We’re bringing home an abused African Grey – Can you help?

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Hi, we’re thinking of bringing home an African Grey, we would be her third home. Her first was abusive, and she was a plucker. She is permanently bald on her belly. We think she is about 15 years old.

She has been in her current home for many years, and does not pluck any more. I was wondering if you had any advice for what she might need just in regards to being bald. We do keep our home cool in the winter (about 65) will she need one of those panel heaters? Can I knit her a sweater? lol


Her current cage is 24″ x 36″, which is only marginally bigger than the cage we have for our green cheek. (so in other words, too small for a grey, in OUR opinion) we like to err on the side of bigger is always better.

We don’t want to completely stress her out though, and change her cage if she’s comfortable with it. What is your opinion of what we should do… keep her in her current cage temporarily, or permanently? Also, would it be prudent to take photos of her current cage set up and re-assemble everything as closely as possible when we get it home?


green cheek conure blog Were bringing home an abused African Grey   Can you help?


So that the perch and toy lay out is all the same? Also, we currently have a green cheek conure, and I was looking to buy shower/ window perches for both birds is there one that would work for both, or should I get different ones? Can you recommend which perch for each bird? Thanks! Jessica


Dear Jessica


How nice that you are planning to bring home a rescued Grey, even plucked ones need love.

It is good she is not still plucking, yes they can permanently damage their feather follicles. If your home is that cool with a partially naked bird then you may want to provide a Thermo Panel or a Thermo Perch.

I would go with the larger of the two panels or the Medium Thermo Perch. I do not think a sweater will be appreciated if she is not plucking, you really don’t need to put her through the stress of clothes.


ekkie kh panel blog Were bringing home an abused African Grey   Can you help?

Warm the bird not the house
button heating Were bringing home an abused African Grey   Can you help?


If she is plucking then perhaps a sweater or even a vest made out of a large white sock with holes cut out for the head and wings and shortened may be helpful. The cage. Is the bird going to be out of the cage for a good portion of the day? Or will it be locked up most of the day and perhaps come out in the evening?


If your bird will be in its cage much of the time then 30″ wide is the size recommended for a Grey. If the bird is out most of the time, the cage does not have to be as large. A new cage should not be a problem.

Setting it up exactly like the old cage is also not necessary, change should be the key here. Often birds get bored with the same day in and out and it can contribute to plucking.

Change is what birds need to keep them open to new things, places, toys, etc. Shower perches. They can use the same Shower Perch, but not a small one. You would want the Large Polly’s Shower Perch. Both birds can use it. I hope this helps, please let me know if you need any further information.


Thank you Catherine


Thank you! *Most* days our green cheek is out for a minimum of 2 hrs a day, usually up to 6-8 hours a day. There is usually one day a week when I’m gone, and he might just come out for breakfast, then a half hour snuggle before bed.


Those days we make sure there are new toys and new foraging opportunities in his cage before we leave. (I’m a stay at home/ home-schooling mom) As for the sweater, I was kidding, lol it would certainly be cheaper than a personal heater, but I don’t think the bird would appreciate it lol.

As for keeping the cage the same, I only meant as she transitioned to her new home. If she already knows the layout to her cage, would it be good to keep it like that for a few weeks?

We routinely take everything out of our greencheek’s cage and move everything except his sleeping perch. Perch arrangement gets changed every 2-3 weeks. Toys get rotated every 3-4 days. Thank you again, I love this store!!!

Hi Jessica


Good that your birds seem very well adjusted. I think the Grey is lucky to have you caring for it. I think the change to your home will be a big enough change that even if you brought the cage in and decorated it exactly as the older smaller cage, it would not be needed.

Just go ahead and dress the cage as you want it to be, make sure the bird has enough things in it to not feel exposed, the saying is “If you see the bird first thing there is not enough in the cage”.


It is good to hear you make a point to move things around. Keeping it fresh is good for your birds. If the grey was actively picking or much more naked. Then a suit would not be a bad idea. There are sweaters and hoodies and all sorts of things for parrots to wear to help them from picking or to keep them warm. Thank you very much for your business and kind words, we appreciate it all.


Hi Catherine

Thank you so much! It’s so reassuring to hear you say that about not seeing your bird first things. I often look into his cage and think “Where’s the bird?!? Did anyone let him out?!?” and then I see him hiding behind some dangly toy LOL I worry that I had TOO MUCH in cage 🙂


One bird’s opinion of Cozy Corners

button cozy Were bringing home an abused African Grey   Can you help?button bedding Were bringing home an abused African Grey   Can you help?

His previous owner said something about having one of those corner cozies, would those work with the thermo perches? They wouldn’t be a fire hazard to have the fleece on the side and the thermo perch under it?

We had a parrot years ago, and remember shopping with you back then, so when we got our Green Cheek this past summer, I was excited to see you still in business, unlike my other favorite online retailer who went out of business. The site looks great, and I look forward to the Sunday brunch newsletter every weekend!

Dear Jessica

As long as your bird has a nice big hollow in the middle top of her cage she will be fine, the toys placed around the inside of the walls and not hanging in her sitting space and smacking her in the head.

It sounds perfect! A Cozy Corner will be fine with a Thermo perch, the perch does not get too hot, if you put your hand around the perch you would feel warmth, but it does not get hot hot, as it is not supposed to be hot.

The panels would get somewhat warmer as they are not meant to be sat on. Birds can move closer or further away as desired.

Thank you Catherine

Hi Jessica – mitchr here

 The thermo perches are factory set to constant 102 degrees Fahrenheit – touchable and provide no fire hazard whatsoever

and properly placed – you can never have too many accessories in the cage


written by catherine tobsing
approved by mitch rezman


Is tea a magic potion for your bird? Should you be using it?

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Hello Mitch:

Love your birdie brunch and have learned much from it.

Do you know whether or not it’s harmful to give a budgie green tea? Don’t know if you heard of the lady with the 26-year old budgie who claimed he was so long-lived because they shared a cup of green tea every day. I don’t know if that is fiction or not. Green tea has been touted as good in preventing cancer. But don’t know if there is scientific evidence.

I do know that budgies are little tumor factories and I’ve searched for a long time for something that may help prevent these illnesses. If green tea is healthy for them, do you know in what form – a few drops of extract in their water? Straight green tea as their drinking water? Decaf?

Budgies are my favorite pet bird, but I’ve lost so many to cancer. Thanks!

Susan Valenti

I heard the story from the veterinarian who did the intake on the Budgie. It’s important to use decaffeinated green tea – served straight, lukewarm in a dish will be fine. She noted that working internships at zoos, it was common practice to mix tea leaves into the food of many of the animals

According to legend, tea was first discovered by the legendary Chinese emperor and herbalist, Shennong, in 2737 BCE. It is said that the emperor liked his drinking water boiled before he drank it so it would be clean, so that is what his servants did. One day, on a trip to a distant region, he and his army stopped to rest. A servant began boiling water for him to drink, and a dead leaf from the wild tea bush fell into the water. It turned a brownish color, but it was unnoticed and presented to the emperor anyway. The emperor drank it and found it very refreshing, and cha (tea) came into being.

Tea is versatile. You can put the tea leaves directly into the bird’s food or you can steep it in water. You want to only use teas that have been decaffeinated but not decaffeinated using ethyl acetate in the decaffeination process. You’ll want to use teas that are decaffeinated using CO2 or water as they keep more of the polyphenels and catechins intact, about 95%.

Feathered factoid: In the wild many substances act like tea, steeping in what normally would be water that is far from sterile. These plant compounds can actually pull the bad things like toxic minerals out of what looks to be muddy undrinkable water.

You can choose from green tea – black tea – white tea – herbal teas – chamomile teas – calendula teas – Rose hip teas – peppermint tea’s – ginger root teas – anise seed tea – raspberry leaf tea -ribooise tea – and there are others that you can explore. The aforementioned teas have different applications.

Chamomile tea for example is the use to help birds that have night frights. Raspberry leaf tea is believed to help with the muscles needed to form contractions in a female’s reproductive tract helping them lay eggs while reducing complications. It’s been widely used for egg bound females and smaller birds with harder than normal labors.

We’ve heard anecdotally that green tea can be helpful in feather plucking. Some birds have been known to instinctively drop the plucked part of their bodies, when presented with a dish of green tea directly into the dish

There’s really not a whole lot of research on this so we would certainly love to hear anybody weigh in on their experiences or hear questions about the use of tea for their birds
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

Feather plucking parrots – a questionnaire to help work through the problem

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As you can imagine we get a lot of calls and emails about feather plucking problems. Because of this we are the only website on the Internet to have a comprehensive feather plucking category which contains products that we know (based upon feedback from our 70,000 plus customers) are helpful in the reduction and/or the elimination of feather plucking. Many of the emails are quite detailed. Others will ask nothing more than “My bird is plucking what can I do”?

There’s an old joke, a guy walks into the doctor’s office and says “Doc, it hurts everywhere”. The doctor says “show me.” The guy touches his arm and says “It hurts here”. The doctor asked him to touch his head which he did and the man said “it hurts here as well, doc”. “Now touch your leg” said the practitioner. Which the man did and said “It hurts there even more!” To which the doctor replied “Your problem is obvious, your finger is broken”.

We take them out of the sky – cut off half their wings – confine them to 10 sq ft restricted areas that noway resemble a tree for endless hours in places where the sun sets at 5 PM. We feed them engineered & manufactured food found nowhere in nature.

So why is it such a mystery that even our veterinarians can’t figure out how to prevent the self-destructive behavior that so many of our feathered companions exhibit?

We can’t begin to diagnose something as complicated as feather plucking without asking questions. Some plucking triggers may be apparent – if you’re looking in the right places. Change a painting on a wall, move a piece of furniture. Maybe the new carpeting in the upstairs bedroom hasn’t fully out gassed? This is why we recommend pulling everything out of your bird’s cage at least once a month and rearranging the aforementioned bird toys & accessories.
Yes we want to freak your bird out. Yes we want him or her to be highly inquisitive and suspicious of the new cage feng shui (you added new stuff too right?) We want a skeptical psittacine. While focused on the new digs, it may distract them, even for a short period of time and keep the from plucking their freakin’ feathers. How often do you rearrange your bird cage?
That little thing that you plug in the wall in the powder room to make it smell nice, ditch it whether your bird is plucking or not, it’s dangerous (respiratory reasons). Scented candles are a big safety hazard for birds. Actually even if the candle is not scented, it’s important to note that birds in particular are very sensitive to the smoke and soot produced by petroleum-based paraffin candles. Birds are also not afraid of a candle’s flame.
So if you are interested in having a dialogue with us about feather plucking simply cut and paste the list of questions below into an email. Answer the questions the best you can and send them back to Simply_Everything@WindyCityparrot.com.
Chances are we won’t be able to answer everyone individually. We will do our best or include you in any “we see a pattern responses”. By sending us your retort you are agreeing to allow us to post the information (your first name only – no email) on our blog which will also appear on many social media sites. I know some of you will say this list reminds me of the lyrics to the David Crosby song, Immigration Man. “Here I am with my immigration form, it’s big enough to keep me warm”.
There’s probably a couple of dozen more questions we can ask. Keep in mind this is a problem that makes many board-certified avian vet’s scratch their head. The reason that we’ve had moderate success (“overwhelming success” would in fact be an overstatement) is because we look at the bird’s environment as a “captive”, look at the bird holistically and ask that you see yourself as a caged bird keeper.
First name:
Email address:
How long has your bird been plucking?
Species (please be specific, there are 24 species of Macaw):
Your bird’s sex if (known) by DNA or feather color (dimophic bird)?
Your bird’s age?
How long have you had your bird?

Is this the bird’s first home?

If not, do you have any information on its last home?

In winter do you have forced air or passive (radiator) heat?
In winter is a humidifier in use?
What human foods are being offered?
Is any citrus being fed to your bird?
Has the human pecking order changed (divorce – child goes to college)?
Has something changed in household furniture-drapes-carpet-paint?
Are there other animals in the home?
What manufactured bird food(s) are being served?
Do you purchase your bird seed from a bulk container like a barrel or plastic drop-chute?
Is there ever any poop in your bird’s drinking water?
Bird toys, what types and how many?
How many bird toys are in the top 1/3 of your bird’s cage?
Any other birds in the home?
In summer do you have central air or use a fan(s) to cool your bird?

Is your home teflon free (including waffle irons & hair dryers)?

Is the bird cage placed against any walls or in the “middle of a room?
Do you cover the bird cage at night?
Does the bird get silence at birdie bed time?
Do you offer full spectrum lighting to your bird?
Is the lighting on a timer?
What is the size of the cage living area only?
On average how many hours is your bird out of the cage daily?
When you are out of the do you leave on “white noise” TV-radio?
How many perches are in the cage?
Are there any “flat” perches in the cage?
Any soft rope perches?
Manicure perches-if so where is it placed?
What type of perch does your bird sleep on?
Do you employ clicker training in your bird’s routine?
Do you regularly exercise your bird?
Is your bird fully flighted?
If you clip your birds wings and is the clip modest or severe?
Date of your birds last visit to an avian vet?
How often do you weigh your bird?
Have you tried any “anti plucking” supplements/sprays?
Has anything worked?
List the foraging opportunities in and our of your bird’s cage.
Is the bird cage placed near any picture windows or sliding glass doors?
Does your bird ever chew on its cage?
What is the style of the cage dome top/play top/flat top?
When out of the cage does your bird have a place to “hang out”?
Is your bird a one person bird?
Is your household on a regular schedule?
Have feathers been plucked little by little or overnight?
How often do you bathe or mist your bird?
Is there a tobacco user in the home?
Are there any use of air fresheners or scented candles in the home?
Is your bird exposed to fresh “outside” air when possible?
If you have a female could she be “utilitarian” plucking (feathers used for lining the nest)?
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

The Disconnect Between Avian Vets & Birds

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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.