Saturday, December 5, 2020

Yes, I'm a Feather Picker


This post is written to answer questions and concerns regarding Einstein's feather picking issue and is not intended to address or diagnose feather destructive behavior in other parrots. If your parrot is having feather issues, please consult with a certified avian veterinarian to first rule out any physical causes. 

Thank you for your concern. Feather picking is not uncommon for African grey parrots and other parrots as well. The reasons they pick are not fully understood. It is an issue that has never been scientifically researched and at best has only been hypothesized. 

Some of the hypothesized reasons cited as causes for feather picking are:

1. Disease - Let me assure you Einstein is not sick. He has regular annual visits to a certified avian veterinarian. A complete examination with complete blood work is performed each year. In April of 2023 we had a CT scan performed. The results were excelent. No indications of arteriosclerosis or arthritis.

2. Poor diet - Einstein has always been fed a wholesome, organic diet of fresh vegetables, cooked whole grain, and beans in addition to a pelleted avian diet.

3. Abuse or neglect - We've had Einstein since he was 3 months old and he has never been abused or neglected.

4. Boredom and/or stress - Einstein is kept entertained with new and fun toys. We never force him to do anything he doesn't want to do and have trained him using positive reinforcement methods. He is allowed a lot of time out of the cage when we are home. He is allowed to play with toys, talk, or just "hang out" with us. He gets fresh air and sunshine on his screened-in porch when the weather is good and has access to full-spectrum lighting. Also, we give him regular aloe water showers.

5. Habit - Our avian vet believes Einstein feather picking is a habit. Einstein has been doing this for a very long time. To my memory, it started in 1999 with picking the downy feathers only at night. For the first 10 years, it would be seasonal. He would only do it in the spring, sometimes in the winter. He would also change the location of picking on his body from year to year. There was a time when his back was completely bald under his grey feathers. Then he allowed those downy feathers to grow back and he would pick under one wing. He would allow those to grow back. Then the next year, he would choose another place. 

Einstein doesn't pull feathers that have grown out. The feathers molt naturally and he allows them to grow part way. He pinches the base of the new feather, cutting off the blood supply to the growing feather. Then he plucks them out. With each successive molt, he has not allowed any new feathers to re-emerge on his neck, chest, and the spot on top of his left-wing. He is also picking his wing pits and his left hip. What you see on his belly is the result of the damaged feather follicles. Those feathers will not grow back. There are still many viable grey feather follicles, but not enough for his belly to be fully feathered again. 

The various veterinarians Einstein has seen have had no explanations as his exams wouldn't reveal anything physical. One vet told us that he would probably quit on his own. Sadly that never happened for an extended period. 

Things we have tried:

A humidifier to increase room humidity, increase showers, installed UV lighting, increased his sleep time, played rain sounds for him at night, provide a night light, moved his cage to a new location, covered his cage at night, uncovered his cage at night and offered chamomile tea.

We've also allowed him to sleep on his play perch in the bedroom with us from time to time. He's very happy sleeping on his play perch. Sometimes, I will wake during the night and hear him picking. I'll walk to the bathroom as this interrupts him. On my way back to bed I stop and talk to him. (The last thing anyone should do is give attention to a parrot that is picking because the attention you give is also a positive reinforcer.) His body language would tell me that he wanted scratches from me, so I'd bring him to bed to "cuddle" with me. (I am wide awake and there is no danger of me falling back to sleep at this point with him in bed with me.) He perches on my knee, while I sit up in bed. Then, after a while, I put him back on his perch to go back to sleep. I'd wake up the next morning only to find downy feathers and picked feathers. 

We have tried 2 different Avian CBD oils. CannAvia and HempWell. Neither helped. My vet told me she had a cockatoo as a patient, whose owner gave large doses daily of CBD and it had no effect. The vet explained to me that there just aren’t known dosage requirements for parrots. Our thoughts about collars, cones, or sweaters are that they can cause too much stress. They should be used in extreme cases when the parrot is causing wounds.  Drugs are also not recommended because it is a temporary fix, they begin again when taken off the drug.

We've been told, that parrots may get a release of endorphins when feather picking. Recently, we've learned that feather picking may be rooted in the early developmental stages of a young parrot. If they are not allowed to fledge properly or taken from the nest box too soon, particularly before their eyes have opened, they may be more prone to feather picking. Both of these theories have not been studied and verified. In 1997, when Einstein was hatched, his breeder did tell me she takes the babies from the nest box before their eyes open. This was standard practice at the time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We will never give up on this issue and hope that someday it will be resolved as more is learned about these amazing birds. Truth be told, they were never meant to live life in captivity and all we can do is love them, care for them, and protect them the best we can.

Marcia, Jeff, and Einstein (aka The Red-butt Chicken!)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Einstein Parrot's T-Shirts Benefitting Avian Rescue

I’m a parrot that wants to make a difference for other parrots who are in parrot rescues and sanctuaries. I design and sell t-shirts and other gift items to benefit parrot rescue organizations.

In my stores below you can purchase shirts for men, women, and children. Many styles and colors to choose from. In addition, Redbubble and TeePublic have coffee mugs, phone covers and all kinds of nice gifts! They also ship internationally. 

 Click to buy on Amazon

 Click to buy on Redbubble

Click to buy on TeePublic

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Einstein Featured at the Cneai =


2 Rue du Bac, 78400 Chatou, France

Exhibit runs 11-05-2016 till 03–19-2017

I never thought the sounds of my Texan voice would grace the walls of a contemporary art museum in France! My voice, the animal sounds I make, are currently being featured in the Cneai= Museum near Paris France. A beautiful little museum by the Seine River. The exhibit is unique in that the walls are not covered with visual art as you might expect. Instead it is an exhibit of sound!

Cneai Museum

Below is an explanation taken from the Cneai website.

With: Sarah Darwin, Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot, Cevdet Erek, Elise Florenty & Marcel Turkowsky, Krõõt Juurak and Alex Bailey, Louise Lawler, a recording of an Inuit song, Cia Rinne, Yann Sérandour and Samon Takahashi.
The project of the German commissioner Clara Meister aims to introduce animal voice, a language we do not understand. The selected works are playing with human voices imitating animal sounds and animal voices. The human voice translates animal sounds to give them meaning and to express something beyond human language, which is facing its limits. With the voices of animals, we let go "outside" in the wild exhibit space.

This project is developed in an unusual format. It is not intended to take place exclusively in the CNEAI exhibition space, but in a sound space: it is a "registered exhibition" vinyl format. This follows the classical model of exhibition design: a floor plan defines an entry with a counter, followed by exhibition which showcases the works areas. The basic idea is to translate the format of the exhibition in a sound medium: an exhibition whose place is not space but time and the experience of listening.

The voice is invisible and yet it creates images. The voice is not a space object but yet need a space in which spread its acoustic vibrations. All these aspects are highlighted in the works for human and animal voices, whether they cry, laugh, sing or bark.

The project will be presented to CNEAI, National Center Edition Art Image Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 13:00. The LP is available for sale at:


What fun it would be to go to Paris to “hear” this exhibit! I worked with Clara Meister, the curator who contacted me and gathered my vocalizations to create this work of art.  She was so nice to work with! She promised to send me a copy of the exhibit on vinyl. If you live in or near Paris, please go visit and tell me about it! I hope you enjoy it!

Au revoir!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Good Morning Texas!

On February 18, 2016 I was invited by The Wings of Love Bird Haven to appear with them on the morning TV show, Good Morning Texas! It was a wonderful and fun experience! The purpose of the segment was to tell folks about about The Haven and all the good parrot rescue work they do! The 5 minute segment can be viewed here.

Waiting in the Green Room at WFAA Studios in Dallas. Marcia with De and Lou and the birds from The Wings of Love. Hatch the Blue and Gold Macaw, Baby Girl the Umbrella Cockatoo, Max the Eclectus. Tessa the Myers Parrot was there too!

In the studio, I suffered from a case of “stage fright”, actually I was being polite, allowing the professionals do the talking. Max the Eclectus did most of the talking! He felt right at home with Carrie the host. It was indeed a Love Connection!

Max ❤️ Carrie

It often takes me time to get familiar with a new environment before I feel comfortable enough to talk. In the studio there were lots of big cameras, people moving quickly, loud sounds, bright lights!  It was like a Big Party!

Getting set up in the studio
Getting used to my new surroundings!
Marcia comforted me.
Getting ready for my close up!
Towards the end of the show, as I was perched for my close up. I said, "Talk to me" and several people ran over to put microphones up to me. They tried desperately to get me to talk. My shyness over took me again, it wasn't going to happen! Watch these clips from the show that didn't get included in the segment.  Towards the end, you'll see the host commenting about it. (Sorry about the poor quality of the tape.)  You'll also see the how much fun the hosts had with all the birds!

Being a flirt with Jane McGarry and Shannon Hart!

I liked Larry's head set!

The STARS of the show! 

Hatch the Blue and Gold Macaw, Carrie McClure holding Max the Eclectus. Lou holding Baby Girl the Cockatoo, and De the director of Wings of Love Bird Haven.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I'm a Blessed Bird!

Blessing of the Animals!

October 4th, 2015 was a very special day for me! I got to attend a Blessing of the Animals Service at an Episcopal Church! I had never been to church before so this was a new experience!  Marcia and Jeff couldn't come because they had to go out of town to attend the wedding of my human cousin.  

It was a beautiful afternoon with mild fall Texas weather, just perfect to go outside! I was taken to church by my good friends and bird sitters for the week end.  They took really good care of me! If you'll notice, they even double secured my travel cage with strong zip ties! I'm very safe! I'm riding in style as we drove to church! They know how much I like care rides! Wheeeee!

When we arrived there were so many people with their furry companions! There were mostly dogs, a few cats, and even a hermit crab! Do you see me in the picture below! Yup! That's me in the cage!

There was only one other bird at the service. A cute little blue budgie.  Here is a picture of him getting blessed too!

Time for MY Blessing!

Father Andrew, a very nice man, wore a white robe walked around to each of the animals and said a short prayer. I was pretty quiet the whole time. I did't say a word, but I did "beep" a lot!

I kept doing my imitation of the door security alarm over and over. It was my way of letting everyone know we were all safe! You can listen to the beep on this video.

It was a very fun outing! I enjoyed meeting so many nice people and making some furry friends!

 St. Francis of Assisi lived in Italy in the 12th century. Everyone listened to St. Francis, including the animals. At times he found that no one listened to his preaching, however the birds always stayed and listened. Birds would fill the trees and completely surround him when he talked. They were intrigued by the power of his voice. They did not fly away! St. Francis is often illustrated as having a bird on his shoulder or holding a bird in his hand.  Marcia has always displayed this picture of St. Francis next to my 3 month old chick picture on a shelf in our family room.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Einstein's Sex Change!

I'm a Boy!

For 17 1/2 years, my humans "thought" I was a girl!  They thought this because my very first veterinarian told them. He told them, my head shape was round, indicative to a female. Males are known to have more of a square shaped head. He said that my vent area also indicated I was a female. The fact that I am closely bonded to Jeff was another indication that I was a female.  Marcia later read an article about feather coloration. Since my tail feathers have a hint of grey and I have three bands of grey on the underside of my wings she was convinced I was female.

All these years it really didn't make a difference to my humans if I were a male or female, so they just never got me tested. I'm 17 going on 18! I've not laid an egg! That's a fact that might need to be explored! Don't you think?  

Sexual maturity for an African Grey is about 6-7 years, although it can happen earlier, and I've heard of some producing their first egg in their 20's. So, my humans became concerned that the possibility of egg binding might be concerning enough to have me DNA sexed.

Worry no more! I'm a boy!

What should you take away from this story? Have your parrot DNA sexed! The earlier the better and don't rely on myths and unscientific observations.

I think this is very funny! :> It's going to take Marcia and Jeff years to wrap their heads around this revelation!   I have a feeling they will continue to call me a "her" or a "she" around the house for a long time! 

One thing is for sure... I'll always be a "GOOD GIRRRRRL!"

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A New Year! A New Discovery!

December 29th was a very pretty day in Texas. It was so pleasant that the humans packed me up for a road trip! I like to go for car rides! Weeeeee! It's always fun to go outside too!

We drove for an hour, then the car stopped. Marcia opened my car door, and Jeff carried me in the door.  WAIT! NO! I don't like this place! Yup! It was a veterinarian's office! Totally unfamiliar to me, I've not been to this clinic.  Marcia begins filling out the paperwork. I'm not sick! I'm perfectly fine! I want to go home!

Soon, a nice lady walks up wearing a white jacket and begins to talk to my humans and looks down at me in my carrier. Yikes! This lady in the white jacket is Dr. Osfosky! Dr. Osofsky is a Board Certified Avian Veterinarian and is the only Board Certified Avian Vet in the North Texas Area. I had never been to a bird vet with such credentials before! You see, a vet with the letters, "Dipl ABVP" means she made a choice to undergo a long and difficult process of additional studies and examination to become a specialist in avian care. It takes several additional years of study to receive this certification. OK, I'm impressed and I'm sure she is a swell doctor, but I still want to go home!

I get carried into a very small room and set my carrier on the table. There is still much talking going on. Lots of talking about a towel! I HATE the TOWEL! The doctor tells Jeff to hold me close to his chest, and she will quickly put a towel over me. Once in the towel she will hand him to a nice man named Alex. (Alex? I knew a parrot named Alex! This is NOT ALEX! Believe me, he had no feathers and he was not my friend!) All the while, I was growling that insidious growl I perform when I get upset with the kitchen rug. Once I was in Alex's hands, the towel disappeared! What? How nice! NO TOWEL! I soon stopped growling. I still didn't like the fact that Alex was holding me by the head and the feet, but I let the Dr. Osfosky examine me. I growled a few more times just to let them know I wasn't completely OK with the situation!

Before I knew it, the exam was over and they put me back on the table. I climbed to the top of my carrier where Marcia was quick to give me a nut. OK, All done, let's go home!

Little did I know that was the first part of the exam. They were letting me take a break.  You see, they don't like to stress their patents out too much, so they do the exam in two parts!

OH! NOW, THEY WANT MY BLOOD!  We do the whole procedure again, only this time Alex lays me down on the table on a soft towel. As the doctor draws the blood from my neck, Alex allows me to bite the towel. I appreciate that he felt I needed to take my aggression out on something! Honestly, it only took less than a minute and I was back on my feet, not hardly a feather ruffled and chomping on another nut! At last! All Done! Whew!

They will send this blood sample to a lab and have it examined. A complete blood count will be performed. They will also use the sample to check liver, kidney, and muscle enzymes; total protein and globulin levels; electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) levels; blood sugar; calcium and phosphorus concentrations; and cholesterol.

This trip to the vet was hands down the best experience I ever had! I would go back in a minute! (Well... one minute, maybe a year from now!) Everyone there was just wonderful! In addition, I made a few new friends!

This is a picture of me saying goodbye to nice Dr. Osfosky. My foot is up, and I'm ready to go home! I know I look annoyed in this picture. I was a little, but the camera happened to take the picture when I was blinking.

Soon, I was home, I had a nice lunch and a little nap.  A few days later the results of my blood test came back, and everything was normal except my triglycerides were just a tiny bit high. Thank Goodness I found that out! I was told that I need to cut back on my almond/nut eating. Very good advice for all of us! Marcia and Jeff included!  :>

I'm so glad my humans continued to search for an avian vet and discovered Dr. Osfosky. She and her staff really understand the needs of parrots and all that they require. I encourage all of you to discover an avian vet for your parrots. Even if you have to go on a road trip, it's important for your bird's health. There are some very good veterinarians who's practice include birds that are not avian certified, what is important is that you find one that you feel comfortable with and one that provides the best possible care and able to answer all your questions and concerns. Here is a website that will help you find one. Here is a website that explains what you should expect when you visit an avian veterinarian, and what your avian vet expects from you.

If ever in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area and you need an Avian Veterinarian, I highly recommend the good people at Carrollton West Pet Hospital!

Oh! I nearly forgot! I also requested a DNA blood test to determine my sex. FINALLY! I'll know if I'm a girl or a boy! (Actually, I already know... my poor humans do not! :> ) When I get the results I'll make the announcement! How Exciting!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Einstein's Parrot Cookies for Santa's Reindeer

itemscope itemtype="" itemprop="name" itemprop="image" itemprop="name" While preparing for Santa's visit this year, I decided to make a batch of these cookies for his Reindeer! They are very tasty and healthy too! I hope the Reindeer will like them, I know I will!

Sweet Potato Almond Cookies  
(Use organic ingredients when possible)

Combine in a bowl and mix till smooth with an electric mixer.
1 cup roasted sweet potato, cooled (you can also use canned pumpkin)
1 mashed banana
1 egg
1/4 oil  (I used a combination of Red Palm Oil and coconut oil)

In another bowl combine:
2 cups of flour. (You can use all purpose flour, however, I used a mixture of Garbanzo bean flour, Spelt flour, Quinoa flour, and Kamut flour.)
1 cup of “Add-ins”
“Add-ins” can be anything you want to add. I used sunflower seed in the shell, millet, hemp seed, hemp hearts, chia seed, Quinoa flake, finely ground nuts, flax seed, sesame seed, shredded unsweetened coconut, ground pellets.
1 tsp. cinnamon (or make them spicy and use cayenne!)

Add the sweet potato mixture to the dry ingredients with  3/4 cup of water. Mix well. Batter will be stiff. Scoop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet using a # 40 scoop (or about 2 Tablespoons). The cookies will not spread out, so you can place them close together on the cookie sheet. Top with a whole almond and push the almond down into the batter covering the almond partially.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Let cool. Store in refrigerator or freeze.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

I got my inspiration for these cookies from a post I saw on a Facebook page called The Parrot’s Pantry.  Lots of great ideas can be found there!

Merry Christmas! Merry Corn!