(Excerpts from the Essentialbird yahoo group)
Feather plucking has multiple causes, therefore it is not possible to point to any one solution. However, having dealt with a great deal of feather plucking in parrots, I can say that most of the cures I have seen have come with a change of diet. I can’t say that any one diet has worked better for feather plucking than another diet: sometimes putting a bird onto pellets can work, if the bird has been malnourished. Other times taking a bird off of pellets can work, if the bird has been overfed. This doesn’t mean that the diet that helps will continue to help long term and it doesn’t mean that the new diet is a good diet for that particular bird, it just means that the plucking was caused by a nutritional problem. So it is always worthwhile to change the diet around when a bird starts plucking, just to see if nutrition is part of the problem.
After diet, in my experience, the best treatments for feather plucking have come with topical treatments.
I have found herbal soaking baths to be extremely helpful in cases where irritation and inflammation are present with plucking, which is almost always the case. My two feather plucking parrots, both of whom have had a history of chronic skin infections, respond instantly to soaking baths. I believe that skin infections often play a role in feather plucking, along with dry skin and inflammation of the feather follicles. My birds seem to be dramatically soothed by the herbal baths.
The three herbs I have used successfully for soaking baths are calendula flowers, goldenseal root and neem leaf, all potent antimicrobials and anti-inflammatory skin soothers. Here is what I do:
For the calendula flowers and neem leaf, I place about one cup of the dried herbs into a half-gallon mason jar, fill the jar with water just off the boil, then cover the jar and let this mixture sit until it is lukewarm. For the goldenseal root, I use two tablespoons of the dried root to a half gallon of water. (NOTE: the goldenseal is the most potent of the baths, but is staining, so only use this in a crisis.)
After straining out the warm bath liquid into a large mixing bowl or bucket, I towel my bird with a very lightweight cloth towel and dip the bird into the bath:) You have to play with this – you never want to run the risk that their head can twist around and get underwater so I always make sure the head is well out of reach and secured in my fingers. Also, you need to let the bath soak the skin very thoroughly, so the towel must be thin and loose enough to allow for this. One of my birds will allow me to hold her in my hands with no towel without biting me, so I am able to place her back-first into the bath, like a human bathing, and secure my fingers around her head to prevent water reaching her head. For any places that don’t get wet, I rub the bath water onto those areas with my fingers. I try to give my plucking birds one of these baths per day, five days per week.
I also like to use these herb baths in a spray mister for days when I can’t do the dipping baths, but I find that the spray mister only works about half as well, perhaps because the warm soak is more effective at allowing the skin pores to open.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, or by any veterinarian. All information, including any product or technique mentioned, is for educational purposes only. None of the information is intended to diagnose or treat any disease.