given the chance.
    I try to feed him mash daily, but lately I've been kind of ill and have really just forgotten. I feel really guilty about that and need to get back into the mash routine.
    (My current mix has buckwheat, rice, red quinoa, and fresh veggies and fruits depending on what I have available. I'll sprinkle a bit of flaxseed, chia seed, and poppy seeds on top of it for good measure, as well as a tiny dusting of cinnamon. I hope this is an acceptable diet, I'm all up for constructive critisism!)

    His cage has several twine/wood block/bead toys strung throughout, along with a few strips of birdie shredders. There's a mirror and bell that he really adores just messing with, not so much admiring his reflection like the parakeets.
    He has a cozy hut in one corner, a couple of natural branch perches, one sandpaper-like perch for his nails, and one regular straight perch. (I hope to get him one of those soft, bendy perches very soon.) He has two swings, one of which has a whole lot of preeny bits that I thought Maui would like, which he doesn't really. He doesn't swing on the swings, though, unlike my budgies! (Who simply love them.)
    He used to have a cuddlebone and beak conditioner, but he never touched them and so I eventually removed them from his cage.

    As for other pets, my dog is rarely ever allowed into the room where Maui lives. Our family owns two parakeets that live in close vicinity to Maui, but he regards them with indifference. (They only occasionally interrupt his naps! They're very hyper and crazy little birds who have a lot of fun messing with stuff in their cage, rather noisily I must say. Quite funny little birds.) <3

    Now for the foraging toys. I really only tried some homemade sort of things to see if Maui liked it or not. For one, I took a little birdie wiffle ball and tucked in shreds of vegetable and fruit to see if he'd know to pick them out and eat them. I threaded it onto a homemade toy with colored wood blocks tied on.
    No, he didn't even touch it.
    I also filled an empty toilet paper roll with ample toilet paper, some sunflower seeds, a few dried bits of fruit, little foot toys, among other bird-safe things. He kind of pecked at the toilet paper a bit and ate the couple of seeds I had stuck out of the cardboard to prompt him to shred. Afterward he just ignored it.
    (Can I just take a moment to marvel at how ridiculously awesome Kevin looks? I didn't even know that was a species of bird, let alone an easily domesticated one! He looks so rad oh goodness.)

    I'm planning on a visit to the nearest pet store soon to pick out some new toys and treats for my little birdies. Does anyone have any suggestions for my picky little boy?​
     
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  7. iamwhoiam

    iamwhoiam Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Veteran

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    Sounds like you are providing her with good food and lots of goodies to play with. Not sure what Quakers enjoy eating as far as treats go. As for toys the AA vendors are excellent. List of Vendors and AA Store Profiles | Avian Avenue Parrot Forum
    This thread included a discussion about preening toys: Am I being overly paranoid? | Avian Avenue Parrot Forum
    How about playing with some of the foraging toys in front of him? You do the foraging while he observes. That might get him interested in giving it a try.
     
  8. Calpurnia

    Calpurnia Sprinting down the street Celebirdy of the Month

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    It sounds like Maui's diet is good, though it's true, it's always good to offer fresh veggies as often as possible! If you find it a hassle to chop veggies/make mash everyday (I know I do!) have you tried freezing a big batch into smaller portions?

    I think your previous foraging ideas were good but there's definitely much more to try! This website has a couple free ebooks you can download with tons of tips on how to teach your bird to forage. I think you may just need to start reeeeeally easy with Maui so he can learn to enjoy foraging. It could mean as little as filling his bowl of pellets/seed with large wooden beads that he has to push around or covering it with strips of paper. As he learns these simple tasks you can continue to increase the difficulty.

    I use toys like this to get our birds started with foraging, because there are tons of nooks and crannies to hide food but your bird can still see it (and so stays motivated). A toy like this (actually this one specifically, though the first is smaller and so probably better for a quaker) worked really well with our ekkie who was NOT super motivated to forage really intensely for her food. But because the toy "resets" every time the bird pulls it down, it helped change mealtimes from 15 mins of gobbling down pellets to an hour of wrestling this toy to pick out one pellet at a time. We would fill the toy with 1/2 paper pellets and 1/2 real food and it would take her even longer.
     
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  9. Jobot

    Jobot Walking the driveway

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    Personally, I would highly recommend you take your bird to the vet sooner rather than later. Sometimes, the medical issue starts it, but then it just becomes habit. My bird barbered (due to a skin infection) all the feathers off his torso in less than a month, then began feathering out again after treatment, and we still have days where he lapses and barbers a few due to stress or something. It surprises me that he still does it, but it doesn't take too long for things like that to become habit.
    Foraging, a UV lamp and heat lamp, changing around his environment, trick training, and giving him tons of foraging opportunities and things to destroy other than his feathers helped, but we made the most progress when we started antibiotics and an NSAID to help with the itchiness.
    On days when he's fidgeting with his feathers too much, I'll give him some of the NSAID to calm him down a bit.

    I hope you can break the cycle!
     
  10. Monica

    Monica Biking along the boulevard Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    Ditto too see an avian vet to rule out health issues...


    I don't recommend mirrors for *any* species of bird. One toy I'd recommend just tossing...



    I would recommend removing the hut. It may or may not be a factor in this behavior.



    If you can get some balsa or yucca toys, you can easily stuff food into the soft wood.

    Likewise, some blocks of wood. Drill various sized holes into it, then stuff with food! (seeds, pellets, nuts, etc!) Or you can even buy a wooden toy for foraging -> Wood Block Forager « Foraging for Parrots

    Another simple idea, take a bunch of straws, cut in half, zip tie the center (may want to zip tie in another zip tie or a ring for hanging!), and stuff the end with bits of food! an example -> Pictures - Lara Joseph's starburst foraging toy | Avian Avenue Parrot Forum

    Take miniature muffin cups and wrap food up inside!

    You can even use the dollar store finger traps or coin holders as other possible toys!



    You may even want to consider daily baths and possibly taking Maui outside if it's warm enough in a carrier. A "full spectrum" light may also be beneficial.



    Do you have photos of Maui's cage?
     
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  11. Mizzely

    Mizzely Cruising the avenue Celebirdy of the Month Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran Vendor

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    Quakers don't seem to enjoy toys in the same manner other parrots do, and I'm guessing it's due to nesting differences. Other species enjoy chewing wood because in the wild they would be chewing cavities in trees for nesting. Since quakers build giant nests with twigs, they tend to prefer twig like and stringy materials. Soft woods like balsa are better than harder things like pine.

    Jingo rarely plays with toys but is very food motivated. I use seed in foragers as most of his enrichment. One thing he loves most is a basket of toy parts, shredded paper, etc sprinkled with seed. He will rummage around it for a good portion of the day for the ~1/2 tsp I scatter in there. Here are some examples of what he likes.

    Forage | Parrot 1-2-3
     
  12. ❤ Rosette ❤

    ❤ Rosette ❤ Meeting neighbors

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    I'll try with more foraging toys, I really do think it would be a great stimulant for him as he truly enjoys food.
    Very easy toys are probably best for now, seeing as he has very little drive to forage when I give him something with food he cannot see. Maybe eventually he'll learn to forage even when he doesn't directly spot the food! That'd be ideal.
    I found some really nice websites to shop on, thanks you guys!

    I've attempted freezing mash before but I accidentally made too large of a batch and it froze into a large block that I was unable to do too much with. I'll probably just scrap it and make a smaller amount and freeze it in a little baggie or something? I'll have to think about it.

    I need to snoop around the area for some avian vets and see what I can do about a checkup, I appreciate the advice.

    I give him frequent baths, usually a couple of times a week, and occasional mistings along with that.
    I totally forgot to take pictures for you all, aah I'm sorry. I'll see if I can get some tomorrow.

    The behavioral habit is definitely a good explanation for his lack of enthusiasm for wood! I'll look for some toys varying in texture and materials, hopefully I'll find something he likes!

    As for the mirror, I've heard before that it isn't good for birds. Why is that so?
    Maui mostly ignores the mirror and wrestles with the bell. (Sometimes he'll intentionally fiddle around with it so that it gets stuck on one of his perches, silly boy.)
    What's wrong with the cozy hut? He seems to enjoy sleeping in it, and he'll crawl inside after a bath to dry off.​
     
  13. Jobot

    Jobot Walking the driveway

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    @Calpurnia, I know exactly what you're talking about, by the way. I give Flynn almost whatever he wants as long as it keeps him from destroying his feathers. I mean, as long as it won't outright kill him, that is. ;) He is almost exclusively a destructible/foraging boy. Not much playing for playing's sake, but he is taking interest in a few objects here and there.
     
  14. Jobot

    Jobot Walking the driveway

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    Cozy huts can be seen as nesting sites, and can stimulate hormonal behavior.
    Mirrors can cause a bird to become obsessed with their reflection, to the point of perceiving it as a mate, which also stimulates hormonal behavior.
     
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  15. Monica

    Monica Biking along the boulevard Celebirdy of the Month Mayor of the Avenue Avenue Spotlight Award Avenue Veteran

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    You can use standard ice cube trays (---> see here) or the silicone ones (---> see here) or miniature cupcape pans (---> see here) for freezing mash. Once frozen, pop them out and store in freezer bags! ;)


    You can try using this website to find an avian vet.

    Association of Avian Veterinarians


    I'm recommending baths daily, maybe even multiple times a day! Not just a couple times a week! Parrots don't *normally* display FDB (Feather Destructive Behavior) when they are wet... hence, more baths!



    Ditto Jobot on explanation about the mirror and hut! :) Even if your bird doesn't use the mirror, I'd still recommend removing it.

    The Problems with Mirrors


    Basically, trying to eliminate some other potential reasons why he may have FDB.
     
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  16. ❤ Rosette ❤

    ❤ Rosette ❤ Meeting neighbors

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    I just learned that happy huts are actually very dangerous for birds, whether it be loose threads or ingested fibers.
    All three of my birds have one, and now I'll definitely be removing them. (Especially Jewel, as I've seen him pick at his hut!) Are there any alternatives to happy huts?
    I'm thinking maybe one of those soft, bendy perches and a soft preening toy should suffice for bedtime comfort. Does this sound alright to you guys?

    I just gave him a very thorough bath in the sink earlier today, and now that he's dry, his feathers are so soft! I'll definitely be doing that more. ~

    I think part of the problem is his unwillingness to play with toys. He's very particular about what he plays with and is likely to never touch most of the toys I show to him.
    Does anybody else have a picky bird?​
     

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