Factors In Parrots Mean Color Variations

If You Are Adopting An African Grey Parrot, How Do You Know If It Is Really A Red Factor?

If you are looking to adopt an African Grey (AG), you have to be careful about being sold a ‘red factor’ AG. They tend to cost more money, which is true to form in the sense that breeders have less parrots that are unique colors. It can take several generations to create color variations – or factors- in parrots. So, a higher price is fair.
African Grey parrots are, of course, grey, white and red. But not pink…
There are some legitimate red-factor parrots, and some parrots with feather-follicle damage.
One of my avian veterinarians said that no, there’s nothing detrimental about an African Grey having damaged feathers or plucking. It’s like you having a bald spot. Not attractive on an AG, but often it just looks bad.

If your pet is at home and plucks, obviously he or she won’t be cold or anything. However, it is super-important to dig into what is causing your parrot to pluck. There could be a variety of reasons, including health issues. (go to https://parrotbliss.com/why-do-african-grey-parrots-pluck-their-feathers/ to read about causes for plucking and some things you can do to try to remedy it).


Red Color Or Damage?

Not all feathers are created from breeding -some are due to follicle damage…
Photos: Natural red factor or damaged follicles?
In the pics, Venus, Adonis and Hera are illustrating their red feathers for us.
Adonis has all her feathers (yeah, I thought she was male… but DNA tests says female), but has a red feather or two in her neck. In the picture, she is all fluffed up watching TV with us.
I adopted ALL my AGs as adults – PLUCKED. Adonis is the exception – but Venus and Hera have always been plucked. It is very difficult to break an AG of this habit, but I try. Here’s a blog I researched and wrote on why African Greys pluck and things you can do try to stop them.
Venus is in the picture eating notes from the group I coach – hopefully, I won’t have to refer back to these! Venus plucks her neck; you may notice that there is a bald spot right at her throat. You can also see the light feather below that bald spot and there is a light colored feather on the back of her neck.
The close up of Hera’s feathers and the photo of Hera, who I adopted as a ‘red factor’ show that she has the most follicle damage.

Side note: My phylosophy with parrots is that, if I can handle it, I don’t mind the parrot I adopt being sick or having an issue. Life isn’t perfect, I don’t expect my parrots to be perfect either. Just because they aren’t perfectly healthy – which is sometimes due to a person’s lack of caring or know-how – doesn’t mean that I should reject them. I feel the opposite way; I’ve learned a lot from my mentor and I’m grateful to be able to restore their health whenever possible. I knew Hera was not a red factor; I adopted her because I wanted her in my flock. My avian vet did a wellness exam and agreed that she needs caring for, but is not red-factor and needs some TLC, but her plucking is just cosmetic.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Red Factor Feathers & Damaged Feathers?

If you look at the pictures closely, you’ll see that Hera and Venus’ damaged feathers aren’t RED, they are varied and dull or faded. There are also some feathers that are part grey and part pink/faded red and white.

In my layman terms, the follicles are ‘confused.’

All of their grey feathers and tail feathers are consistently grey and red; the feathers, like on their head, that are grey with white edges look uniform, consistent and like they were designed this way. Feathers from the damaged follicles sometimes have inconsistent shapes and the colors look accidental and random or chaotic.

Unfortunately, caring for parrots has been far more involved – and rewarding- than caring for my cats and dogs. Perhaps it is because cats and dogs have been domesticated for so much longer; they just seem to easily and happily live with us. Parrots, on the other hand, are challenging. Each species has specific dietary requirements, which can vary to a almost no-fat diet with Amazons all the way to a heavy nut diet for Macaws and African Greys. They also require fresh foods daily, like carrots and other fresh vegetables. Parrots are intelligent and require more engagement than cats and dogs do. It is common to hear experts say that parrots require that you constantly buy them toys and/or provide enrichment (Video on What Is Enrichment on YouTube). Yes, parrots need to exercise their wings, their beaks (by chewing wood and nuts) and their minds. Yes, you have to figure out how to give them something to figure out! Dog’s are a man’s best friend (and a woman’s, no?) but parrots are a person’s demanding partner and companion who will outlive two, three or maybe even four dog’s lives.

When a parrot’s physical, emotional and mental needs aren’t met, they can run into physical or emotional health issues- and plucking can be either. So, while I don’t think it’s “bad” to have a parrot that plucks – not ideal, of course – I do think it is important to try to restore their well-being.

We had had a Green-cheeked Conure who had sezisures (she had been given to us because she had neurological damage so that she couldn’t fly and couldn’t use her feet too well). Our research led us to create a CBD oil for parrots in hemp oil, which has the correct balance of Omega 3’s and 6’s. So, I’m using this for Hera (and her partner Zeus, who we also adopted as a plucker). I’m intending for it to calm them if they feel any stress (which my Amazons or Macaws may cause) and to help give them the proper fat balance.

Additionally, I’m giving them time out in the sun and fresh air. Turns out, Mother Nature may have more floating in the air that will do them some good than you may have guessed.

We’ve been giving Venus time outdoors for several months and we are having a harder time figuring out which is Venus and which is Adonis when we look their way because some of Venus’ feathers are growing back. Hera had been on eggs, so now that she’s not, she and Zeus are receiving the same sun and air treatment and I can’t wait to see if it improves their plucking status!

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