|Cardboard exposure can cause plucking
||[Aug. 3rd, 2006|12:45 am]
Stefanja from Out of the Blue Eclectus discusses her experience with cardboard causing plucking in her ekkie.
Jewel is my nine year old pet female eclectus. She has been laying a
couple of clutches of eggs per year for the last three years.
During those times prior to laying she had been plucking new
feathers off her back and usually proceeded to also remove feathers
from her breast. I HATE when that happens ... I hear about it with
other pet eclectus hens but it is truly difficult when it happens
right at home! In between her eggs, usually twice per year, she
would become beautifully feathered again. Jewel did come to me to
be rehomed and ended up staying. She had had too many homes in too
short a period of time and was feather picking, screaming and biting
ferociously. Once she settled in here she let all her feathers grow
(seven years now) and has not picked again except around egg laying.
Last week, Jewel proceeded to pluck and chew off her feathers in an
overt and frenzied manner. Not just a casual clip but an all out
frenzy! She was about to lay her eggs and had been diligently
preparing her cardboard box and the paper it contained ... digging
and chewing and when she came out stabbing and jabbing at herself as
she preened frantically ... my impression was that she was covered
with insects that were biting her all over. As she became
increasingly agitated over a couple of days I took particular notice
of her skin that was becoming more and more exposed. It was a livid
red with what looked like a fine rash ... like grains of red pepper
all over her breast. Her back looked okay but she was also
frantically 'itching' that area as well and her legs. Her flights
and tail were fine.
As I tried to figure out what could possibly be the matter ... Jewel
has a great diet so I knew it wasn't food related ... it had
something to do with the egg laying ... it dawned on me. The one
thing she came into contact with once she was preparing to lay her
eggs was CARDBOARD!!! I have used cardboard as a cheap chew material
for her for years ... and her and others in my flock love their
'toy' boxes which are always cardboard ... and I've always been
careful to only give them the clean brown cardboard renewing it every
couple of days, always taking it away in the late afternoon until
overnight ... except when Jewel lays eggs. And then she gets to keep
it as a nest box.
I bathed her thoroughly over three days with clear water ... in hind
sight I might have used some soap to get rid of the cardboard 'dust'
that must have been lodged in her feathers ... and gave her a plastic
carrier with clean aspen shavings in it ... For two more days she
continued to scratch and pluck but less frenzied and finally her skin
settled down and eventually cleared to normal pinky white ... the
plucking and shredding stopped ... and she laid her egg and is
I did some research on how cardboard is manufactured (you DO NOT want
to be laying around on shredded cardboard!) and about contact
dermatitis in humans from prolonged handling of cardboard ... and I'm
now certain that Jewel's skin was irritated by the dust from the
cardboard and contact with it. The longer she stayed in her 'box'
preparing for laying her egg, the worse her condition got. I would
not have noticed if it hadn't been for her exposed skin that was so
obviously irritated. Even if a hen is not showing signs of feather
picking or plucking ... I would now say NO CARDBOARD in any form for
playing with or nesting in. Sensitivities and allergies often take
time to develop and even though Jewel has been giving me indications
all along that a problem has been brewing ... it took a full blown
episode of dermatitis for me to get the message.
I have so often recommended giving cardboard boxes to pet eclectus
especially the hens ... that I do want to share that I would no
longer make that recommendation based on Jewel's experience.
Needless to say none of my birds will be getting cardboard in any
form to play with, chew on, or nest in ... from now on.
I'm posting this to two other lists I'm on ... please feel free to
cross post as long as you include my name and email address.
Out of the Blue Eclectus