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Feather Plucking Birds

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  • Feather Plucking Rescue Pack

    Feather Plucking Rescue Pack

    A three product pack to help with feather plucking birds.

    This pack contains Calcivet 50ml, Potent Brew 50ml and EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement 50g.  The combination of the three supplements help with nutritional deficiencies and stress which can trigger off feather plucking.



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New!! - Feather Plucking Rescue Pack
Feather plucking (and other similar forms of self mutilation) are major problems. Most commonly a problem in parrots, feather plucking can also occur in other bird species.  Although most feather plucking cases have nutritional problems as their origin there are some medical conditions that can be implicated so veterinary testing may be required. The most common cause of feather plucking appears to be chelated calcium deficiency.

As research tells us that 98% of pet birds are getting less than the recommended levels of calcium in their diet it is actually surprising that there aren't more cases of feather plucking. Calcium is involved in both nerve and muscle function. Calcium deficient animals often show nervous behaviour such as fear, aggression and feather plucking so the central part of our recommendation is to add Calcivet to the diet for feather plucking birds.

The important thing about Calcivet is that the calcium it contains is very easily absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. In actual fact the amount of calcium it supplies is quite low but its bio-availability makes up for that. Our normal recommendation for Calcivet is to supply it five days a week for the first month and reduce that to twice a week after that.  The key to the high early dose is that calcium deficient birds have low reserves in their bones.

Early supplies get sucked up by the bones so the nerves can still be denied adequate quantities. It is the movement of calcium in and out of blood, nerves, muscles and bones that leads to the variable severity of calcium related symptoms. For birds showing severe calcium related symptoms such as fits and seizures we would often recommend three 'daily doses' directly into the beak two hours apart. Birds this distressed are normally easy to handle. Normal dose rates for Calcivet are as follows:

Calcivet application on food (5 days per week)
Parakeets: 2 drops
Cockatiels: 4 drops
African Greys: 15 drops
Cockatoos: 10-20 drops
Large macaws: 30 drops
The rule of thumb is 1 ml (30 drops) per kilogram of body weight.

Calcivet application in water (5 days per week)
20mls of Calcivet per 1 litre of water
12mls of Calcivet per pint of water
5ml teaspoon per half a pint of water

Getting the dosage rate correct is vital when using supplements to help with feather plucking

The important thing about these quantities is that they are the amounts to be consumed so allowance must be made for food wastage. Most parrot owners put their Calcivet onto fresh foods or human foods such as toast. Frankly it doesn't much matter what the carrier is so long as the bird consumes it. Don’t be surprised if your bird improves and then relapses during the ‘loading period’. Some individuals struggle to control their blood calcium levels during the first few weeks. Giving Calcivet five days per week means that there are two "off days".  The ‘off days’ in our regime exercise the ability to move calcium from store to blood and, in the long term, will give you much more consistent results. If your bird does relapse and begin feather plucking in the future simply reload with Calcivet!

We only recommend adding Calcivet to drinking water for birds that are not eating moist fresh foods. Eaters of moist foods , such as fruit, vegetables or soaked seed, do not drink much water so there is no point putting their Calcivet in the water, put it on the food instead.  When added to water the application rate is 20 mls per litre, 12 mls per pint or one 5ml teaspoon per half pint.

The second product we use for feather plucking is EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement. Birds that are on calcium deficient diets are very likely to be deficient in many other important vitamins and minerals. The requirement to grow new feathers also puts great demands on the sulfur containing amino acids (70% of the birds sulfur containing amino acids are in the feathers). These nutrients are in short supply in all plant foods so supplementation has an enormous effect on the bird's ability to grow new feathers (so this applies to normally moulting birds too).

EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement is sprinkled over food such as egg foods, soaked seeds, fruits, vegetables, toast or other human food.  Seed is not the best food to mix a supplement into as the birds husk the seed and leave the supplement on the husk that they drop instead of consuming it.

The recommended daily levels of EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement which is given 5-6 days per week are:

Budgies: 1-2 small pinches
Cockatiels: 2-3 small pinches
African Greys/Amazons: 1/3rd level teaspoon
Cockatoos and large macaws: 2/3rds level teaspoon

Again these are the quantities to be consumed so allowance for wastage should be made. Once the calcium/Calcivet loading period has been completed (we suggest two months) EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement (5-6 x a week) should be a routine supplementation for the whole of a bird's life. The third product (Potent Brew) in our system for feather plucking birds is only likely to be used for a month or two. Self mutilating birds may be feather plucking because they are stressed or they may be stressed because they are plucking. Either way they are stressed!

The stress response reduces the blood supply to the digestive system as part of the normal 'fight or flight response'. Prolonged stress causes chronic digestive upset leading to many complications. Our experience is that rebalancing the digestive system can have a significant positive impact on feather plucking birds as it maximises absorption of the important nutrients we are supplying in the other supplements. We do this with our unique liquid (planktonic) probiotic Potent Brew.

Normal dose rates for Potent Brew when added to water are as follows:

2 drops
Cockatiels: 4 drops
African Greys: 15 drops
Cockatoos: 10-20 drops
Large macaws: 30 drops
The rule of thumb is 1 ml (30 drops) per kilogram of body weight. Potent Brew is given daily so a typical African Grey gets two months' supply from a 30ml bottle.

Pellet diets and feather plucking - are your birds getting the correct levels of important nutrients?

About half of the American feather plucking birds we are asked to help are getting a pellet as part of their diet. This causes enormous problems. Many vets and owners assume that birds on pellets are being well fed. Yet the vast majority of such birds are only getting pellets as a small proportion of the diet. The pellet manufacturers 'over supplement' some of the vitamins to allow for this a little but they don't add enough to compensate for normal levels of poor compliance. So pellets give owners and vets a false sense of security.

Lets quantify this by using Harrison's Adult Lifetime Formula as an example in the table above. Our experience is that most pet birds that are getting pellets only get 10-25% of the diet in that form. The balance is seeds, nuts, fresh foods and human foods. The levels of calcium in the diet provided by the underused pellet is simply not enough - see table. The RDA for calcium assumes the mineral is provided by 'traditional' supplements such as calcium carbonate and dicalcium phosphate. These are very difficult for the body to absorb. Calcivet provides less calcium but gets more into the bloodstream. Calcivet works!

Our experience is that many vets simply don't understand the calcium issues involved in feather plucking

Our experience is that many vets simply don't understand the calcium issues involved in feather plucking (or other behavioural or coordination related symptoms). Fortunately many are now coming around to our way of thinking. One of the common blood tests vets perform is the test for calcium levels. For many years we have noted that birds with 'normal' blood calcium levels respond very well to supplementation with Calcivet. So we basically ignored these test results.

Modern veterinary work is now explaining why we have been correct all these years. Vets traditionally test for 'total blood calcium'. This figure goes up and down with 'total blood protein'. Sick and stressed birds often have high protein levels in the blood hence high calcium levels. But the profession is now telling us that the correct measure of blood calcium is the ‘ionic calcium’ level. This does not go up and down with protein levels and more clearly reflects the calcium available for use in nerves and muscles. Of course many vets have not yet caught up with the new testing methodology.

Our normal process is to understand the bird's dietary history (checking actual quantities consumed very carefully) and in most cases recommending the supplements described above. Only if we have a reason to believe that diet is not the issue (from the questions we have asked) do we send people to their avian vet for tests for zinc poisoning, giardia etc. If our recommendation does not work we will also recommend a vet visit.

Behaviour, hormones and other explanations for feather plucking

Most of the feather plucking birds which we are asked to help have cages stuffed with toys because someone has blamed the behaviour on boredom. There is no doubt that pet parrots need our attention but it is rare to find more toys helping. Many owners unconsciously reward their birds for feather plucking by scolding them. This is counter-productive. If your bird wants your attention he/she will begin feather plucking again. Hormonal changes may initiate feather plucking behaviour but wild birds don't display feather plucking symptoms when they reach puberty. So it is far more likely that the hormones are simply stressing an already calcium deficient bird beyond its limits.

Feather plucking may be the results. Other changes often initiate feather plucking - owners going on holiday, change of environment, new birds in the collection. Often removal of the stressor does not stop the feather plucking behaviour. These are the circumstances in which our system seems to work most reliably. Nobody has a guaranteed solution to the feather plucking problem but we are confident that our three products, used correctly, have a very high success rate. If they don't work please contact our free advice services and we will recommend changes or a vet to visit. Finally, if one bird in a collection is feather plucking because of nutritional problems the chances are that all the birds are nutrient deficient too. EasyBird Complete Pet Supplement is designed as year round supplementation for all sorts of pet birds. Keep them happy and healthy with this unique Birdcare Company supplement.

Related links

Related products:
Other pages of interest:
Feather Plucking. org - A site dedicated to sharing feather plucking stores and advice
The Parrot Society - Charity providing advice and services to hobbyist breeders and pet owners