Why birds pluck their feathers

If your bird is plucking feathers, there may be more going on than a need to preen. Learn why birds do this in our article.


Birds pluck (or pick) their feathers for several reasons, most of which need addressing. Our head vet Alun has some advice on why your pet bird might be feather plucking and what you can do to stop it.

Contact us for bird advice.

Grooming - A bird’s feathers can come out during a routine grooming & preening session. It’s nothing to be concerned about unless your bird seems to be overdoing it and looks sore. If they do, book a check-up and we’ll take a look.

Environmental issues - Your bird may be struggling with things to do with their environment and feather plucking is their way of coping. This could include:

  • Diet: A nutritional deficiency can stress your bird out so much they engage in feather plucking and other self-mutilation. Try adding some fresh fruit and vegetables into their daily food. Seed diets can typically lack vital nutrients. Ask us for bird food advice.
  • Cage cleanliness: Did you know birds like to be hygienically clean? A dirty and messy cage will have a negative effect on your bird’s mental and physical wellbeing. Time to clean up!
  • Sleep deprivation: Birds need more sleep than humans and prefer a consistent sleep pattern. A dark room just for them may be needed to ensure they get enough shut-eye.
  • Changes at home: Things like moving, a change in people or pets living at home, and a change to your bird’s routine can all lead to stress and feather plucking.
  • Boredom: Lack of stimuli and interaction can cause boredom, which is when some birds pick their feathers as something to do. Parrots especially are highly intelligent and social creatures. They crave interaction and feather plucking can say “I feel neglected”. Giving your bird more ‘you time’ and engaging toys will enrich their life.

Nest building - In the wild, birds pluck feathers to build a nest with. When birds in captivity do this, it can be very problematic. For example, captive female parrots can produce eggs without a male being present. This can cause significant health problems including a depletion in vital nutrients, malnutrition, osteoporosis, and life-threatening conditions.

Ways to discourage breeding behaviour in pet birds:

  • Put your bird to bed by 5 or 6pm and keep them away from dark spaces/corners.
  • Turn off female hormones by temporarily separating bonded birds (male or female).
  • Discourage mating behaviours with people i.e. vent-rubbing, tail lifting, regurgitating food.
  • Alter the cage location and rearrange the interior. Remove any ‘love toys’.

If your bird does lay eggs, it’s best not to remove them from the cage. Talk to our friendly team about what your bird needs. This could be a change in diet, full spectrum lighting, or in extreme cases, a hormone injection.

Medical causes - Some health issues can cause feather loss, such as psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD). Book a check-up for your pet bird to rule these out.

How to stop a bird plucking its feathers

Alun recommends trying some of the above methods to stop your bird from feather plucking. Making positive changes to their environment, diet, activities, and socialisation can all help.

If you’re unsure, or the feather plucking continues, contact the team at Clent Hills Vets in for more advice. Get in touch.