Causes and Treatments for Feather Plucking in Cockatiels

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

A cockatiel is a species of cockatoo endemic in Australia. With a distinct, gray plumage, erectile head crest, and an affectionate disposition, cockatiel makes an excellent pet. But just like any type of pet bird, a cockatiel is vulnerable to feather plucking. Feather plucking is a complex syndrome that indicates psychological or physical issues. If your pet bird engages in this behavior, it is important to observe your pet, commit to medical care, and find ways to resolve the problem. Below are the potential causes of feather plucking in cockatiel (or any pet bird for that matter) and how to solve it:


Unfortunately, not all bird foods are created equal. The kind of food you provide for your cockatiel will translate to the bird’s overall health and well-being. Some cockatiels engage in feather plucking due to malnutrition. If the bird is nutrient deficient, the feathers will start to fray, weaken, and dry at the base. When your pet bird lacks calcium, zinc, magnesium, or manganese, it will start plucking at the itchy, dry feathers on its body. This leads to feather plucking and bald spots.

To prevent this from happening, you need to feed your pet with high quality per food. You can do your research online, read books, or ask for your vet’s advice to choose the best pet food for your cockatiel.

Allergic Reaction

Certain types of food could cause an allergic reaction, leading to severely itchy skin, scaly skin, and eventually feather plucking. To avoid any adverse reaction, do not change your cockatiel’s diet drastically. Start by asking your vet what types of pet food are suitable for a cockatiel. Then, gradually introduced a vet-approved food to your bird’s diet. Observe the bird for several days to check for any reaction at all. If the bird showed signs of food sensitivities, take your cockatiel to the vet for treatment.


Yes, cockatiels would sometimes pluck their own feathers out of sheer boredom. Inactivity and/or insufficient activities will force the bird to look for ways to amuse itself. Unfortunately, most cockatiels find plucking their own feathers entertaining!

Again, the key to determining if your pet bird is plucking its own feather out of sheer boredom is to be observant. If the bird is indeed doing the plucking because it is bored, provide plenty of stimulation. Add toys to amuse the birds, play with your cockatiel, and give it all the attention it needs to take its mind of feather plucking. You can also change the cage of your cockatiel to a larger one so it has more room to play.

Lack of Light

Did you know that most pet birds get depressed when they are left in very dark corners? Never put your bird’s cage in dark areas of the home. Instead, hang the birdcage in spots of the home that gets a lot of light, like near the window. Birds need sunlight to absorb vitamin D. Studies show that cockatiels that are vitamin D deficient tend to engage in self-mutilation.

Loneliness and Sexual Frustration

Parrots of all kinds are social creatures, including cockatiels. In their natural habitat, parrots are a part of a flock or at the very least, have a mate. A lonely cockatiel will engage to self-mutilation out of frustration and loneliness.  To reduce the likelihood of feather plucking, give your pet bird all the attention it needs to stave off loneliness. If your pet bird is sexually frustrated, don’t solve the problem by getting it a mate. Ask your vet for hormone shots and ask for healthy ways to control sexual stimulation.