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Photo Credit: kewl via Compfight cc
Vets tend to encounter animals with a whole number of random issues. We have had our fair share at Concord Vet Hospital! One of our colleagues diverted our attention to a budgie with an overwhelming abundance of feathers. The budgie seemed normal at birth but at 4 weeks of age,  its feathers started growing longer and longer. Why is that?
The cause of this phenomenon is believed to be associated with a genetic mutation where the control gene that switches off feather growth after a certain period fails to work. Unfortunately this condition is incurable.

Budgies that exhibit this problem are affectionately called a ‘Feather Duster’. There are not many Feather Duster’s known in the world (around 4 according to latest reports) and they do not tend to live long at all (around 2-12 months). Their short life expectancy is attributed to the high amount of protein and energy required to handle the abundance of their ever growing feathers. Furthermore, it does not help that these budgies also suffer from faulty immune systems.

The quality of life for these birds is quite enduring considering they have to lug around their feathers everywhere. They are flightless birds and have difficulty climbing, perching and preening themselves. When they do molt, their feathers will grow back again and continue growing just as before. Owners of these precious birds have noted that they mainly stay sitting at the bottom of their cage near their food bowl and are not very active. 

But one Feather Duster that is causing quite a flutter is Whipper. Whipper is a very sociable lively parrot with a sweet personality to boot who resides in New Zealand. Visitors to his owner’s store absolutely adore Whipper. Check out his video below and pay close attention to his unusual budgie cheeps. 

If you happen to come into possession of a Feather Duster from breeding or just randomly, there are a few actions you can undertake to ensure they have an excellent quality of life: 

*  Provide your Feather Duster with a healthy diet rich in amino acids, methionine and lysine. These particular nutrients are used to promote feather growth funnily enough. You may wonder why you would feed a Feather Duster a diet that would encourage it to grow more feathers!! Breeders have actually found that their feather dusters live longer when fed these vital nutrients. Good to know ey?
* Trim their plummage at least once a week to make it easier for them to maneuver in their surroundings. It is recommended to trim their vent as well to prevent them dirtying themselves. Be sure to take exceeding care around their eyes. 
* Clean their cage more than you would for regular budgies. As these birds tend to hang around on the floor of the cage it probably is better that they don’t wallow in their feces more than necessary!