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Budgie parakeets > Talking birds > Feather pulling
It is a great annoyance to the owner of a fine parrot to see a bird that is otherwise well trained and intelligent, strip himself of his plumage, and there has been many opinions expressed as to the cause of their doing so.
We have no doubt that in some cases it simply arises from lack of something to do, and that by giving them soft sticks to tear to pieces, an ear of corn, a bell, or any plaything, it will help to get them over this very objectionable habit.
There are, however, several real reasons for a parrot to act in this way. Mites or other small insects bother them greatly, and they frequently pull out a feather in order to get rid of the insect. Rubbing insect powder thoroughly through the feathers or applying it with a small hand bellows will usually kill off these little pests.
Sometimes also from eating greasy food their skin becomes disordered, dry, and rough, and apparently covered with a substance like dandruff. This causes an itching sensation and the bird is inclined to pull the feathers out of sheer desperation.
We have found that giving the parrot a plain diet of corn, padda and millet and avoiding all oily or greasy foods, they would soon get over this trouble.
It is also advisable to give them a warm water spray bath, putting a little glycerine in the water. This has a healing effect on the skin.
If your bird can be easily handled, mix one part glycerine with two parts water and rub it on the places which appear to be most affected.
Far more frequently, however, feather pulling is caused by a lack of salt in the food. About two months ago we received a letter from one prominent Chicago bird dealer asking advice in regard to a very fine parrot which he had and which by all his efforts he could not make dcsist from pulling its feathers and it was ruining its appearance.
We advised him to have all the bird's food well seasoned with salt, and had the pleasure of receiving a letter from him three or four weeks later stating the bird was entirely cured from his bad habit.
There is a salty substance at the base of the feathers, and all animals require some salt. If the bird is given food destitute of it, it will pull 1he feathers and crush the quill with its bill and apparently suck all the nutriment off from it.
In such a case it will be noticed that if there are two birds in the cage they are far more likely to pull feathers out of their mate than to strip themselves, and the very fact of their trying to chew the quill proves that there is some substance contained in same which they desire. The lack of salt also causes another very bad habit which we have noticed in a number of parrots, that is they devour their excrements, and they soon stop if given salty food.
It will not do, however, to give them too much salt. Parrots require very little, but they must have that little. If a quart or so of ordinary garden soil is put in the cage, it will be noticed that the bird consumes some of this as well as rubbing it through its feathers.
Horses and cattle also will eat dirt if they are not given sufficient salt with their food. Rubbing borax on a parrot's feathers will smart the tongue and mouth and sometimes effect a quick cure when other means fail.