Molting Season – Adding Insult To Injury

Posted by Bird Tricks on

In case breeding season isn’t enough to make you crazy, we can now also embrace molting season. Half of me loves the molting season. I am always fascinated by new feather growth – out with the raggedy and in with the shiny and new. The other half, perhaps the bigger half, hates it for the extra work it creates.

I am taking care of the Womach’s budgies while they are on the road. A small bird might have as many as 3000 feathers on it’s body – X 2 budgies = 6000 feathers. Doing the math, and looking at what’s on the floor, these birds should be naked.  And I hope I have finally learned to stop trying to sweep up those feathers they deposit on the floor near the cage. Sweeping creates a breeze and breezes make the tiny white feathers take flight all on their own. Soon the feathers are deposited everywhere. I found one stuck to a shelf in the fridge.

The real positive here is the fact that is probably is the end of the hormonal behavior for the littlest birds in the flock. Generally speaking, when the serious molting begins, the breeding urges are in a decline. Feather and egg production both use considerable amounts of the body’s calcium supply, so it is uncommon for both to be happening at once. I hope the bigger birds are paying attention.

I get excited for my birds to finally rid themselves of certain unruly feathers. My goffins cockatoo, Theo, has a wing feather that somehow twists upside down and points upward and away from her body. I can truly live without that feather, but she seems in no hurry to let it go. When I rehomed my first umbrella cockatoo, Abu, her tail feathers were a ratty mess. I was told that, in her former home, she was left free to roam an area with textured cement floors accounting for the worn feathers. It was such a thrill the next year when they were replaced with silky new ones.

This time of year there are always questions about molting. I have noticed a lot of them this year are pertaining to concerns that their birds are slow in shedding certain feathers and wondering if these feathers will be molted this year since they weren’t the year before.

There are conditions and circumstances that can be a deterent to the molting of old feathers. Poor diet, stress and ill-health can play a huge role in the disruption of the molting cycle. If your bird suffers from any of these things, its body has more important concerns than the exchanging of feathers and will fail to do so. If your bird is long overdue for a good molt, you should bring her in for a work-up and be sure to tell the vet about your concerns.

For those of you with birds who have had feathers damaged in an accident, or who are feather destructive and have damaged their feathers themselves, know that these feathers seem to defy the typical molting cycle and may take a while to fall out. This can also apply to birds who have received severe wing trims, where the flight feathers have been cut too far down the shaft.

The only thing that stimulates feather regrowth is the loss of the existing feather. Barring any health or emotional issues, the feather will eventually be molted. Please never remove a feather for aesthetic reasons. It can be too painful and traumatic an experience for your bird to endure for the purposes of appearance. The only time we should forcefully remove a feather is when it is a broken blood feather presenting an immediate danger to the bird or if a damaged feather is hanging painfully from the follicle.

So right now the birds are screaming and biting and somehow there are feathers in the silverware drawer. Soon it will be over…until next year.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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  • My senegal doesn’t molt. He may lose a random feather but never goes through a full molt. This was very good information. I am the bird’s 3rd owner and I’ve had him for about 3 years. I estimate he is about 13-14 years old. He came to me plucking. He looks a lot better but is still a mild plucker. This makes me wonder if there is something else going on. The suggestion of having him go through a physical is a good one.

    Terry B on
  • Hi Ronni!
    I LOVE that. What a clever idea!!!

    Patty on
  • Hi FLHippy,
    I can tell you with certainty that Charley will continue to over-lay eggs because of the wonderful nest site she has found beneath the covers in your bed. Is Charley by any chance a cockatiel? If she is, be aware that this species is prone to chronic egg laying and egg binding. It would be best for her health if you kept her out of dark places that are perceived as nests, such as cabinets, boxes, bags and…in your bed! She will be less likely to lay if she doesn’t feel she has a nest to incubate in.

    Patty on
  • I love my parrots all 12 of them and it is amazing how I use to SQUAWK about dust bunnies under the couch!!!! I have gotton used to this season and even tolerate the added garnish on my supper plate when I see the beautiful result on their bodies when the feathers are replaced.

    sincerely pat
    pat caique crazy on
  • One of sunshine’s beautiful red and green feathers along with a small semiprecious stone and a piece of paper or cardboard with a quote of Pierre in Tolstoy’s War and Peace prayer.
    “May I fall into sleep as a stone and wake as a feather in the morning” Sealed together with a couple of strips of the clear wrapping tape (Same as masking tape only clear) Make a lovely book marker for my books.

    Patsy Seo on

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