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GCC Feather Plucking


Checking out the neighborhood
Hello All. I have been looking through these forums (very helpful!!) but wanted to post my own (I apologize in advance for length!).
I have a 17 year old GCC, Rhubarb, that I have had since day one. For the first 13 years he has never touched a feather other than normal preening.
In 2018 my husband and I moved overseas for 2 years. During this time I boarded him at basically a Parrot Spa! Upon my return to the states in 2020 we picked him up (and my two black capped conures) and brought them home. During this time we set up their own room (which also is my hobby room/office). They got new cages, toys, etc. It was amazing they all settled in beautifully like we hadn’t been away!
The February of 2021 I started my day as normal and was horrified to see that overnight, Rhubarb had plucked the inside of his legs, vent and back! Panicked I took him to the vet and did a complete blood work up. Everything was fine.
I contacted the Parrot Spa and they said he did that for them the two Februarys he was with them and it was absolutely breeding behavior (they had a number of boarder birds that had the same behaviour at the exact same time). Sure enough come mid-March the breeding behavior passed and he grew back all his feathers, no issues.
This February I was prepared and unsurprised where almost a year to the DAY, the exact same thing happened in the exact same way. However, here we are approaching June and the plucking behavior has not stopped. He does not seem to be plucking more feathers, just the newly growing pins and I’m at a loss on how to stop it.

Some information:
1) He has been given a clean bill of health by his avian vet.
2) His diet consists of Zupreem pellets that are always available. He gets chopped fruit/veg every morning in a separate cup. Typically it’s a mash up of 1-2 types of berries (straw/rasp/black), broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, summer squash, carrot, bell pepper, raisins. The makeup changes depending on what’s at the grocery store. He gets a “snack” once a day of a small amount of Kaytee Fiesta mix. I occasionally mix in some hard boiled egg with shell which he absolutely LOVES.
3) He eats his Zupreem/Veggies every day, no waiting for snack. Snack usually comes around 1-2pm.
4) Bedtime is around 8pm, wake up 6-7AM depending one the humans’ work schedules!
5) His cage is covered at night with a custom cover. His cage is in the “bird room” so there’s no people going in/out at all hours of the night
6) He has NEVER been a good sleeper. He is very active at night and you can usually hear him talking to himself or playing with a toy. There is no light in the room at night. This has been the way for 17 years.
7) The plucking only ever occurs at night. I have never once seen him pull a pin feather during the day, and there are no pins on the bottom of the cage during the day. It only happens at night
8) He used to have a Snuggle Hut but it was removed Feb 2021 and never replaced. There are no mirrors in the cage. He does have preening toys and foraging toys
9) He gets at least one new toy every 1-2 weeks. His favorite, however, are toilet paper tubes.
10) Average “out” time varies. On days I work from home he’s out virtually all day. His cage has a play stand ontop so he’s free to come/go as he pleases. There is also a rolling playstand in the room he has access to. Not to mention my shoulder. On husband’s WFH days it’s much the same, a little less since he’s on the phone more and Rhubarb does not always play nice on the zoom meetings! Bare minimum out time is a few hours (on days we’re both in the office).
11) I do have other birds, a bonded pair of black capped conures that I’ve had for 19 years. They have always been neighbors with Rhubarb from the day I brought him home. They were even neighbors at the parrot spa. They don’t interact much however as one of the black capped/Rhubarb do NOT get along! Mostly they just ignore one another and do their own thing.
12) Papers are changed twice a day, water changed twice a day. Average temp in house in winter is 68 (low humidity) and 72 in summer (higher humidity).
13) After reading other forums I have checked for anything during the night that could cause stress (mice, for example). Nothing.
14) I say “Him” but I have never had him officially sexed. After 17 years I don’t really much care, and had never witnessed any breeding behavior until the February of 2021!
15) Absolutely no nonstick pans, scented candles, perfumes, hairsprays, etc. are used. Ever. For the 19 years I’ve had birds! Anything in my “hobby room” is 100% safe, non-toxic, water based acrylic paint. I don’t even leave electronics on in that room. I bring my laptop in/out of there when I WFH.
16) The “parrot room” is a spare bedroom turned office. It is on the second floor of the house and has a big window that lets a lot of natural sunlight in. During the warmer months I keep the cellular blinds down but there is still plenty of light. I have never seen them stressed by the open window and generally seem to enjoy looking out of it. The cages are on the opposite wall so they are not directly at the window (there’s about 10’ of distance).
17) The black Capps display some breeding behavior at the exact same time, but have never plucked. They had laid eggs up until our return in 2020. Weirdly, their egg laying didn’t really start until they were around 12-13 years old. Mostly the female, Griffin, just got REAL cranky for a few months!

Some things I have tried:
1) I have completely gutted, cleaned, and re-arranged his cage. He has had this cage for 7 years.
2) Removed food bowl at night in case he was “nesting” in it but didn’t change anything. I put it back since he’s active at night and I’d rather him focus on that than his feathers
3) I purchased a bitter spray from parrotsupplies.com. It seems to have helped a little, but not completely. He gets misted each night before bedtime. He is misted in a separate room to keep it from getting on anything else in/on/around the bird room. He HATES it.
4) Generally really trying to increase his out time and new experiences. He helps chop veggies in the morning, or sit with us in the living room in the evening and watch TV. I even pulled out his harness and may try taking him outside assuming he doesn’t try to murder me when I put it on!
5) He actually likes the floor and exploring, so sometimes I let him wander the floor (under very close supervision). Usually he likes to stare at the washing machine and yell at it.

All in all, his routine has been virtually the exact same for 17 YEARS! He only picked up this habit while boarded, and for the first time since then the plucking hasn’t stopped. He is active (VERY active), Good appetite and other than being crazy, in very good health! His skin is not irritated or scabbed. He is molting as well now and does not pull out any of those feathers, but preens them gently as normal. He takes a water bowl bath at least weekly (and has zero interest in doing it anywhere else. Spraying him with water is akin to The Rapture so I don’t).

So if anyone has any ideas, tips or tricks I’d be forever grateful! I did see a lot of recommendations about a white noise machine and I happen to have an extra one so I’m moving that into their room tonight. I’m also contemplating a sleep cage (I have an extra, very small one).

Thanks in advance!


Ripping up the road
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