Recommendations on how to help my goffin's cockatoo to stop self-mutilating and feather picking?

I got her two years ago with the problem. She is now living with a flexible collar and does very well (her personality is actually more normal with the collar on than when she has it off and is preoccupied with picking). Just curious if anyone has any further ideas. She’s got a clean bill of health from the vet, a new diet, and the largest parrot cage on the market filled with toys. I’ve tried different cage locations and increased frequency of her baths (she hates spray bottles). I haven’t yet tried her with another cockatoo because I’m afraid she might hurt it since she hates my other birds. Thoughts?

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5 Responses to Recommendations on how to help my goffin's cockatoo to stop self-mutilating and feather picking?

  1. prettykitty says:

    This bird most likely started plucking as a reaction to a specific environmental stress factor. Now that she is out of the stress full environment she is most likely still plucking out of habit.
    My fist suggestion to you is to stop moving her cage. It might be that as soon as she gets comfortable with her cage in one place it gets moved, which will make her feel insecure again.
    Birds all thrive on routine, and any change in routine (from her point of view) is very unsettling to them.
    You need to determine what triggers her plucking now. I would keep the collar on her at all times until she is fully healed and all her feathers are fully grown back in. Once she is physically healed, take the collar and observe how long it takes her to start trying to pluck again. As soon as she starts put the collar back on and note all of the things that are happening that might have triggered it (are there more people, noise..etc than she is used to, does she want attention,is she bored..and so on). Keep doing this at different times of day, during different situations until you narrow it down to the actual triggers in her current environment. Once you know why she is doing it it will be a lot easier to find a solution.
    Another thing you might want to try is clicker training. Clicker training is a way to bridge the gap between what you teach and what she learns. It can give her a way recognize the difference between playtime and work time, give her something to do when she is alone (like practice the stuff you are teaching her instead of plucking), give you both some structured time together AND once she gets the hang of it you can use it to redirect her behavior pattern from plucking to something more constructive. You can go to for more details.

    I sure hope this helps. I’ve taken in a number of second hand parrots with every emotional behavior issue you could think of so I know how heartbreaking it is to see them suffer due to other people’s negligence. You can feel free to email me at if you have any questions about all this.

  2. wo_hun_i_nee says:

    duct tape ……..

  3. babefirstclass says:

    Keep her on a dialy routing and develop a diet suitable for her needs. She really needs protien and vitamins E, A, B and D in this turmoilic time. Eggs are a great source of protien and calcium. Try to introduce her to new foods, and ways of making it challenging to get to them. Weave lettuce or kale through the bars of her cage, thread popcorn and lace it through the top bars of her cage, give her bread or biskets wrapped in clean computer paper (in different colors).

    I found a toy called "Shreders". It is made out of real dried palm leaf and makes a glorious ripping sound when torn apart. Weave this through the cage bars, about three or four lines side-by-side, like you are weaving a basket, and turn the cage so the door is not facing a direction she likes to see out. Put this in her line of view, and she will be irritated by it, and hopfully destroy the Shreders versus her feathers. You can’t see her when she’s doing it, so why not remove the barrier?

    If she does like to be handled and hugged, only do it when she is not trying to win your affection. It’s like playing with a toy to some birds, and when you praise them for it, they will keep doing it if they like the attention. If you coddle and say something to her when she is doing this behavior, she may be doing it for your attention. Ignore her in the moments she is chewing her feathers and only say something to her when she is not doing it. These moments are few and far between, I know, but if you postively reinforce her NOT doing it, she will hopefully get the hint. It won’t be as "fun" if you ignore her and socialize with her if she is not chewing. Basicly, you are looking away if she is doing it.

    You are should try to divert her attention from her feathers. See if she does it like clockwork, and give her attention when she gets board with it one-on-one- watch TV with her, read her a childrens book with bright and colorful pages, talk to her in some other room then where her cage is. She will wonder what you are doing, and may be curious about it if it is different then "Please stop doing that, baby!" while you hold her.

    Goffins are more or less "a human’s bird". Most have issues with other birds but like human attention. I would actually suggest not getting any more birds until you can resolve this issue. It may turn into a fight over your attention, which may further the plucking problem if you give her attention when she does it.

    As far as the spray bottle, take her into the kitchen (or an easily cleanable, tiled room) and give yourself a bath. Over exagerate how fun and refreshing it is, and maybe she will want to have "fun" with the bottle, too.

  4. Sapphyre says:

    Cockatoos are known for their plucking, if your vet gave her a clean bill of health, the problem is a psychological one. You said she came to you that way, was she spoild? or did she have some type of trauma in her life? Either reason can explain plucking. I have raised Cockatoos and what I warn people is not to spoil them because when thye become that way they expect non stop attention, and when they dont get what they were used to getting that is when the plucking starts. And since you have other birds there is the jealousy factor, and you are right I can make a bet if she was to come in contact with them she will hurt or kill them, I have seen it happen to a client’s bird.

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  5. Jessie says:

    I have a male goffins who developed feather picking after witnessing my old roommate fighting with her boyfriend 3 years ago.

    He still plucks every so often (just enough to keep his chest from looking smooth- rrr!).

    I suspect that he picks up on my moods and the general mood of the household, since he NEVER plucks when we’re happy and stress-free.

    Getting another goffins cockatoo has NOT HELPED his feather plucking problem- just doubled my time spent with birds. Luckily they more or less get along, and luckily the motive for adopting Swift was not to make Boo pluck less (or I would have been very disappointed).

    I’ve found the below links great resources for learning… It seems like everyones’ bird and situation are different, so there is probably no one "cure" for feather plucking.

    Best of luck from another goffins or 2 (feel free to contact me thru here)!

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