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I am desperate

Azalea

Checking out the neighborhood
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9/17/21
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My blue female Quaker, Skittles, has been biting out her feathers and I can't for the life of me find out why, so I figured why not ask the experts?

As of April 1st, 2021, Skittles was a happy, healthy parrot that spent more time inside with us on the dinner table, on the lamps in the living room, and on everyone's desks than on her cage on our enclosed back porch, and during the summer she began plucking/biting feathers off her back, chest and wings, but had grown them all back by October, so I figured she was just preemptively pulling out her feathers so they could grow back. But by November she started plucking again, and as late December came around, only her flight feathers (including the larger secondary coverts), head feathers and tail feathers remained, only down covering what remained of her body. She continued biting off bits of down and more feathers well into late winter of this year, and we decided to take her to an avian vet for the first time on February 10th, the closest one being two hours away. There she got medication for pain relief, feather growth, and a gut probiotic for her new seedball diet (formerly a diet of Walmart seed mix). We gave her exactly what was required for as long as it lasted, and while it did help with her new diet, she didn't grow back any feathers until May, which she slowly bit out until they stopped growing for the summer molt, and she's been a patchwork of blue and grey down since.

We can't afford another vet visit until I can find a job, so I was hoping someone might have a dietary or behavioral change suggestion that could help her. In addition to her seedball diet, Nutriberries, she gets almonds and cashews basically every day, bits of peach, apple, banana, broccoli, corn, rice and oatmeal whenever we cook it, and plenty of love and attention from yours truly. We thought she might be bored, so we got her a few dangly toys and a pineapple chew toy in her cage and brought her inside to sleep — we're late sleepers, and we cover Skittles' cage with a blanket outside, so she spends quite some time outside under the blanket when the sun comes up and so we thought she chews her feathers during then. She is quite attached to me, but we've been weaning her off such close attachment just in case separation anxiety might be the cause. She's been getting more friendly with my sister and dad, and I come and go at more random times of the day.

If anyone has any suggestions for what I can do to discourage her from biting her feathers and/or encourage feather growth, I would really appreciate it!

(January 2021)
image_2022-09-26_113014462.png

(July 2021)
image_2022-09-26_113404115.png

(May 2022)
image_2022-09-26_113729826.png

(today)
image_2022-09-26_113048560.png
 

sunnysmom

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Did the vet diagnose what the problem was? Run any tests? (Sorry, you're going through this.)
 

Azalea

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Did the vet diagnose what the problem was? Run any tests? (Sorry, you're going through this.)
She did run a blood test I believe, and while she told us to call back after a week for the results, we never got them. We called at least three times and every time we called, the receptionist said that the doctor would have to tell or interpret them for us, or something like that, and that she wasn't there at the time. I'm not sure if we just called at bad times, but now that you remind me, I'm sure the blood tests would have said something about her health. I'll try calling them again and let you know.
 

sunnysmom

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I would definitely start there. It's hard to give advice without knowing if there are medical issues and what they are. Also, perhaps you can tell the vet that your quaker is still having problems and see what she says.
 

Mizzely

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Feather destructive behaviors are so nuanced, it can be hard to nail down.

Boredom is only one possibility; others are health/pain, nutrition, psychological, hormonal, seasonal... so hard to know. We are still in our infancy really of learning about it.

I will ask - does she actually eat all of the nutriberries? Because my bird only eats a couple of the seeds and scatters the rest, so they are not a complete diet for him. A pellet like Zupreem might be a better option.

Is she able to sleep without the cover on? When you say outside, do you mean outdoors?

My first thought would be to make foraging for her food a big part of her day. In the wild they would be flying, mating, raising babies, but finding food would be the majority of their day. In our homes it takes 15 minutes to find all the food they need for the day, in one spot, in a bowl. By using toys or even just scattering her food about the cage/room, you can extend that time easily. The more time she is spending looking for her food, the less time she has to devote to her feathers.

This is a favorite of my quakers: Forage/Foot Toy Basket
 

Pixiebeak

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Health check is always the place to start.

But this pattern look pretty typical for behavior plucking.

Quakers as a species that is highly intelligent and immensely social are prone to plucking and screaming.

Personally I don't think quakers should be kept as solo parrots in a home. But if they are they need lots of attention and being part of everything with you. A large cage with lots of stuff to do, destroy, forage. A great diet including lots of veggies ( that can take time , but quakers generally take to veggies pretty well as a species ) quallity pellets and seedmix.

A routine. Predictable bedtime . Set aside cuddle time.

I've had 4 quakers. My experience is they need a minium solid hour preening cuddle time daily, with random other interactions throughout. They are very gregarious in nature with huge community nest and lots if social interaction.

Your girl is beautiful and I hope she regains her feathers. When you have improved her life and made ever change possible for health and happiness , and feathers picking isn't well established there is the most success. Sometimes once well established, we just have to love them like they are.
 
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