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The Best Way to Prevent Feather-Plucking – Make Your Parrot Work!

An exciting new study has revealed that healthy parrots prefer working for their food to eating from a bowl.  Parrots involved in feather-plucking, however, go right to their bowls and show no interest in solving problems that led to food rewards.  I think this research is important to all who share their homes with parrots.  Some progress was also made in developing a medication for birds that have begun to damage their plumage.  I have dealt with feather-plucking even in well-run zoos; it’s a sad and frustrating condition, and I hope that this new work points the way to some solutions.

Sun Conure playing

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Melanie Phung

Busy Minds and Bodies Remain Healthy

Feather plucking is heartbreaking to see, and immensely frustrating to cure.  Despite much interest from the parrot-keeping community, foolproof solutions elude us.  Feather-plucking and other forms of self-mutilation ruin the lives of countless pet parrots, many of which are eventually turned over to rescue centers, euthanized, or released.

A researcher at the Utrecht University Clinic for Companion Animals in the Netherlands offered African Gray Parrots the option of eating from a bowl or removing food from a pipe lined with holes.  Healthy birds invariably ignored the food bowls and went right to work on the pipes. Read More »

Foraging Toys and Treats – Keeping Pet Birds Active and Interested

Wild birds spend the vast majority of most days occupied with gathering food.  In captivity, where all their nutritional needs are usually met in a matter of minutes, boredom and a general decline in vitality are constant concerns.  While well-recognized in parrots, these same considerations apply to canaries and other finches, quails, softbills and all other pet birds.

Foraging Toys

A wide variety of bird toys is available to assist in Foraging Toykeeping our avian friends occupied.  Among the most useful are those that, provisioned with food, encourage birds to work at obtaining snacks.  Known as “foraging toys”, these are based on behavioral principles long applied by professional aviculturists.  In my opinion, they qualify more as “health aids” than toys.

I also highly recommended our line of natural bird toys; these must be shredded and otherwise physically manipulated before the bird can retrieve the food hidden within.  In addition to mentally and physically stimulating your pets, they will help to keep beaks in good condition and to sharpen motor skills and reflexes.

Natural Foods

Foods provided in their natural form will also encourage birds to utilize foraging skills.  Particularly useful in this regard are millet sprays, sprouting greens and whole fruits.

Monk ParakeetLive insects are unbeatable in arousing the interest of finches, white-eyes and most softbills.  By allowing mealworms or waxworms to burrow into a pan of sand or oatmeal, you can keep you pets happily hunting for hours.  Crickets are even better, especially if you stock the cage bottom with empty paper towel rolls in which the insects can hide.  Plastic wrap wound around the lower 2 inches of the cage bars will help contain any crickets that escape your pet’s notice.

Hiding canned insects and other treats about the cage will encourage exploration and an interest in the environment in general. 


An outdoor aviary is, in and of itself, a giant foraging “toy.  Birds kept outdoors, even for part of the year, invariably become more alert and active – catching insects, sampling growing plants and just watching what is happening all around them.

Further Reading

To read more about other means of adding to your birds’ quality of life, please see my articles Behavioral Enrichment for Parrots and Finches Use Parrot Toys Too!


Monk Parakeet image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by snowmanradio

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