All cockatiels preen and remove feathers. The difference between removing feathers for pleasure and pulling out feathers for distress is dramatic.
Are your Cockatiels pulling out feathers or Preening?
Preening is done almost everyday and cockatiels can spend hours preening themselves or each other. Over preening is not uncommon and is popular between parents and young especially in the Lutino variety. Over preening can also be hereditary or a one off.
Feather plucking however is quite different
Cockatiels will preen and remove the odd feather, some small some large depending on what stage the new growth is at. Also, if they have had a knock they may remove a damaged feather as it bothers them.
With a feather plucker, they will just pull out feathers for no reason. Or so it may seem…
Once they have pulled them out often enough, the feathers will never return. The cockatiel has by then damaged the follicles and stopped any chance of regrowth.
Why do Cockatiels pull out feathers?
A couple of our females have been feather pickers and after a visit to our Avian Vet, they determined that they were sexually frustrated. Now this could be true as neither has a partner and both are very focussed on their dad. He however is partnered up and only shows them interest now and then.
Other reasons for feather picking
There are other reasons for feather picking, not just what I mentioned before. Cockatiels get bored they will often pick their feathers. This is very common in single birds that are alone for long periods. To prevent and help with this you should ensure that you have plenty of safe toys for your cockatiels and browse to occupy their day. Lots of different foods is also a great way to keep them busy. Adding a mirror can have the wrong effect and is maybe not the right choice for single birds, which begs the question are mirrors good for Cockatiels?
The cockatiel will talk at the bird in the mirror and naturally have no response, this then will frustrate the single bird and often make them depressed which leads to feather picking. Be very observant if you have mirrors for your cockatiels. We do, and ours do talk into them, but also have plenty of other things to keep them active. So they are not obsessed with the reflection.
Pair up your cockatiels
Try and pair up your flock if you have a few of them. This will help prevent self picking and keep them active.
Since our visit to the avian vet we have paired one of the girls with a younger male and they are getting along fine, but more important is, she has almost stopped picking her feathers 🙂
The other female is still with her father and mother, but they do have lots more daily browse that keeps her active. She does still pick out feathers but not as bad as before. We supplement with extra minerals in their water as well. We may still try and pair her up with a male, but she is very focused on her dad and since removing her sister she has much more attention from her mum & dad.
These are not the only reasons for feather picking so always check with a good avian vet. What we have talked about here is from our experience with our girls and our avian vet. If this helps anyone that is awesome. But as always, if in doubt get to an avian vet for some sound professional advice.
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