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Self mutilation

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Self mutilation

Postby garrett3999 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:07 pm

Hi,
I have a very sad story here that makes me heartbroken. I have a 13 year old goffin cockatoo that I adopted in june of 2012. when we got him the lady said she was molting. but we soon found out after a while that he was plucking his feathers!!! we brought him to the vet and he said that it has only been 3 weeks and we needed to let him adapt because he was scared. so after having him for a month he was still plucking and also he was picking at his skin!!! we were very surprised and very upset. he is a very sweat bird and he didn't show any sort of depression or any scarce between the family. we brought him to the vet and he gave us some medicine. we used it for a month and it still wasn't working. so we waited about a week to see what happened but were still seeing no sign of stopping. we brought him back to the vet and he gave us a foam collar to put around his neck. sadly he could still pick at himself. so we took it off so he wouldn't tare it up. the next day when I went downstairs his chest was all bloody and he had a big gash in his chest!! so we brought him to the vet again and he gave us the cone... we had that on him for about 3 months and most of all his feathers grew in but still had that plastic coating on.. when he had the cone on he still tried to bite but he couldn't because of the cone. after the third month we took it off. as soon as we took it off he took off all the plastic coating off all the feathers?? he has now again started to pick at his chest feathers and his wings :( !! I hav recently just scene under the little puff on his chest a scab???he has been scratching at it and im afraid he might self mutilate again!!!! my mom said that there might not be any help for him and we might have the put him down! I am only 14 and I have grown a very very very strong bond with him because he is the sweetest thing ever. I hav heard about medicines that could help but idk wat to do. I just cant let go of him because he is the best. plz giv me sum info on what I should do!!! I need help. btw the only place he plucks is under his wings, his wings, and at his chest. HEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLP!!!!! :cockatoo:
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby Eurycerus » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:12 pm

Poor baby. Sounds like you are trying your best! Can you give us more detailed information.

What do you fed him? When? How much?

How often is he directly interacting with you? How often is he out?

What types of toys do you offer?

How big is his cage?

What had the vet tested for? This is to ensure that any physiological problems have been ruled out.

Then people on here can provide advise and suggest ideas you haven't already tried. There are people on here with parrots that self mutilate, so you will receive good ideas.
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby pennyandrocky » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:53 pm

i just went through this with mya :corella: . she had laid 2 eggs she spent a week sitting on them when i heard her banging her beak on one of the eggs. i called her to me and she had scratches on her chest from trying to make nest material for her eggs. later that day i saw her pulling her skin off. i took he eggs away and the rescue i adopted her from told me to put 3 big scrunchies around her neck so she couldn't reach to pull her skin. it worked she's now healing. if your bird is not picking right now then just keep him as busy as possible with new toys and trick training the scab is probably ichy mya's been scratching hers but no bleeding. when you bathe him do you get under the wings? could be itchy from dry skin.
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby marie83 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:57 am

Sorry but your vet really needs to be running some tests on your bird, whilst cockatoos have the higher rate of plucking and self harm from psychological reasons it might not be that.

Fill in the birds diet on a sheet of paper for a week as well and show the vet, only include what the bird actually eats, not what you offer but he doesn't eat. You can show us that too and we can suggest anything that might be improved.

Also it would be helpful if you can tell us the rest of the info you have been asked for. Include as much detail as possible.
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby friend2parrots » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:43 am

I am very sorry to hear about your bird's situation.

marie83 wrote:Also it would be helpful if you can tell us the rest of the info you have been asked for. Include as much detail as possible.


+1

i totally agree that it is necessary to have an avian vet evaluate the condition to determine if its medically caused (internal) rather than psyhcological.

also, whether it is medical or not, there are ways to prevent the self mutilation and possibly cure it. it might take some work and time, but I have heard of some wonderful success stories of self-mutilating birds cured of their behavior. please consider what the posters on this thread have written, and what I will write below. also, i think it is crucial for your mom to read this entire thread. i have faith and hope that with proper medical care and training, your bird has a very high chance of being brought back on track healthwise and behaviorwise.

while you do need to see an avian vet ASAP, i had a few thoughts id like to share, in case they might be helpful, just to halt the behavior, so it doesnt get worse and damage the birds flesh and feathers more.

I was wondering if you could explain in detail the condition of your birds wing feathers? how badly mutilated are they? has an avian vet specifically examined the wing feathers to assess their damage? is there a chance for them to grow back if a collar is placed on the bird? or are they permanently damaged at this stage?

the reason I'm asking is because if you can somehow get the wing feathers to grow back (with a collar placed on the bird, or a scrunchie set-up like pennyandrocky has suggested) and begin flight-training your bird, you might see improvement. vigorous flight exercise is very mentally stimulating for birds and can help distract them from feather plucking and self-mutilation.

also, once you are able to halt the mutilation with a collar, jacket, or scrunchie-setup (pennyandrocky - i was wondering if you could post a photo or describe the specific style/size of scrunchie youre using? ) it might be helpful to clicker train your bird. forum member Andromeda was able to halt her brown headed parrots feather plucking with clicker training - she may have some advice on that front? also, last summer I was able to prevent my GCC (who was psychologically disturbed from a spookout, but healthy otherwise) from attacking and aggressively overpreening his feathers with clicker training. i was able to train him to attack his preening toys instead, and he soon developed more interest in attacking preening toys i had set up around the house instead of himself.

there's a lot of instruction and guidance on this blog and forum about clicker training, if your bird is not yet clicker trained. Michael or others might be able to suggest the most relevant articles/posts in the forum/blog that best describe, most concisely, the basics of clicker training, and post that link here?

all the best with your bird - please do post again with more information, updates, and questions. AND - and this is VERY IMPORTANT --- **PLEASE** have your mom read and participate in this thread. thanks! :thumbsup:
Last edited by friend2parrots on Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby garrett3999 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:56 pm

hi,
thanks to all that ppl that care so much. since u guys were asking about more info ill share it.
My mom is gone at work right now. she is a flight attendant and will be back tonight!! I will show her ur helpful comments and suggestions. So... duddly "the bird" has a diet of a whole mixes of food like sunflower seeds, pistacheos, peanuts, acorns, froot loops... he loves them, also those colored food for birds, forget wat there called, and sum pumpkin seeds ext.... he isn't as bad as all the self mutilators that are rlly bad but as a animal lover o am very sad because I dnt want him to feel any pain or any sort of harm!!! he mostly picks at his wings and his chest. Since we took the cone off his neck a week ago it dosnt look bad at all. but there is a scab and im afraid of wats goin to happen. I hav just recently found out that there is a thing called a bird sweater. its a sweater but in bird size for a bird. they say it does a lot of help and saves money for the cones that might also not work... BUMMER :( :( PLZZZ ANSWER ME ABT THAT!!! we also hav 2 other birds a umbrella cockatoo that is a year and a half old and a green cheek conure. ik cute... the conure is exactly like a chiwawa and thinks hes the king of the amazon LoL!!!!! Duddly shows most interest in the other cockatoo. idk if they form a bond that it will help stop the mutilation and feather plucking???? PLZ RESPOND TO THAT TOO!!! He is in a cage that is 20 inches wide, 19 inch long, and 32 inches high.. u guys asked for that info so ya... we make our own toys for him like I toilet role and hang it from his cage, and a wooden pesches in it, a box to rip up he does like that, and I try to make foraging items that I find off the internet,, IF U GUYS GOT SUM IDEAS THAT WOULD RLLLLLLYYYY HELP!!! he is placed right in the living room in the corner so he wont feel lonely so were always with him, is that a good thing or bad thing, ADVICE PLZZ!! and we havnt been to the vet since the cone so I will definitely try my hardest to go this weakend... thnx for responding and with out ur info I would be sitting ducks!!!!! RESPOND BACK LIKE U DID LAST NIGHT THNXXX :D :D ... oH AND ILL TRY TO GET A PICTURE UP... ONCE I FOUND OUT HOW TO
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby Eric&Rebecca » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:00 pm

garrett3999 wrote:hi,
So... duddly "the bird" has a diet of a whole mixes of food like sunflower seeds, pistacheos, peanuts, acorns, froot loops... he loves them, also those colored food for birds, forget wat there called, and sum pumpkin seeds ext.... he isn't as bad as all the self mutilators that are rlly bad but as a animal lover o am very sad because I dnt want him to feel any pain or any sort of harm!!!


I would stay well away from the fruitloops, our cockatiel loves cheese puffs but he can't have them. They have many artificial colourings and sugars which can be bad for the bird if fed in large quantities. If he's hyped up on sugar and E numbers I don't think it will help his situation, while it may not be the direct cause.

Coloured food for birds- Zupreem Pellets (or pretty bird) pellets are good if they are the main bulk of your cockatoos diet (This is different for smaller birds like cockatiels and parakeets)

Seeds- seeds are good but sunflower seeds are very fattening and should be fed in moderation.

Peanuts- be especially careful with these. Peanuts are good snacks/treats but be careful where they come from because store bought peanuts can contain harmful preservatives an pesticides that can harm your bird over time.

I would try and introduce more fresh fruit and veggies into his diet as this is extremely important. Also cooked brown rice and dark greens are particularly good foods (although again in moderation with dark greens as they have oxilates which block absorbance of calcium)

The reason I pick up on diet is because feather plucking and mutilation can sometimes be caused be inadequate diet. If it isn't the immediate cause a better diet will certainly help promote regrowth and recovery so its a win win with this really. Perhaps try to stimulate him more by using foraging toys where he will work for the food, keeping the bird busy and stimulated can also help with plucking and mutilation.

Toys, leading on from this. It is important to have good interaction in and outside the cage. Your toys should be different and problem solving, cockatoos love this! Additionally, give him plenty of attention outside the cage. I would be careful introducing to another bird until you have had a full avian vet screen and implemented quarantine procedures to rule out any bacterial/viral reasons for feather loss. Additionally, if you can pinpoint the reason for your birds plucking it would be better in case he does this to the other bird or the other bird imprints this behaviour.

Please please do seek advice from an avian vet they will certainly be able to help and so many people on here will give you advice too
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby Andromeda » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:43 pm

Hi, Garrett, welcome to the forums and I am sorry about Duddly.

I understand you have taken your bird to a vet several times but do you know is it an avian vet? And do you know what tests have been done on the bird from a health perspective?

Plucking can be psychological but there are lots of other reasons why a bird might pluck that have to be ruled out first:

- Disease, parasites, infections, metabolic disorders Your bird would have to have blood work, fecal tests, etc. to rule these out

- Malnutrition or vitamin deficiency Blood work and other tests an avian vet can do can rule this out, as can changing the diet if the diet is poor

- Dyes and preservatives in food

- Poisoning by heavy metals Brass, lead, zinc

- Allergies Food or environmental allergies can cause plucking

- Hormones or reproductive/sexual frustration

- Dry air If you are running the heater a lot or live in an arid environment the humidity in the air could be too low and could cause dry, itchy skin. In this case you could run a humidifier or give the bird a bath every day (possibly with a mixture of aloe and water)

- Insufficient sleep Birds need about 12 hours of undisturbed sleep per night in a quiet, dark location

- Lack of natural sunlight Sunlight through a window is filtered and the bird has no source of UV light unless it spends some time outside in unfiltered sunlight. Some birds stop plucking when they are given some exposure to natural sunlight.

If you can rule out all of the above it's probably psychological, and those reasons would be:

- Boredom

- Wings clipped/inability to fly

- Emotional issues

Just based on what you have said so far malnutrition or vitamin deficiency can't be ruled out because a mix made up of mostly nuts in addition to fruit loops would be nutritionally deficient in many areas. I don't know if "those colored food for birds" is a type of pellet but if it is do you know how much of the diet consists of the pellet versus the nuts? Artificial food coloring and preservatives found in some pellets has been known to cause plucking.

Cage size is a potential issue; 20 inches wide x 19 inch long x 32 inches high is too small for a cockatoo, and even more so if he is spending lots of time inside of it. It really should be more like 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft.

My brown-headed parrot plucked for about six months and we took him to an avian vet and he had lots of tests done to rule out physical reasons. The vet thought it might be hormones so he had some injections but that didn't stop the plucking. I also ruled out all the other reasons on the above list including boredom (he has lots of toys, lots of out-of-cage time and lots of human interaction) and inability to fly (his wings are not clipped) so I was left with "emotional issues" and I had no idea what they might be.

I had exhausted my options but while reading around online I came across clicker training and I hadn't tried that yet. I didn't do anything special in regards to the clicker training (I just worked on targeting and training simple tricks like turn in a circle and wave) but within a few weeks he completely stopped plucking and it has been almost a full year now since he last plucked. There is no doubt in my mind that whatever issues he had went away when I started doing clicker training with him; I still don't know why he was plucking but I am convinced it was the clicker training that made him stop.

If your bird is plucking during the day while you are around you can use clicker training to re-direct their attention to toys instead of their feathers. Mine was only plucking at night while he was covered, and never during the day, so I was not able to use this method but most birds that pluck do so during the day and if you use clicker training to encourage them to leave their feathers alone and play with toys you can sometimes stop the plucking (unless it's health-related).

Good luck with your bird and please keep us updated!

Lastly on an unrelated note:

garrett3999 wrote:the conure is exactly like a chiwawa and thinks hes the king of the amazon LoL!!!!!


Oh, yeah, I have one of those, too! :lol: :gcc:
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby pennyandrocky » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:35 pm

sorry but that is a horrible diet for any bird. when mine get up in the morning i put a small amount of pellots in there dishes. sometimes they get scrambled eggs with the shell ground almost to a powder, if it's not ground it will cut their crop. or they get plain oatmeal, stovecooked not microwave with fresh fruit mixed in. just to mixthings up they get plain yogurt with fresh fruit. then when we eat dinner they get steamed veggies, you should try fresh first mine are picky and only eat hot fruit and veggies, with a birdmash made with beans, brown rice you can find recipes for bird mash online. seeds and nuts are treats they are high in fat and cockatoos can get tumors if they are overweight. i agree with the others on flight and cage is way too small mine are bigger and they only sleep and eat in them but they still need room to strech their wings.
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Re: Self mutilation

Postby marie83 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:00 am

I agree with the others regarding the diet, when you are looking to improve the diet stay away from coloured pellets, far too many un-needed artificial rubbish chemicals in them. I'm a massive fan of sprouted seeds and pulses for parrots too and offer them to my own birds 2-3 times a week. I would make sure you parrot gets some forms of fresh foods every day, mainly veg but some fruits too. You can use the nuts for treats as these are still good to have in the diet.

The cage, I agree is too small for a 'too, these are very needy creatures, ensure the cage has various types of toys, 'toos do like chewing as you are aware, switch the loo roll tubes for kitchen roll tubes though as these are more hygeninc. Take a look at the home made toy threads over on the toys and accessories board for loads of ideas. As a minimum for other species of parrot I would include in the cage, 1 foraging toy, 1 noise making toy such as a bell, 1 preener/cuddler and 1 destroying toy. For a cockatoo I would include more foraging toys- this can be as simple as wrapping food up in clean paper and more destroying toys such as wood, card, paper etc. These toys also need rotating reguarly to prevent boredom or over attatchment, I think for a 'too once a week should be your minimum. One thing I would like to add to this is if your bird isn't used to things changing then start really slowly otherwise you will just freak him out and undo all the good you are doing.

Outside the cage- how much out time does your bird get? What happens whilst he is out the cage?
I think birds need as much stimulation outside the cage as they do inside the cage, its very easy to open the door then leave it to do its own thing or give the bird a cuddle and not alot else. Being out of the cage is something different and a change of environment right? I would say no to this question since most birds are let out in the same room as their cage, they are still looking at the same four walls. If you havent already get or make a playstand, fill it with toys and things to do, as others suggested do some training with your bird, you can look on Michaels blog (link at top and bottom of page) for ideas and how to guides. Flight training (if possible )is an awesome thing to do and the exercise releases endorphins and helps make the bird feel good, just like it does with us.


These are just a few ideas to get you started (Please take it slow though, change 1 thing at a time so you dont stress your bird out, possibly 1 thing a week) but there are loads more things you can do. The most important thing is to rule out all medical issues with an avian vet- this may take some time to work through the tests as I'm finding out myself.

Good luck with everything. Please keep coming back and keep us updated.
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