So, after getting exceptionally frustrated with Erin’s picking and all the failed products and theories I have tried to attempt to stop her picking , I decided just to put her to sleep.
I’m not that evil and I certainly wouldn’t give up on my birdie like that. I just wanted to see if you were awake.
However, I did become exceptionally tired of her picking and have decided to take matters into my own hands. I took Erin to camp with us over Memorial day weekend, and she didn’t pluck once the whole trip. She had pins coming in and she was happy, her scabs were drying up and falling off, and all seemed to look up. Then, I came home, went to work, and that evening every pin-feather was gone and she had a bloody mess on her chest again. And at that point in time, I was so disappointed and so frustrated, I probably could have put her to sleep and felt like I was doing the right thing for her. After all, if a bird is so unhappy that they mutilate their skin to the point of bleeding, wouldn’t they be happier not living? And if the owner is the one who set the picking off by going away to school, shouldn’t they deserve to not have a bird? And if the owner has taken the bird to a vet who didn’t find the problem, and now the owner doesn’t have money to go to another vet right this second, shouldn’t the owner just not have a bird? At least that’s all what was going through my head Tuesday night after I discovered her looking like a plucked chicken again.
I took her up to my mother’s room and showed her the damage, basically just looking for someone else to blame for Erin’s problem other than myself. My mom started to try to design different bird vests for Erin with her crocheting and quilting skills, trying to make a vest that did not allow her to get the left side of her chest. If you look at Erin’s progression of plucking, it doesn’t really follow the pattern of classic plucking caused by behavior, nor does it follow the pattern of classic plucking caused by medical reasons. Erin started plucking at the middle of her chest, just a small circle. As she progressed, her circle got bigger. By the time we went to the vet, Erin had cleaned the entire left side of her breast. Anti anxiety drugs did not stop her plucking, but she also did not progress outside of that circle. When I introduced the no plucking vest to her, Erin progressed more to the left side under her wing. When I took her to camp, she didn’t touch her feathers until her chest would get dried up. When I would see her messing with her chest, I would put some lotion on her, and she would go back to ignoring it and being happy to sit around or groom her other feathers. Up until this point, I figured it was totally a medical reason, as I had changed everything I could think of and battled with every tactic I thought of and nothing helped.
So, as I sat there and looked at Erin, I grabbed a sock, cut the toe off, put some holes in it for her wings and head, and pulled it over her head like a sweater. And after a few minutes of tweaking and a few tries with more toes of socks, I finally had a sock sweater that fit her correctly. And guess what? The sock works!!
The sock covers Erin’s entire chest, under her wings, her sides, and even her back. I thought maybe she would begin picking on top of her wings or her legs, but so far, she hasn’t touched them. Now Erin’s plucking seems behavioral.
So, what I’m going to do is wait until Erin is fully feathered again before she gets any unsupervised time without the sock on. Then, I’m going to wean her off of it slowly, but only letting her not wear it when I’m home and downstairs, then gradually reducing the amount of supervised time.
My theory now is that Erin started picking because I was away at school, she wasn’t getting as much attention as she was used to, and she was just in general upset. When I came home, Erin’s plucking turned into a habit. As I tried to break that habit by sending time with her and giving her more new options in her cage to play with, Erin’s plucking slowed, but the itchiness and dryness of her new feathers coming in bothered her, so she began self mutilating and pulling out the painful quill feathers.
Now that Erin cannot reach her pin feathers anymore, she has stopped plucking. I’m sure she’s not very comfortable, but I just hope these pins grow into feathers quickly so she feels better. And by the looks of it, she hasn’t damaged any follicles too badly that she can’t grow feathers back.
And look at all those gorgous pins!