Learning About Molting Parrots

Just like reptiles shedding there skin, and cats shedding their fur, parrots must shed their feathers! Molting is when an animal routinely casts off a part of its body (often, but not always, an outer layer or covering), either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle. Feather molting is a very normal and important part of bird care.

So Why Do Birds Need To Molt?

I’m sure you may have noticed that your bird uses a lot of its time to preen and clean its feathers. Birds take huge pride in their feathers, making sure each barb and is laying correctly for perfect appeal. When feathers become worn and tattered over the span of a year, they become increasingly difficult to align all the remaining barbs. So, it is time to get rid of the tattered old feathers and welcome some new ones!

Is My Bird Molting?

Look for fully intact feather on the floor of the cage or your home. If the shaft of the feather is damaged or splintered, it most likely indicated your bird is engaging in destructive behavior. Small white downy feathers used for insulation molt year round. Keep an eye out for surface level, colorful feathers.

When Will My Bird Molt?

All birds have an internal clock that is set by natural sunlight.  Molting is triggered by UVA and UVB lights existing in natural daylight or present high quality artificial full-spectrum bird lights. If your bird only sees light from modern windows or is outside only occasionally, its molt will be unusual. Molts occur over a times span of a few weeks. Parrots will not get left with a bald spot, as it would leave individual feathers in the open to be broken. Instead, matured feathers surround the pin feathers from damage.

Pin Feathers

See some white, stick looking quills sticking out of your birds feathers? These are undeveloped feathers known as pin feathers. At this stage they are still living tissue with its own blood source. If damaged, these little feathers can bleed immensely. It is important to keep an antiseptic gel or powder on hand at all times to stop bleeding. Pisces recommends: Four Paws Quick Blood Stopper. Its not uncommon for caged , clipped birds to damage their pin feathers inside of their cage. It is important to get into a habit of checking your birds surroundings for blood regularly in case a feather is damaged. If the bleeding does not stop, take your bird to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Impact On Behavior

Molting is stressful on your bird. Feathers are made up of 90% Keratin, the same key structural material making up the outer layer of human skin.  During a molt, your bird must replace about 25% of its protein.  If your bird gets too stressed out or doesn’t receive adequate nutrition, the new feather may contain stress bars or weak points.  These feathers are prone to breakage. It is important to have your parrot on a well balanced, high nutrient diet. Your bird might be a little more grumpy than usual during its molt, but wouldn’t you be?

Can I Help?

Providing your parrot with a daily misting may ease the urge for them to pluck their feathers.  It will also help to expose your bird to sunlight, or a full spectrum bulb synced to daylight hours. Perhaps the most effective way to help your bird through its molt is to provide them with  amino acids, or a feather growth supplement. Pisces recommends: NEKTON-Bio Water soluble powder to promote feather growth.