We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Feather Plucking?

By Drue Tibbits
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Feather plucking is a behavioral disorder of birds most often occurring in captive psittacine, or parrot, species. Affected birds methodically and compulsively pull out their own feathers. This self-mutilation is usually the result of psychological or medical issues, although sometimes the propensity for self-plucking is inherited. This destructive behavior can develop into a lifelong habit that permanently damages feather follicles, leaving a bird unable to replace the missing feathers.

It is not unusual to see a bird pull out one of its own feathers. During preening, a bird runs its feathers through its beak to remove keratin and other debris. Occasionally, a feather that is ready to shed comes loose during the preening process, making it look as though the bird has pulled out the feather. Feather plucking is distinct from routine grooming, however, and leaves large areas of bare skin as the bird removes healthy feathers. Birds affected with the disorder have bare skin in areas where their beaks can reach, such as the chest, under the wings, and on the thighs.

The main causes of feather plucking are lack of sensory stimulation, disease, and stress. In their natural environment, birds spend much of their time socializing, flying, and foraging for food. Captive birds, especially solitary specimens, do not have as much opportunity for these activities. These birds may resort to plucking their own feathers as a result of being bored. A 2007 study showed a direct relationship between the amounts of time spent foraging for food and the tendency to pluck feathers.

A variety of medical conditions can cause this disorder. In 2008, a study of birds that pulled out their own feathers showed that half of them had an inflammatory skin disease. The feather plucking can also be a reaction to any skin irritation including parasites, dry skin, or allergies. Nutritional deficiencies or illness can cause itchy skin and the resulting destructive behavior as well.

Bird owners can try to prevent or reverse their birds' self-mutilation with proper care and sensory-rich environments. Any bird that pulls out its feathers should first be seen by a veterinarian to rule out disease. Cages should be large and equipped with colorful toys and interactive playthings. Many birdcage accessories encourage birds to use their beaks both as a form of exercise and to procure their food. Solitary birds need frequent interaction with their owners as loneliness is not only a cause of boredom but is stressful to them too.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Nov 25, 2014

Yeah, feather plucking can be very, very serious. My neighbor had a rescue parrot who did it and she finally had to have the bird put to sleep. It was so pitiful. She tried everything. That bird had home-cooked food, free run of the house, attention all day long, toys, other bird companions -- you name it. Apparently, whatever that poor thing had suffered in the past was too much for it.

She was so upset, but the vet told her that bird had the best six months of its life with her, that she had done absolutely everything possible, and that at least, the bird had love and affection for the last part of its life. Gosh, but it was so sad.

By Grivusangel — On Nov 24, 2014

I know from bird owning friends that cockatoos are really, really prone to feather-plucking. Apparently, they require a huge amount of attention and enrichment and if you don't provide it, and don't provide a really varied diet, they will pluck feathers.

One friend took in a smaller cockatoo and had to get this little, well, pinafore, is the best way I can describe it. It straps on to the bird's chest and prevents it from plucking chest feathers. The darn thing is made out of kevlar! It's the only thing the parrot's beak can't tear! But she had to have it because the poor bird was self-mutilating. It was very sad.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.