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.
DIGBY 4-year-old male Congo African Grey