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Thread Description: Before, During, & After My Trip

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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-11-2016, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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Digby's Behavior & Plucking

Digby is a plucker and has been since before I got him. I got him when he was 3, from a guy named Steve, who was the boyfriend of a man I used to work with at the Sugarcreek Bird Farm (local family owned & operated parrot shop). When Steve and his boyfriend broke up, (which sounded to me like a very traumatic break-up) Digby went from being obsessively babied to near neglected, at least emotionally. Steve's ex moved out of their house, and Steve was unable to afford the house and he couldn't bring Digby to where he was going to next. He also would have little to no time to spend with him. Digby started plucking during their break-up. Greys are generally sensitive birds anyway, but I think Digby is the most sensitive, fragile grey I've ever seen.

Digby lives with me and my fiance Eddy in a house we rent from Eddy's dad. Before we lived in this house, we lived in an apartment, and it was a stressful time due to the neighbors who lived below us. They were loud and obnoxious, they chain-smoked (which leaked into our apartment like mad) and towards the end of our 6 months there, we called the police on them for drug use and it was a whole meltdown. They became angry with us for doing so and vandalized my fiance's truck, so we filed a police report. We had to fight the apartment complex to get them to let us out of our lease. I imagine that the stress from that, on top of the awful smoke conditions added to Digby's plucking, and it was the worse I had ever seen him.

We moved into our house and it took a few weeks but we began to see some major improvement. In the apartment we had his cage and stand in his own room, but here we have his stand in the living room, so he can always be with us while we are hanging out. The stress of the living situation was lifted from us and I'm sure he sensed that, and the air was clean. We are better about routines with him. I get up in the morning, greet him, turn on his full-spectrum light, bring him to his stand, serve him breakfast (CHOP and additional vegetables or a bit of Worldly Cuisines here and there, sprouts, etc.) He feasts on that. Usually I leave for work earlier than Eddy, so as I'm leaving, Eddy wakes up and starts to get ready. He puts him away before he leaves an hour or two later, and turns on the TV or radio for him. When I get home I immediately greet him and put him on his stand. I talk to him a lot, hang out in the same room. We have a three-step system for his plucking which includes Featherific supplement, Avicalm supplement, and Feather-In Spray. The Avicalm and Featherific go on his CHOP every day, and I mist him with his Feather-In spray most days in the afternoon, which he enjoys and gets excited about. At night we put him to bed and cover his cage a little bit with a blanket.

He began growing feathers rapidly a month or two ago and not plucking them. His wing feathers looked better and he allowed his red tail feathers to grow. His back was filling up as well as his chest. He was looking really good. This is the second time that this has happened since I got him, where there's a major improvement and he actually stops plucking for a large chunk of time.

Then I went on vacation with my family to Florida. Eddy couldn't get more than a couple days off in a row so he stayed home. Since some of the finer details of Digby's care were things I had been handling, such as how I feed him his CHOP, I made sure to show Eddy those things. The first day I was gone, Digby had a sort of panic attack that night, if you will. He was on his stand and Eddy was on the couch, and he began pulling his feathers out in beak-fulls, shaking and anxious and freaking out. Eddy struggled to calm him down or distract him but it continued for a long time. Eventually Eddy put him to bed, and he sat on a perch in the far corner of his cage and stared at the wall, not moving. The next morning Eddy came down and Digby was still in that same spot, quiet, not moving. There was a pile of feathers on the floor of the cage below him.

He acted weird the entire time I was gone, pretty much destroying the progress we had made. I really don't understand that initial night, just because it's not like me and Eddy have exact work schedules. It wouldn't be uncommon for me to come home at a later time for a later shift. I'd like to say there's no way he could know something was different at that point. I asked Eddy if he himself was feeling down or weird or sad, and he wasn't at all. I was gone from Thursday through Wednesday, the entire time I was anxious about Digby.

Ever since I've been home, Digby's still been off. He isn't pulling feathers rapidly, he seems to pull a small one and chew it for a long time while he sits on his stand or whatever. He's still got a fair amount of feathers on his back and he's only tugged one wing feather and one tail feather out. So it's not as bad as it could be. He's just so delicate and sensitive to any little change.

I'm open to any insight or advice. I tried to include all I could in this post but obviously there's a lot of history, background info and other details. I think we are lucky that we get him to stop plucking at all, because sometimes it's a habit that just can't be fixed in some birds. It gives me hope with him that there are future chances. Even though he can be a real poop at times, I love him and he's like my baby. Eddy and I went out to eat last night and I said to him, you know, I feel like Digby is our child, I think about him all the time and worry about how he's doing and what he's up to and I'm constantly concerned about his well-being. He's a nut, lol. But he's my nut.

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DIGBY 4-year-old male Congo African Grey
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-11-2016, 03:06 PM

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Poor Digby, and poor you Abby for the worry he's giving you. You are right he is your baby and it really sounds like he had some serious separation anxiety about you when you were gone. You are this birds savior, it sounds like he's really bonded to you since you took him from Steve.

The routine you usually give him was changed when you were gone and it wasn't there in the evening when you come home from work daily so that was probably a double upset for him. I hope that now he sees you are back he will pick up and his mood will change and all will be well for him. Spoil him rotten and try and get through to him again and see if he picks up and stops the plucking again.

I really hope he will be okay soon and all will be well for you both.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-11-2016, 10:36 PM Thread Starter
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I think that is true @Mr Peepers although sometimes it's hard to believe. He's nippy and he's not really a hands-on bird. I don't often pet him, he freaks out if I touch him usually. He's very picky when it comes to stepping up, and something that came along with his feathers growing back was his improved willingness to step up and much more overall calmer/friendlier behavior. He can be a real poop, but I think it comes from his anxiety/stress/other issues. I think he's truly a good bird, and he's definitely empathetic which amazes me. But little things here and there show me he loves me.

When he first met Eddy, he preferred Eddy over me, even though I had owned him for a year prior to moving in with Eddy. He was the chosen one. He used to bite me to get to Eddy, he saw Eddy as a mate and attempted to regurgitate for him and all that. He has been so much better though in the past few months, and although he's clearly very excited to see Eddy when he comes home, and seems to freak out a lot more when Eddy leaves the room vs. when I leave the room, I'm no longer the enemy like I seemed to be when me and Digby first moved in with Eddy. Which is an absolute relief. I was getting tired of the bites, lol.

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DIGBY 4-year-old male Congo African Grey
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-12-2016, 03:57 PM

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Hi Abby,
I'm sorry to hear that Digby has been plucking again.
On the other side you've done a great job bringing him to stop it for a while.
Greys are so sensitive. A lady in a German bird forum also has a plucking Grey. She found out that he does it only because her friends visit her who are strangers for the parrot.

Currently we also have a plucking problem. Yuki has been plucking her partner Paulchen since last late summer.
It began after her last egg laying period. I read that hens sometimes pluck her chicks when they want to lay eggs again to raise new chicks.
Yuki didn't want to sit on her plastic eggs, she and Paulchen would play raising chicks feeding each other. And then after a while she began plucking him.

Currently she is laying eggs again and nearly has stopped plucking for one week. Paulchen's plumage has improved a bit, we also have good food supplements from our Avian and he gets a shower with Aloe Vera every day.
I can imagine a bit how you feel hoping that Digby stops plucking soon when he understands that you are not leaving him again in the near future.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-14-2016, 04:55 PM

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Aww Abby, I can imagine you're feeling quite frustrated about his feathers at the moment. It's not the first time he's done it and I remember seeing him almost completely fully feathered not long after you had him which was something to be proud of! I'm sure that once everything starts to settle down and you're not going anywhere for a while he will soon recover just fine. He seems to be happy enough, even with his separation anxiety. He is in a loving environment with consistency which is what he needs

I know you have already said you don't think he would cope, but perhaps look into a collar or a hoodie if he doesn't start to improve again. A collar that clips around would be less traumatic for him and it may kick the habit all together. I know they aren't the most pleasant option but it may be what he needs to stop him from physically being able to do it. Something like this would be cool because it's not restrictive for his wings and such. I know he wouldn't enjoy getting it on but if it's what he needs to help him for a bit a little tough love won't hurt Feather protector I understand if you don't want to consider it though

I hope he starts to feel better soon!
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- Alexandrine parakeets Holly, George, Koda & - Crimson rosella Kasumi Orange winged Amazon parrot Paulie
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