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The Disconnect Between Avian Vets & Birds
Posted by Mitch Rezman on 11/23/2013 to Avian Veterinarian Related

I have a question and thought perhaps you might know the answer. I am also a strong proponent of flighted birds. I was wondering if there is any scientific data on whether flighted birds are less likely to pluck?

It would seem to me that being able to fly produces a more confident, content bird, so it stands to reason that it would reduce feather plucking. Our vet said birds in multi-bird households are less likely to pluck as well (but I am not so sure I'd recommend that publicly as it takes a LOT of sacrifice to care for a whole flock!). He said that there is something they get from each other that they don't seem to be able to get from us.

Keep up the great newsletters. I look forward to them and read every one. Popcorn sounds SO adorable. She is so lucky to have you!

Best regards,
DeAnna (Dee)

Hi Dee

Thank you for the kind words and Popcorn is becoming such a neat little trip:-) You know, you bring up a really interesting point. First to answer your question I know of no scientific research on plucking. I'll not stop looking but I think I would've stumbled upon something by now. There's articles by veterinarians out there. Veterinarians are actually going to be my subject for today's newsletter so thank you for helping me get it started.

This week's topic is going to be about the disconnect I see with avian vets. I'm having a discussion with another woman about her plucking Greenwing Macaw. It's fully flighted. The bird has been to an avian vet twice. Bacterial infection as found and Harrison's pellets were recommended as a solution "as in", I have no idea of what to do here so try this. Can you imagine if you walked into a doctor's office with a horrible skin rash and your hair was falling out and they said just drink Ensure because it's a well engineered diet. You'd be looking for another doctor.

First let me qualify this by saying there are avian veterinarians who get it. Byron de la Navarre, DVM Chief of Staff at Animal House of Chicago sends droves of bird owners to the Birdie Boutique because he understands the relationship between birds and their environments. He (and his staff ) "gets it". Your veterinarian should talk to you about housing, nutrition, light cycles, foraging opportunities and all the other components that go into keeping birds as pets. The blood workup is only one component of your birds health.

But I digress as you know I do a lot. Most people think the term "holistic" (defined as: characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.) is interchangeable with "organic and natural" which is not accurate. You can look at anything holistically, from the repair of an automobile, to the operation of an e-commerce website, neither of which are organic nor natural.

The point is, having blood results is truly a gift especially if you're fortunate enough to be able to afford it, they can get pricey. Setting money aside, let's break down your question. We all know birds spend about one third of their life preening thousands of feathers. When have you ever seen an unkempt bird? I'm not ignoring your comments about birds being flighted and flighted birds in multi-bird households, I just want to zoom in on some bird anatomy and how it may relate to feather plucking

In a typical wing feather clipping, with three or four snips, the primaries are cut, leaving 24 of the largest feathers on the bird chopped in half with rough edges. From here it's no stretch that the bird feels the raw ends of these 24 large feathers (10- 12 on each side) with their sensitive tongues then instinctively go to work to try to fix this problem. With some birds, generally those with enrichment and social interaction, the preening gets interrupted with feeding, play and socializing time. But a newly clipped bird who spends the majority of their life in a cage who is stressed to begin with, having no other distractions, may just focus initially on those 24 feathers. "Heck, there's nothing else to do around here so gonna work on these feathers, because it feels good like to scratching an itch", but soon the mosquito bite itch becomes a poison ivy itch because no amount of scratching makes the irritation feel better, except this scratching isn't scratching it's now the feather plucking.

The treatment of feather plucking can take up volumes and we will gladly answer any and all inquiries on the subject that we can. But I don't want to take up your entire Sunday so if you are have a plucker in your life, I'd like to introduce you to Avicalm, part of an extensive new line of Avitech Bird bird supplements and homeopathic 

Buy Avitech AviCalm from windy City ParrotShop All Avitech Bird Supplements

Before we part, just a heads up about Thanksgiving next week. We thought you'd like to know the best foods that are share-able with your birds.

Pumpkin provides Carotenes that are converted into vitamin A, important for the lining of the respiratory tract, intestinal tract, the oviduct and the tubes that make up the kidneys filtration system. Little-known Zeaxanthin can also be found in pumpkin and helps protect the eyes. And believe it or not Pumpkin is a great source for B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like calcium, copper potassium and phosphorus.

Personally pecans are not my favorite nuts but lots of people and most birds swear by them. Little-known fact - pecans are actually a fruit called "drupe". Raw pecans provide a lot of vitamin E, lots of B-complex and a bunch of minerals like selenium, potassium, manganese, calcium and iron.

I'm diabetic (Type II) so when I eat potatoes it's usually a sweet potato. Believe it or not, sweet potatoes have more than half of the vitamin C humans need on a daily basis. They have way more vitamin A than you'll ever need and lots of potassium and beta-carotene. Overall sweet potatoes should really be part of your birds diet year-round. Don't feel like cooking sweet potatoes for your birds? Try our goldenfeast sweet potato treats

Last but not least the lowly green bean offers a whole bunch of vitamin A and polyphenolic antioxidants including B-carotene! Enjoy, have a happy, healthy and bird safe holiday..

Some Feedback from our Facebook fan page

Karl Osborn

It never ceases to amaze me how bird owners justify clipping wings for "safety". Utter nonsense.

Stella Burton 

Proper wing clips do not keep a bird from flying.

Jennifer Botelho 

A light trim yes, if they can still fly but alot of people clip alot having the bird incapable to fly at all just hope. That's just sad

Jennifer Botelho 

I think it depends on the bird. Smaller hookbills have less of tenancy to pluck. But birds as intelligent as greys and macaws may develop a feather plucking habit. I could never take that away from them. It's what they do. They has winds to fly just and we have legs and arms to get around. If we where not able to walk that would have effects of us too. So why not our feathered companions? We already keep then in captivity, lets not take that away for them too.

Amanda Kmetko 

Do Amazon Parrots talk?

Carolyn Morgan 

Amanda, some do, some don't. Depends on the bird. They're quite capable of it, but some prefer to siiiiiiiing, operatic solos! LOL
Like 2 hours ago ditto Carolyn - when we used to do bird shows always know the Amazons who arrive because it sounded like a bunch of ladies at the hair salon - chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter

Ariadna Cepeda 

Joo quien me regala unooo?? Por favor , por favor.. Me encantan los guacamayos!!
Joo who gave me unooo? Please, please... I love the macaws! (Translated by Bing)

What bird owners have to say
Patricia W McMurray Date 11/24/2013
My old avian vet, who is now retired, told me years ago to feed my bird from the table. Gossike is a yellow nape Amazon who I acquired from my son. She is now about 35 years old. Not being raised on pellets, she refuses to eat I feed Tropimix with some added sunflower seeds. But she eats what I cook, loves meat of any kind, and seems to prefer cooked vegetables to raw, other than corn. It seems a strange diet, but as her current vet says....she has done well on it
Karla Date 11/24/2013
I just got a recipe off FB for sweet potato chews for dogs and will be making them for my birds (Waldo, an Eclectus and Corey, a Bare-eyed cockatoo). Sweet potato chews Instructions: Preheat oven to 250 F Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut off one side of the sweet potato lengthwise, as close to the edge as possible. Cutting the side of the potato first allows you to then turn the potato onto this flat surface that you have just created. Having a stable area to rest the potato will make it easier to cut the potato into slices. Don't discard that first piece, it comes out just as yummy as the rest! Cut the rest of the potato into 1/3" slices, no smaller than 1/4". Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 3 hours, turning half way through. Cool completely on a wire rack.
John Askam Date 11/24/2013
Reading your post led me to a thought that might be shared in the future. Selecting a vet is often by default. "He's the only one that does birds..." We have been very very fortunate to have Dr. Kehler her in Maui who absolutely loves parrots. He treats most small pets, including our dogs and cats at times, but he is a totally different person around parrots. We've also used another vet primarily for our dogs and cats. He has treated our parrot once. He is an outstanding vet, the most thorough I've seen, but although fully capable of treating parrots I knew he wasn't quite himself around our parrot. In the entire research process that should preceed any parrot acquisition, I would strongly encourage folks to meet with avian vet candidates beforehand. The hapiness of both you and your companion parrot is going to be much greater with a "bird lover" vet. John Askam Maui HI
DIANE Date 11/24/2013
Hey Mitch, I think you're right about birds & chopping off their flight feathers. My Certified Avian Vet recommended I clip the 1st 3 or 4 on each side to keep my Grey's to keep them safe, (they were both pluckers). A few months ago I decided to let their flight feathers grow as my Eclectus has never been trimmed & does not pluck. My Timneh & Congo are happier then ever, have completely stopped plucking & are beautiful. Diane from Boston,MA
Lita Lepie Date 11/25/2013
Hi. I've had my African Timnah since she was a baby. She's not my first bird. I do not believe in clipping at all, and she has full access to the house during the day. I work mostly from home so am around most of the time. At night I usually cover her in her cage when I'm home. I leave her outside her cage - obviously with access - when I go away for a few days. [Obviously no one agrees with this. But since I've been doing it for twenty years and have never had a problem, I intend to continue doing it.] She started plucking before she was one year old and I had a woman bird sitting for her. I guess she didn't like the sitter. She has continued to pluck. The grey is very high-strung and we tried some Haldol on her to deal with the plucking and her general nervousness. But it just sent her into a stupor, so I stopped all meds. She has a fabulous diet, with supplements, but continues to pluck. Basically I have just come to accept it. But as I said she has never been clipped and never will be. Lita
Karen Date 11/26/2013
I am guess this goes too when they break a feather. My CAG broke 2 in August, and has been attacking her tail ever since. She had one pulled out at the vets (in August) because it kept bleeding quite a lot. Since then we've had spotting because she is still attacking the one that's left...and another one I think. I don't know how to stop her doing this. I try distraction, but she bites them at night when we're asleep too.
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