Feather Plucking in Cockatoos {Why They Do It + How to Stop}

It’s scary to see your bird plucking frantically. What is feather plucking in cockatoos and how can we stop it?

When is it time to see a vet or can we start with home remedies first? Do the feathers grow back?

In this article, you will find out a lot of information that I needed to apply in order to stop my cockatoo form plucking his feathers. I hope it helps you and your bird as well.

Feather Plucking in Cockatoos

Cockatoos lose feathers when they preen, pull, or chew on their own feathers too much. This is called feather plucking.

It can be brought on by:

  • health problems
  • worry
  • boredom
  • unfavorable surroundings
  1. Give them things to play with, places to sit, and ways to exercise their minds and bodies.
  2. Make sure the bird has a healthy food to improve its health and the quality of its feathers.
  3. Use positive feedback and change the bird’s behavior.
  4. Provide regular social contact and companionship to lower stress and meet emotional needs.

Why Do Cockatoos Pluck Their Own Feathers?

There are many reasons why cockatoos might pluck their own feathers, such as:

  • skin diseases
  • allergies
  • parasites
  • hormonal issues
  • discomfort
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • boredom
  • learned behavior 

Cockatoos are sensitive birds that can get stressed or anxious when their surroundings changes, they don’t get enough mental exercise, or they don’t spend enough time with other people.

They may pluck their feathers as a repeated action because they are bored. Boredom can be caused by not having enough environmental enrichment or mental activity.

Some cockatoos may pull out their feathers because they have learned to do so or because they have had bad experiences or been hurt.

Will a Cockatoo Grow Back Its Feathers if Plucked?

Yes. Most of the time, cockatoos can grow their feathers back after they have been plucked. Feather regrowth is a normal process that happens when:

  • a bird molts
  • feathers fall out
  • deliberately plucked out

The regrowth process can be different for each bird, based on how much feather pulling was done and what caused it.

It can take weeks or months for feathers to grow back, so it’s important to be patient during this time.

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How Do You Treat Feather Plucking in Cockatoos?

The best way to stop a cockatoo from pulling out its feathers is to find out why it does it and fix that problem. Here are some popular ways to do it:

Give the cockatoo a setting that is or has:

  • exciting
  • fulfilling
  • full of toys
  • 2 or more perches with different textures
  • places to forage
  • regular time out of the cage
  • well-balanced meals
  • positive rewarding
  • reduce loud noises
  • medication

In some cases, a  vet may give an anti-anxiety drug or a hormone therapy to help stop feather picking. It may take time and patience to figure out what’s going on and fix it.

What Is Feather Disease in Cockatoos?

Feather disease is a viral illness that attacks cockatoos and other parrots. It is also called:

  • Psittacine beak
  • feather disease or PBFD

It is caused by the beak and feather disease virus, which hurts the feathers and beaks of birds that have it. When cockatoos have feather disease, they may:

  • lose feathers
  • get feathers that are ragged or a different color
  • have problems with their beaks

The disease is very infectious and can spread through direct contact or by touching objects that have been contaminated.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for feather disease, so birds with it need care to help them deal with their symptoms and avoid getting other diseases.

To stop the virus from spreading, it is important to take steps like putting new birds in quarantine, and following strict cleaning rules.

How Do I Know if My Cockatoo Is Molting or Plucking?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between molting and feather plucking in a cockatoo, but there are some key signs that can help you tell the difference:

1. Molting

  1. During molting, cockatoos naturally lose their old feathers and grow new ones. During molting, you might see more feathers on the floor of the cage or on and around the bird.
  2. Most of the time, the process is orderly, and the feathers that are lost are still whole.
  3. When a cockatoo is going through a molt, it acts normally and preens about the same amount as usual.
  4. As the old feathers fall out and are replaced by new ones, you’ll be able to see that the bird’s feathers are getting better.

2. Plucking

Feather plucking is when cockatoos:

  • clean
  • bite
  • chew
  • pull out too many of their own feathers

There may be signs of damage on the pulled feathers, like:

  • broken stems
  • chewed ends
  • feather pieces
  • bare spots in the affected areas

When their feathers are plucked, cockatoos may act in a repeated or intense way, like preening in the same spots over and over again. They may also look stressed or upset.

If you’re not sure if your cockatoo is molting or plucking, it’s best to watch its behavior and look at its feathers,

Home Remedies for Feather Plucking

You can try some general home remedies that might control the feather plucking:

  • Give your cockatoo an exciting and interesting surroundings. Give your bird a range of toys, places to sit, and things to do to keep it mentally and physically active.
  • Try feather conditioning sprays: Use sprays made just for birds to improve the health of their feathers and make them less itchy or irritated.
  • Improve their balanced diet: Make sure your cockatoo eats a healthy, well-balanced diet to improve its general health and the quality of its feathers.
  • Reduce stressors: Make your cockatoo’s surroundings as stress-free as possible. Maintain a regular habit, provide a quiet and calm place, and avoid introducing your bird to loud noises, sudden changes, or stressful situations.
  • Apply positive reinforcement training: Use positive reinforcement training to change your bird’s behavior and get it to do things you want it to do. Reward your parrot when it does the right thing, and use training tasks to keep its mind active.

Each cockatoo is different, so if you want to help your bird feel better and stop it from picking at its feathers, you need to take a personalized approach.


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My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.