Follow Pearl, Malti & Bruce
The first time I saw Malti back up next to a rock and start rubbing her shell against it, it took me a bit to figure out what was going on.
But then I realized….she is growing! Her shell itches!
My parrot, Pearl, experiences a similar issue when he molts out old feathers and then the new ones start to grow in. The new feathers grow in still attached to a blood supply, and each one is wrapped in its own personalized white sheath made of keratin (the same waxy protein that protects human skin, hair and nails).
But even though I knew Malti’s shell was protected by a hard outer layer of keratin-based plates, or scutes, it had never occurred to me that it could itch as it grew.
So I stepped in and started to scratch.
Malti responded immediately! She dug in her little front feet and even rotated her shell so I could reach the exact area that was itching the most. When the scratching had done its work, she started to walk away from me, and this is how I knew she was feeling better.
Now, I often offer a nice shell scratch without being asked (so to speak) – often, I do this after she has had her meal and is feeling relaxed and full. I do it at other times too – just spontaneously if I haven’t done it in a day or two. She really seems to enjoy it.
Sometimes I scratch in an up-down pattern, scraping my fingernails up and down from the outermost edges of her shell inward.
Other times I scratch in a circular pattern all over her shell from outer to inner and then back again. I can usually see the new keratin scutes as they are developing (they hang down just slightly below the outermost layer of her actual shell, and are semi-translucent) so I try to focus on those areas as well.
She really seems to love having her back shell scratched and often the sides as well. I haven’t seen as much of a reaction when I’ve scratched the front areas of her shell.