From feather plucker to re-feathered: A success story

Birdie, before re-feathering. Photo by Kevin Blaylock

Birdie, before re-feathering. Photo by Kevin Blaylock

Feather picking is a common problem in companion parrots, and causes great angst for many people who live with birds who do. The cause of feather picking often remains a mystery to bird owners, veterinarians, and behaviorists, though medical care, foraging and enrichment opportunities, and nutritious foods are often provided in an attempt to eliminate or at least curtail feather destructive behavior.

Cause or causes?

Often, we try to identify ONE cause of feather picking. As bird owners, we sometimes think if we identify a single cause and “fix” it, all will be well for our bird. What if there isn’t one single cause? What if there are several different causes that lead some birds to pick their feathers?

The road to fully feathered

Evet Loewen, who adopted a caique named Birdie from Phoenix Landing who engaged in feather destructive behavior in 2017, set out on a journey to help her. What did Loewen do that helped Birdie? She took multiple approaches simultaneously, and the result is a healthier, happier, and fully feathered Birdie! Birdie’s care and treatment included establishing a daily routine that included safe time outside for access to full spectrum sunlight, a variety of healthy foods that were supplemented with Buriti oil (which contains vitamins E, C, and A, essential fatty acids, and carotenoids), medical care and treatment by a knowledgeable veterinarian, enrichment, and a social life for Birdie.

Read more about the multi-prong approach that helped Birdie

Loewen wrote an excellent article in the December 2018 issue of World Parrot Trust’s PsittaScene, to share exactly what Birdie’s routine, medical care, food, enrichment, and social life looked like. You may download and read the entire article at https://issuu.com/worldparrottrust/docs/birdie-refeathering-success-story.

Thumb name of the article in PsittaScene

Click to read or download the full article from World Parrot Trust’s Winter 2018 issue of PsittaScene.

Feather picking may have many causes simultaneously

Loewen’s conclusion is that there wasn’t just one cause of Birdie’s feather picking behavior. There were several. She includes tips in her article for others facing feather destructive behavior in their own birds. It is a must read for all those who experience the ups and downs of living with a bird who exhibits feather destructive behavior.

Tips for Living with a Special Needs Bird

by Dawn Grace

Special needs Quaker parakeet hanging out with cockatooIs it more work to live with a special needs bird? Not necessarily!

Living with a parrot is challenging, no doubt about it.  So, does that mean that living with a handicapped parrot is more difficult?  Not necessarily!  The basics still apply – ample cage space, good nutrition, proper avian vet care, environmental enrichment and safety.  With a few adjustments, you can help your bird live fully with its disability.

My experience with a special needs bird

My experience has involved 18 years living with a doubly handicapped Quaker.  He came to me with a missing foot.  Many years into our journey, he also managed to fall, which resulted in losing his sight in one eye.  Since his foot had been that way since birth or nearly so, it didn’t slow him down at all.  Birds use their beaks as an appendage for many activities anyway!  He did, however, go through a period after the blindness where he was less active.  I watched him carefully to see how I could help.  Approaching him from the sighted eye was an easy adjustment for me, and gave him more security.

Thinking outside the box concerning housing and enrichment

For a disabled bird, you may have to think outside of what is recommended for cages, play stands, or enrichment.  For example, if a bird is blind, has arthritis, or is missing a limb, work with your veterinarian to consider what an optimal environment looks like concerning cage size, shape, and placement. What modifications cane be made for your bird to feel and be safe? Sometimes, special perches, like corner perches, can be easier for special needs birds to stand on.  In some cases, a bird who is very challenged with mobility might do better in a space with enrichment and perching opportunities that are low in the cage, to prevent falls.

Observing your bird in the cage helps.  Can he get around the toys without difficulty?  Are there enough perches, in various widths and types, to allow access to the bowls (ideally there are three bowls – water, pellets, and fresh food)?  Parrots in general like to hunt (forage) for their food.  That is what they would do naturally in the wild.  However, foraging might look a little different depending on your bird.  Start easy and small – a tasty item covered with a thin tissue for example.  It might be that a handicapped parrot wants its environment simple.  Making this decision, as with all the choices suggested here, is one that is best chosen by you, as you spend time watching your companion (and keeping in contact with your vet too!).

Flight may be especially important

Another option to consider with handicapped birds is the opportunity to fly.  As with any parrot, you should always be aware of the environment. Our homes have many dangerous opportunities for a bird, including but not limited to other pets, open water (toilets, tubs, pans), ceiling fans, hot stoves, fireplaces, windows, and doors. My birds have their own room with a door that can be shut, keeping them safe from kitchen, bathroom, and other dangers.  If the Quaker falls in the bird room, he can more easily fly to the ground without hurting himself. To allow a bird flight is a very individual decision.  Again, checking with your vet first to weigh the pros and cons is essential.

Special needs Quaker parakeet eatingNutrition and food

Nutrition remains the same for the disabled bird, with one possible exception.  A beak injury may require syringe feeding or a mash diet, instead of more whole foods.  Please do your best to offer a healthy varied diet, including pellets, seeds & nuts in moderation, and plenty of veggies, fruit, whole grains and omega 3 sources (including but not limited to flax seed, chia seed and walnuts).

Veterinary visits

A yearly visit to your avian vet applies to full bodied and disabled parrots equally.  Baseline blood work can help you help your bird through all the transitions of life.  Additionally, this visit can alert you to possible deficiencies in your bird’s diet.

The most important thing to remember in caring for your bird (handicapped or otherwise) –please give him or her plenty of loving attention, with intention.

Birdie Walk, A Ceiling Playground

By Suzanne Cromwell

Background: My husband, Larry, and I adopted two Timneh African greys from Phoenix Landing, Napoleon and Josephine. These birds are former breeders, now 48 years old. Over the years, we have tried to give them plenty of personal space so they feel safe and comfortable, and to facilitate their ability to fly so they are empowered to make choices about their activities. While living in Virginia, the birds liked to fly to a wooden beam running between the bird room and the breakfast area. When we decided to move to Florida, it was a good time to design a room for the birds that supported their ability to fly, and to have a high space to land.

What did I want to create in our bird room?  Our new room for the birds has an 11′ ceiling and no existing beams. I wanted to make sure the greys could still get exercise and the benefits from flight, as well as incorporate full spectrum lighting, a structure for the birds to fly to and play on, and something from which to hang toys. I also did not want to have any electrical wiring exposed and the light bulbs protected.  The following is a description of what we created and call the “birdie walk.”

The birdie walk is a 21 foot rectangular structure made out of bird-safe untreated wood. It is 8 inches wide and hung from the ceiling.  We made sure the structure hung low enough so that the birds could not eat the ceiling.

The side pieces of bird-safe wood are 6 inches on both sides, with ½ round trim.  The trim molding is screwed in with stainless steel screws so once it is destroyed it can easily be replaced without destroying the structure.  If the birds chew the ½ round trim, this can easily be replaced!

Birdie Walk

The birdie walk is secured to the ceiling rafters by metal rods and HVAC straps. Electrical wiring for the lights are attached to ceiling junction boxes located above the ceiling. The metal rod supports, HVAC straps and electrical wiring are enclosed in PVC tubing to keep the birds from chewing through these important structural elements. Full spectrum lighting is installed in the unit, and the lights are included in boxes with a removable plastic grate.

We use hemp rope around the supports to hang natural wood perches or baskets full of toys and chew pieces. You could screw into the bottom of the structure to hang more toys or activities depending on the capabilities of your birds. The birdie walk provides many creative opportunities for hanging bird play and foraging activities!

Birdie Walk2

The birdie walk is visually attractive and our greys spend many hours playing on it or with the toys, flying up and down, or just overseeing all the activity in the room.

Our birdie walk is 21 foot square but the same idea can be made in any configuration to work in your bird room. Our birds like to go around the whole surface of the birdie walk or fly from one side to the other. Our Timnehs love the bird walk and use it daily. Good luck with yours!

Meet our adoption coordinators: Debbie, Maryland

Celebrating National Volunteer Week, we are sharing interviews with the Phoenix Landing adoption coordinators for different areas. Debbie has been an adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing for a long time, and has helped Phoenix Landing help many birds over the years.

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Debbie and Joey

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing?
The state of Maryland.

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
Since February 2007, so a little over 10 years!!

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
In 2003, I was looking to purchase a bird or find a rescue because my son wanted his own bird. I found Phoenix Landing (PL) on-line and submitted my application to foster. After having a home visit and attending a few classes, I started fostering and never looked back. I have fostered many parrots over the years.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
I chose PL because of my love for parrots, the people I met and the education they offered. I have been involved with other pet rescues and the amount of education PL offers is amazing. I’m always learning something new!

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I like the fact that Phoenix Landing makes all new applicants fill out a detailed application, attend a required event and have a home visit before they will even consider placing a bird with them. Lots of people go out on a whim and get a pet and then have no idea how to care for it. I like the fact that PL takes ownership of the parrot they bring in for life and that they have a plan in place in case something ever happened to our founder, but most of all I enjoying helping parrots in need as well as helping new parrot owners acquire a pet.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
I have owned my own parrots for over 30 years, but my family always had parakeets and lovebirds when I was growing up.

I currently have 9 parrots and 1 soft bill. Most were adopted from Phoenix Landing, two were adopted from Best Friends in Kanab, Utah and a couple were given to me! I have 4 macaws, a grey, a cockatoo, 2 conures, a meyers and a green aracari. Three live with my son at our beach house. Plus I have 2 rescued Italian greyhounds and a boxer.

I have found volunteering for Phoenix Landing has been very rewarding, so if you want to get involved, please contact us. We are always looking for volunteers.

Meet our adoption coordinators: Ron, Raleigh/Durham, NC

Learn more about Ron, our adoption coordinator for the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina in his interview below. He is one of the many volunteers who helps Phoenix Landing help parrots!

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Ron

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing?
Raleigh/Durham, NC

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
Since April 2014 (three years)

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
My avian veterinarian often spoke of Phoenix Landing; however, I learned the most by attending a Phoenix Landing Step-Up class. The class taught me much needed skills and increased my confidence so that I could shift my way of thinking in order to solve a behavioral issue within my own flock. Those skills kept me from having to re-home one of my parrots.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
As a parrot lover, I have always tried to learn as much as possible about how to provide my flock the best possible care. In doing so, my eyes were really opened to the many issues parrots and owners face. It was much worse than I ever imagined. As someone that has always enjoyed volunteer work, it simply made sense that I would volunteer with Phoenix Landing.

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I like when a neglected parrot goes to a new home where it is loved, fed a proper diet and given daily socialization and enrichment. Watching a once neglected parrot flourish is amazing as well as rewarding and exciting. It is as if they have been given a brand new life.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
My involvement with Phoenix Landing has been life changing. Attending step-up may have been my introduction to Phoenix Landing; however, it was simply the catalyst to years of learning and meeting some of the most amazing friends.

Meet our adoption coordinators: Jackie, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC

The Phoenix Landing adoption coordinator for the Greenville area of South Carolina is Jackie! If you are in the Greenville area of South Carolina and are interested in either adopting a bird or becoming more involved with Phoenix Landing in order to help more birds, let us know by contacting us! Jackie shares information about volunteer opportunities with Phoenix Landing in her interview below.

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Jackie and LucyLui

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing? Greenville/Spartanburg, SC

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
5 years (I’m guessing!)

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
I was researching parrot agencies where I could volunteer. I came across Phoenix Landing and signed up for a STEP UP! Class and the rest is history! I adopted a parrot I worked with during STEP UP! And became more involved with transport and helping with area bird adoptions.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
Because Phoenix Landing is more about the right placement for each parrot than they are about pushing parrots out the door into any old home. The requirement for each potential adopter to take one higher-level adoption class is key and that requirement sold me on Phoenix Landing. There are people who “think” they want a parrot and after taking a class that goes into the required care, caging, enrichment, nutrition, possible noise, etc., people know what they are getting into and go into the adoption process with their eyes wide open! Also, Phoenix Landing makes sure that a particular parrot is right for the adopting person/family and that the parrot will be “happy” with the lifestyle in the new home. A loud, active home may not be a good fit for every parrot, so it is good to know that someone is not just looking to place a bird, but to place a parrot in a mutually beneficial environment with a person/family.

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
I enjoy the variety of parrots, but most important to me is working with older parrot owners. Many older people have to make tough decisions about placing their parrots because the person is getting older, may have health issues, whatever the case may be, but they know they need to place their beloved pet in the best situation going forward. Most are so glad to know that their parrot will have a home for life within the Phoenix Landing system and that should their pet need to come back to Phoenix Landing for any reason whatsoever, it will happen. And it happens quickly so that the parrot is back in a cared for, healthy environment while we look for its next home.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
I wish I were more outgoing so that I could grow the Greenville/Spartanburg parrot group! If there is anyone out there who wants to help get the word out in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, please don’t hesitate to STEP UP! There are parrot owners in this area and I want to reach them, get them involved in classes, get to talk about their parrots, and see everyone updated on parrot ownership in today’s world where nutrition, housing requirements, and enrichment of these wonderful pets is key to their health, happiness, and longevity.

Meet our adoption coordinators: Liz, Hickory, N.C.

Continuing our celebration of National Volunteer Week and the numerous volunteers who make what Phoenix Landing does, possible, today we are highlighting our Western North Carolina adoption coordinator, Liz! Liz has been volunteering with Phoenix Landing for years, but is our newest adoption coordinator, having just agreed to officially take on the role last week!

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Liz and Mango

1. For what area are you the adoption coordinator for Phoenix Landing?
Western NC, Hickory Metro, covering approximately 5 counties. My home is in Morganton NC, Burke County

2. How long have you served in this volunteer role?
Just agreed to become official last week. But have helped teach a few classes at The Landing in Asheville and with the help of our volunteer and friend Lannie Ellison, I have set up education booths at bird fairs and pet expos for the last 4 yrs.

3. How did you first learn about or get involved with Phoenix Landing?
We met them at a booth that was set up at the Pet Expo in Hickory about 7 or 8 years ago. We adopted some Bourke Parakeets that had come out of a situation in Catawba County.

4. There are many causes and non-profits out there to get involved with, why did you choose this one?
Local and common interests and viewpoints. My husband and I also work with National Shetland Sheepdog Rescue, and Carolina Great Pyrenees Rescue.

5. What do you like most about volunteering with Phoenix Landing?
It’s rewarding to meet and talk to people and educate them on the care and long term commitments to our feathered companions. I love spending time at the Landing in Asheville and am constantly learning new things.

6. What else would you like to share about yourself, about volunteering, or about Phoenix Landing?
I’m Tuki’s mom! Nuff said. HaHa And working with Ann, Mary, Kevin, Leigh Ann, Jenny, and everyone else I’ve met along the way. I consider them all personal friends.