Questions on “Imping” feathers for a Conure Parrot

Photo with green parrot feathers (feathers, nature, feather)
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What Is Feather “Imping”?

“Imping” is short for “implanting” feathers. Usually, we imp broken wing or tail feathers so a bird can be released as soon as possible, but sometimes we imp feathers to keep adjacent feathers from breaking while a bird is undergoing rehabilitation.

In general, we imp birds of prey (raptors) because it can take over a year for them to naturally molt a broken feather. Rather than keep them in captivity waiting for a molt, we implant undamaged feathers so the bird can return to the wild sooner. Read more

Hi Mitch,
 
I now have questions on another matter. I read with interest the section of the email below that discussed “imping” feathers in falcons. Our Blue-Crowned Conure (I goofed in an earlier email and referred to him as a Blue-Fronted Conure, sorry) started feather-picking in 2005. After going back and forth trying to determine what caused the feather-picking, I asked my Vet to test Popeye, our Conure, for Aspergillosis, because I had run into an article stating that they had found out recently that Aspergillosis is one of the top three leading causes of Aspergillosis. Popeye’s former owners were heavy smokers, so this pre-disposed him to Asper.
 
We tested him for Aspergillosis (my Vet sent out the blood sample to the University of Miami, as they are the only ones that do the antibody/pathogen test for Asper. Sure enough, Popeye tested positive for Asper. It took seven months of treating and retesting but he was finally cleared of the infection.
 
So now we are left with the feather loss. Because he had been picking for years before we were able to determine the cause, there probably is long-term follicle damage and the feathers will probably not grow. Popeye will still pull out one or two pinfeathers while he is preening, but the feather loss does not appear to have gotten any worse. Below is a pic of what he looks like since the Asper was cleared:
 
Because he is pulling out the pinfeathers as they are trying to grow him, my theory is that the feathers itch as they are coming in and he is trying to get rid of the itch (similar to if you shave the hairs on your arms, the new hairs growing in will most likely itch until the hairs are completely grown in). I thought that if we could stop him from pulling out the pinfeathers, the feathers could get past the stage where they itch and maybe the feathers would finally grow in.
 
Do you think that “imping” the feathers would help in this case? Or would it only work on broken feathers? Would it be worth it to get one of those feather protectors that we could put on him to cover the areas that have feather loss until the feathers are grown in? I am very interested in your thoughts.
 
Grace C

Hi Grace

 
I don’t know if you remember Sunshine our Indian Ringneck but he was a plucker. I doubt if imping will fix your Blue-Crowned Conures issue. I would focus on supplying him with lots of toys, especially preening and interactive to keep his mind off his feathers and lots of bathing. Also if you make sure he’s sleeping on a soft rope perch so his feet don’t become an issue. He can also preen the perch rather than his body
 

Author:

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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