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Feather Plucking Parrot Indian Ringneck

Updated on October 19, 2015

My journey with a feather plucking parrot

I wrote my first blog on how to care for Indian Ringneck Parrots approximately 4 years ago. At the time I had just one beautiful IRN named Oscar. I now have 4 IRN parrots, Oscar, Ollie, Oren and Oriel (3 boys and 1 female). Oren is the one that has become a feather plucker. It has been an extremely stressful time since it all began approximately 9 months ago. One morning I went out to feed the birds when I noticed that Oren had bare skin showing through on the backs of his shoulders (see pictures below). I was shocked! It looked very red and irritated and I wasn’t sure what had happened to him. I took him straight to the vet. She told me that it looks as though he has plucked his feathers out. He looked perfectly fine the day before so it had all happened very suddenly. The vet said it is one of the most frustrating and difficult conditions to deal with in companion birds as there can be so many causes or combinations of causes for such behaviour.

Ollie, Oren and Oscar
Ollie, Oren and Oscar

I love all my birds dearly and was willing to do as many tests as I could afford in order to determine if the cause was due to a medical condition. The total vet bill over the last 9 months has reached approximately $1,500. A blood test revealed that he had fatty liver disease, which has been completely resolved through diet (see below for further information). However the cause of his excessive preening and plucking could not be found medically and was therefore determined to be psychological/behavioural.

Oren is a very stressy bird, which the vet thinks is most likely the cause of his feather plucking. He is a fairly young bird (3-4 years old) with an unknown early history, as he was given to me to care for by a neighbour who rescued him after he flew into a window and knocked himself out. Not knowing his early history makes it difficult to understand what may have caused his anxious and stressy nature. I try my best to make him feel comfortable and calm. He has bonded with Oscar (another male – as up until 4 months ago it had just been the three boys). Oscar and Oren would dance together and feed each other like a baby bird gets fed by its parents. However, around the time that Oren started to pluck this behaviour between them had stopped. I am not sure if it stopped before Oren started to pluck, and then he did so afterwards in response, or if it stopped after. I started to think that maybe it was like a breakup between them and Oren was lashing out at himself in order to deal with it.

I separated Oren from Ollie and Oscar, but still hung his cage up on the aviary during the day so he could interact with them while I tried to help him get better. I spent hours and hours over months researching the causes of feather plucking and possible solutions to the problem. During my research I discovered that feather picking can be caused by:

  • Tumours, liver or kidney disease
  • Giardia (or other parasites - internal or external)
  • Bacterial, viral or fungal infections
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Skin diseases
  • Lead or zinc poisoning
  • Beak and feather disease
  • Allergies (to food or something in surrounding environment)
  • Inappropriate diet (leading to malnutrition)
  • Boredom
  • Sexual frustration
  • Stress
  • Overcrowded conditions
  • Insecurity
  • Lack of omega 3 and 6 (may cause dry itchy skin)
  • Not enough natural light/sunlight (make sure bird always has shade available)
  • Not enough sleep (birds need 10-12 hours per night)
  • Plus many more I'm sure.........

I am very cautious about using drugs or chemical sprays and products on my birds (as I believe they will cause more long term damage than they are worth) so was looking at more natural solutions. I started with diet.

The morning Oren started to pluck
The morning Oren started to pluck


What I feed my birds daily (which cured Oren of his fatty liver disease)

Staple – every day

- 1/8 cup of pellets each (Vetafarm Maintenance Diet Parrot Pellets)

- Organic broccoli (2-3 florets each)

- Organic carrot (1/2 carrot each over whole day)

- Organic kale (chopped)

- Organic spinach (chopped)

- Organic snow peas (1-2 peas each)

- Organic apple (2 apples shared between birds per day)

- Organic shredded coconut (1 teaspoon each)

- 1 almond each

Extras when available

- Organic sweet corn (1/4 corn cob each - twice per week)

- Organic zucchini (1/8 each – when in season)

- Organic capsicum (1/8 each – when in season)

- Organic kiwi fruit (1 shared between birds – skin removed)

- Organic mandarins (1 shared between birds – twice per week)

For a while I was adding about ¼ teaspoon of organic extra virgin olive oil to their diet (melted on some warm green peas). This really seemed to help Oren when his skin was very red and irritated. He still plucked but not as much and allowed for more feathers to grow out around his middle area.

Recently I have been giving them 3 tablespoons of small parrot seed each per day (only 5 sunflower seeds per bird) instead of the pellets as Oren appears to get irritated by them.

Before this diet improvement the birds were eating pellets only. After 3-4 months of eating this way Oren’s liver was tested and found to be normal, which was fantastic.



The next thing I looked at was adding more toys and foraging opportunities to the birds. They love to destroy and chew toys made with wood (not so interested in plastic ones) and they really love natural branches such as grevillea and banksia etc. However, with 4 of them it is hard to keep a constant supply as toys aren’t cheap and we only have a few grevillea/Banksia trees in our backyard, so I am still working on improving this for them.

Other Ideas

We bought the birds a bigger aviary to see if having more flight space might help them to get more exercise, and for Oren reduce stress. Not sure if this has helped with his plucking specifically, but the birds definitely love having that extra space.

Also not sure if separating Oren from the others helps or not, sometimes he shows improvement when he is by himself and other times he does when he is mingling.

During my research I read that some birds may pluck due to sexual frustration and that providing them with a mate could help to resolve this behaviour. This is how Oriel came into the picture. We had tried everything else we could think of and thought that maybe this was the problem. It didn't work in Oren's case. However, we still love Oriel dearly and welcome her to the family.

Oren at his worst
Oren at his worst

Last Resort

In the early feather plucking days there were a few times when Oren pulled out his tail feathers and there was so much blood loss that I thought he was going to die. It was horrible! I think that he bled so much back then because of his liver disease, as his blood wouldn’t clot very well. Since his liver has improved his blood clots much more quickly now, so there’s no need to panic or get the cornflour out to stop any bleeding. A few months ago his condition got even worse as he began to show signs of self-mutilation. I noticed a few scabs on his back and a few slits on his belly where he must have been attacking his own skin. As a last resort, out of fear that he might do severe damage, I took him to the vet and had a collar put on him. I felt like this was necessary as I couldn't watch him 24/7 due to work, etc., and couldn't handle the stress and worry that he might really hurt himself when I'm not there to help him.

Using the collar would allow more feathers to grow through and possibly reduce the irritation he was feeling (hopefully reducing his feather plucking). He hated the collar at first but adapted quickly and wore it for approximately 5 weeks. On the way home from the vet after he'd had the collar removed he plucked out about 8 of his newly grown relatively long shoulder feathers. However, since then he has hardly plucked a feather, only his tail which he never seems to let grow through very far. I think that the stress of visiting the vet that day may have caused him to pluck those feathers out shortly after. He has been quite good since then and hardly plucked at all. I am interested to see how he goes next month in Spring when his natural molt usually occurs and hopefully more feathers will start to push through. Then, if he doesn’t pluck I won’t need to worry about him being cold anymore and won’t need to keep bringing him inside at night.

I will keep updating this post to hopefully help others who may be going through a similar experience, or at least know that they are not alone. It is an incredibly stressful and difficult situation to be in. Anyone who may have a solution that has worked for them and their bird please help myself and others by posting what you did in the comments section below. Thank you.

Oren with collar on
Oren with collar on
Showing improvement
Showing improvement

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    • oscarbabe.1 profile image

      oscarbabe.1 10 months ago

      Hi again Elaine,

      Just wanted to let you know that I have found something that is helping Oren significantly. I decided against ordering in the product from my previous comment as it was difficult to know if it would get here and if I could keep purchasing it regularly. I stumbled across this site:, and the information here is so valuable. They also have a facebook group: and are extremely helpful and happy to answer all your questions. So far Oren has improved significantly and I finally have an understanding of why this has happened to him and how I can fix it.

    • oscarbabe.1 profile image

      oscarbabe.1 11 months ago

      Hi Elaine, I'm sorry to hear that Smokey is still plucking but glad that he has been improving. Oren is unfortunately still plucking also. He has weeks where he improves but then he always seems to have a flare up or something and begins plucking again. His feathers don't appear to be fragile like Smokeys though, its more like he is irritated by them. Especially around his tail, he has absolutely no tail feathers. I came across an American company that have some very interesting information about why captive parrots pluck their feathers and a program that claims to have helped many improve and even fully recover. I have recently been in contact with Australian customs to see if I can import the food they suggest in the program (not sure if there may be risks associated with importing plant food products and need to be sure its safe), so have not yet tried it with Oren.

      In the meantime I have tried to adopt some of the principles of her program and have had a slight improvement, but haven't been able to fully eradicate foods that may be a problem.

      Here is a link if you are interested:

      If you scroll down the page to the food you will see "birdie brittle" (1st step for feather destroyers) and "better feathers" (2nd step for feather destroyers).

      She also has more information about feather destruction in her blog.

      Please do your own research about it though as I have not yet tried it so can't personally advocate that it works. Just thought I'd share :)

      Please keep in touch regarding Smokeys condition, its nice to share stories.

      Miranda :)

    • Elaine Hilton profile image

      Elaine Hilton 11 months ago

      Hello again. I was browsing my computer and came across this article. I would really like to know how Oren is. Smokey is still having problems plucking but he has regained feathers. I keep a collar on him 5 days a week and he has 2 days off so he can preen properly and bath properly. When some of his feathers grow, they are quite fragile which means they fall out and break very easily. It seems he is plucking but he's not. With each regrowth, the feathers seem to be getting stronger and he seems to pluck less. I have had periods where the collar has been off for several weeks, but he eventually starts plucking again. It seems to be working having the collar on and off.

      I hope Oren has improved or even stopped and that he has successfully regrown his feathers.

      Hope to hear back soon.

    • oscarbabe.1 profile image

      oscarbabe.1 2 years ago

      Hi Elaine,

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your story. I am so sorry to hear that you have been battling this for over 3 years now. I understand just how immensely stressful it can be, especially when all you want is for your bird to be healthy and happy. I am wondering if maybe you have considered using a sock jumper? If he allows you to handle him it could possibly help. Although you would have to be careful that he doesn't get caught up in it somehow, but it might help to reduce the plucking on his chest at least. It could also give him something else to chew on to distract him.

      When Oren had his collar on he did have a couple of scabs on his neck where it was rubbing due to him trying to reach around to his tail. If you find a softer collar that works well I would love to know and find out more about it. Good luck with your search and please keep in touch on how smokeys going :)

    • profile image

      Elaine 2 years ago

      Hi. My male ringneck, smokey, is a grey like yours. Oren is beautiful. I have been battling this for over 3 years now and have tried so many things but nothing has worked. I recently had a hormone chip put in him as his hormones didn't return to normal after last spring, it was full on 24/7 and he is a single bird bonded to me. While his behaviour has changed, he is still plucking. He plucks his upper body so his neck, chest and under wings are all gone, as well as the back of his neck. I have to be careful with collars because of where he plucks, they rub on his skin and make it worse. I am currently researching softer collars. Not much help to you or me, but it is nice to know we're not alone. Good luck