What is Feather Picking?
Feather picking is an obsessive, destructive behavior pattern of birds during which all or part of their feathers are methodically pulled out, amputated, frayed, or in some other way damaged. This behavior often prevents normal feather growth and emergence. Molting is the normal physiologic process by which old, worn feathers are lost and subsequently replaced by new ones. The frequency of this event varies with the species and the individual, as well as with climatic and geographic factors. In warm areas, most caged birds drop a small number of feathers intermittently throughout the year and have 1-2 heavy molts each year. The process of molting must be distinguished from feather picking. Feather picking is not difficult to diagnose. Affected birds look very much the same. Regardless of the pattern of feather loss, damage and/or mutilation, and exposed bare skin below the neck the head feathers are spared and always appear perfect and untouched. This is, of course, because the bird cannot reach its head feathers. The one notable exception to this is the bird whose feathers are picked by a cage mate. As mentioned, birds caged together often engage in mutual preening This behavior can become obsessive and destructive, resulting in feather picking. In these cases the head feathers of the “victim” are not spared.