Dietary Changes & Recipes To Reduce Feather Plucking, Skin Inflammation and Itching

In this article, we cover some of the dietary changes that you can make to reduce feather plucking, skin inflammation and itching in your pet birds.

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    You should never give your bird the following:

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      • refined sugar
      • refined white flour
      • dairy products (with the exception of non or low-fat organic yogurt)
      • salt (although if bloodwork shows low sodium…occasionally a little salt in the diet may improve plucking, but if sodium is normal, then adding salt could harm kidneys)
      • fried foods
      • dried fruit that contain sulphur dioxide
      • chemical preservatives
      • chemical dyes
      • artificial flavoring

      We suggest that you start out by NOT offering the following foods to your bird to see if you see improvement:

      • soy
      • corn (found in packaged foods/mixes or manufactured foods)
      • table corn  used as a vegetable should be ok, corn causing the most allergies is dent or field corn
      • spirulina
      • wheat
      • peanuts
      • sweet potato
      • sunflower seed
      • semolina

      IF the plucking CONTINUES then you may also want to try removing the following gluten grains:

      • rye
      • barley
      • spelt
      • kamut
      • oats in some cases
      • wheat

      If plucking stops after taking away the rye, barley, wheat, spelt, kamut and oats you can try slowly reintroducing them later, after the plucking has stopped.

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        Other foods that you may wish to try eliminating would be members of the nightshade family:

        • sweet peppers
        • potato
        • tomato
        • corn

        After eliminating any foods from the diet, and leaving them out for several weeks to months, you can then slowly add them back into the diet one by one, and watch for any reactions. If you don’t see any reaction to reintroduced food, then an allergy to those foods most likely isn’t a problem. IF you reintroduce soy, the recommended soy is edamame or green soybean which looks like big snap peas. Tofu in small amounts may be ok as well.

        Captive Foraging – the next best thing to being free…

        One of the bet things that you can do for your bird is to teach it to forage. Not only is it physically stimulating, it also helps to keep them mentally occupied.

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          The diet to try for captive foraging is:

          • Organic WHOLE grains soaked for 24 hours and then sprouted or lightly cooked (amaranth, quinoa, millet, spelt, kamut, barley, rye)
          • Organic WHOLE legumes (lentils more protein) ( mung and adzuki are most easily digested) soaked for 10-24 hours and then cooked. Bring to boil for 10 min., simmer for 20 min.  If you sprout legumes, sprout until you have at least 1/4 ” tails, preferably longer.
          • Organic greens and veggies in season such as dandelion leaves,collards, kale, carrot tops, radish tops, dark leafy lettuce, bok choy, celery, cucumber, mustard greens, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, beet root, cactus leaves, okra
          • Organic fruits in season such as apple, papaya,mango, pineapple, banana, fig, coconut, berries, melon
          • Finely minced garlic..for a small bird only about 1/8 of a clove, a large bird 1/4 clove, mixed into food a few times a week, NO more than once a day.
          • A small bit of FRESH ginger no more than a few times a week
          • Supplement with a small amount of powdered alfalfa, you can purchase capsules. suggested amounts: 1/8 capsule for birds up to 250 g, 1/4 capsule 250-500g, 1/3 capsule 500g-750 g, 1/2 capsule 750g-100g.
          • Also supplement with a tiny bit of kelp. It’s best to add a small amount of kelp to a recipe that lasts a few days. On a daily basis, the amount of powdered kelp would be like what you may fit on the end of a pen. A suggested amount of powdered kelp is: 1/10 of 1/4 teasp. per day for a medium sized parrot…that’s how tiny! For a plucker, you may try giving kelp daily for about 6 weeks and then after that time give kelp 3-4 days of the week. Kelp can help to stimulate a sluggish thyroid but it has been found that too much kelp, or if given daily  for a long period of time, that it can inhibit thyroid activity, which could possibly lead to plucking. Which is why the small dosage is so very important!
          • A quality refrigerated cold pressed flaxseed or hempseed oil … (*Hemp Seeds are often referred to as “super-seeds” as they offer a complete amino acid profile, have an ideal balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (Ref., and provide an impressive amount of trace minerals – they also have the highest concentration of protein in the plant kingdom.)
          • An unrefined palm oil a few times a week instead of the flax or hemp seed oil
          • Quality probiotics: Psittacine-specific probiotics (good bacterial normally found in parrots) should be offered to help compete with potentially / harmful pathogenic bacteria … Why is Lactobacillus Acidolphilus so Important to your Bird’s Health?
          • A squirt of apple cider vinegar on fresh foods (approximately 1/4 teasp birds up to 250g, 1/2 teasp up to 500g etc). PLEASE NOTE: HEATED vinegar emits toxic fumes similar to carbon dioxide. Bird owners have lost their pets by adding vinegar to their dish-washing cycle, or used it to clean coffee machines.
          • Raspberries. You can use fresh or frozen..thawed. Mix a few daily into fresh foods.Put through food processor is you need to.


          • Veggie Magma or Berry Green powders
          • Hemp protein powder

          A recipe to help with skin inflammation and itching:

          • 1 TBS. Hylands Calendula spray
          • 1 Tsp. chickweed extract, non-alcohol or add a few drops boiling water to evaporate alcohol
          • Put into 2 cups water, keep in fridge up to one week.

          Another version that may be easier to obtain is:

          • 1 TBS dried calendula herb
          • 1 TBS dried chickweed herb
          • Steep each herb in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Combine and store in refrigerator for up to one week. Use several times a day for 5 days.  Stop for 3 days to determine if another dose is needed. 

          A holistic approach is usually needed so besides diet

          • Take parrot outside for at least 20 min. of sun and fresh air, more is better, weather permitting of course. Be sure that your bird has adequate shade on sunny days.
          • Daily exercise. Have your bird walk, maybe go up some stairs. Flap its wings on a hoop. If it flies, work on flight training. Supply plenty of activities and projects in its cage to keep busy/active.
          • Bathe your bird several times a week. If it doesn’t like baths, don’t force them but gradually work on making bath time a good thing.
          Photo of author

          Gaurav Dhir

          Gaurav is an animal enthusiast. He lives in beautiful Ontario with his energetic family. As a part of his work at, he has been working with ace parrot trainer, Cassie Malina to understand bird behavior and learn more about how he can train his feathered companions.

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