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Feather plucking can be mostly avoided

Feather plucking can be mostly avoided. 

Feather plucking is a well-known problem to many canary breeders and it concerns many fanciers each year. One may experience it more frequently than another but we all have had some instances of feather plucking, I am sure.

Why is this and what can we do about it? Feather plucking can arise for a number of reasons each with a different cause and requiring a different remedy but has to be applied promptly. Provided the correct measures are taken feather plucking can almost be entirely eliminated.


The reasons for feather plucking are various.


  1. Overcrowding of aviaries or cages
  2. Perches not correctly made, placed or mounted
  3. A lack of amino acids or other nutritional elements in diet
  4. Birds with bloodied feathers not separated immediately
  5. A lack of suitable nesting material
  6. Pastel and or ivory birds placed with other colour varieties
  7. Boredom and insufficient distraction for the birds
  8. Placing birds of different ages in one aviary or cage
  9. A hereditary factor


As you can see there are a number of causes that may give rise to feather plucking.


What preventative measures can be taken?  

  1. 1.Overcrowding

With overcrowding, birds lack flying space and place to perch, resulting in fighting with loss of feathers and pin feathers. Once birds develop a taste of blood, fighting will increase even further and this may involve the whole population of the aviary. In a short period of time show birds may become worthless as their feathers may be permanently damaged and may no longer grow normally. Therefore ensure that your birds have sufficient room and separate any plucked bird as soon as possible.

  1. 2.Perches not correctly made, placed or mounted

Chances of feather plucking are greater when perches are not convenient to sit on for the birds, check the diameter of the perches. Perches must be properly mounted and located in breeding cages so that each bird can have its own spot and the perches are sufficiently apart to prevent birds from reaching each other.

Also place the perches as high as possible. Birds prefer to sit high in the aviary or cage.

  1. 3.A lack of amino acids or other nutritional elements in the diet

Feather plucking is much less likely where a balanced diet and natural vitamins are provided. Pinfeathers contain amino acids which are sweet tasting and appeal greatly to canaries. This is the number one reason why feather plucking with all its consequences can so quickly get out of hand.

Provide a varied diet and adequate vitamins regularly and put once a week half an onion in your aviary. Onions are a rich source of amino acids. Also a parboiled potato cut in half may be helpful to alleviate the problem.

  1. 4.Birds with bloodied feathers not separated promptly

As mentioned above the problem multiplies quickly if affected birds are not removed immediately from the healthy ones.

  1. 5.A lack of suitable nesting material

Normally the parent birds commence building their new nest when the young ones are about to leave the nest when they are nicely attired with a nice coat of feathers. When there is a lack of suitable nesting material available the young birds will be quickly robbed from their down feathers and unless action is taken, flight and tail feathers disappear as well. Therefore provide plenty of different nesting material so they can choose their favourite material to make their nest at the right time.

Normally the hen will cease plucking the young ones after she has laid her first egg. If you have a breeding cage with a baby cage will make it even easier to avoid the problem all together. Also we can take the cock bird away as soon as the second egg has been laid. Another solution to the problem is to place the nest with young in a larger cage with say about 5 hens that will serve as foster mothers. They will raise and feed the young most effectively.

  1. 6.Pastel, ivory and crested birds

Many breeders are aware that some canary varieties are more prone to being feather plucked than others.

Ivory, pastel and to a lesser degree the browns and the crested ones. I do not know the reason for this but I would recommend that these varieties be kept separate and not mixed with other colour varieties in the aviary.

If anyone knows the reason why these varieties are more prone to plucking, your input would be greatly appreciated.

  1. 7.Boredom

This particular cause is really part of point 1. With adequate and proper nutrition, cuttlefish bone, shell grit, natural vitamins an onion weekly, some millet sprays, a piece of rope, feather plucking will essentially be prevented.

  1. 8.Placing birds of different ages in one cage or aviary

When older and younger independent birds are put together and the older birds want to make a nest but nesting material is not available they will start pulling the feathers off the young birds. It is always better to keep birds from different ages separated but definitely keep them apart during the breeding season.

  1. 9.Hereditary factors

In spite of what has been written above I believe that feather plucking to a large degree is inherited. It is therefore essential to record feather pluckers in your stock book and dispose of them if feather plucking has indeed become a frequent occurrence. By doing this you will have largely eradicated a troublesome problem.

I trust that by implementing the above measures feather plucking will be a thing of the past for you. If it still persists you can be rest assured that you are dealing with a hereditary factor.


Wout van Gils, Translated by Bernard Reinen      Thanks Bernard.

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