Bird molting is when a bird sheds worn and tattered feathers in order to grow new, healthy feathers that attract a mate and get it through the next several months.
While molting in birds is normal, it can be quite uncomfortable. Plus, molting puts an incredible strain on your bird's body. It causes your bird both physical and emotional stress.
Most bird species molt once or twice a year, before their breeding season and afterwards. Learn more about all of the ins and outs of molting in birds in our Ultimate Guide To Molting Birds.
Most birds weather a molt just fine, but for some captive birds, molting to be unbearable. Many molting birds resort to undesirable behaviors including squawking, nipping, and even worse, feather plucking, to find relief.
Molting may last anywhere from one to three or more months.
You can prevent many of the undesirable behaviors that molting birds are prone to.
Use my 7 step C-O-N-S-O-L-E method to bring your beloved pet comfort during these difficult weeks.
Try to make your bird as physically comfortable as possible. A molting bird may experience some problems with balance when feathers fall out. Also, missing some insulating feathers, your molting bird needs to stay warm and the household humidity should be kept at 30% or above.
Keratin wrapped pin feathers are prickly so higher humidity will make the new pin feathers softer and more bearable. Keep your bird away from drafts, ceiling fans and air vents. You may wish to consider providing your parrot with a heated perch to offer warmth.
Your molting bird will also need a diet rich in nutrients needed for feather growth.
Your bird may become preoccupied with relieving skin discomfort by over-preening new feather growth. Already in a heightened state of stress, a bored, caged molting bird with few other outlets to relieve stress may become fixated on preening to the point of feather plucking.
Provide your parrot with preening bird toys that encourage chewing, and preening to prevent preoccupation with irritating new feather growth. Foraging activities are also highly recommended offer your molting bird a healthy, natural diversion.
Keratin is made from protein and amino acids so your bird will require superior nutrition in order to produce a new set of healthy, colorful feathers. Make sure that you provide your bird with fresh, premium bird pellets like, veterinarian recommend Harrison’s Bird Food or TOPS.
Supplement premium bird food with nutrient rich fresh raw, vegetables, herbs, sprouts, organic grains, and soaked seed and nuts. A lot of breeders complement premium pellets with egg food and FeatheredUp!
Most of us are more irritable when we are uncomfortable and parrots are no exception. An uncomfortable molting bird may express its frustration with more squawking and nippy or uncooperative behavior.
Rather than punish your bird, ignore temperament flare-ups and concentrate your attention toward positive bird behavior and ensuring your bird is comfortable. Appreciate that your bird may may not welcome being petted or handled when new feather growth causes itching and pin feathers poke its skin.
Your molting bird will be grateful for frequent misting and opportunities to bath away keratin dust and moisturize the skin. Feather sheath dust gets in your parrots nostrils and ears, sits on their skin and may even harbor bacteria.
Misting down your bird with a soothing bird spray like Aloe Vera will soothe irritated feather follicles and support inflammation and encourage appropriate preening while moisturizing and cleansing the skin. Some birds appreciate having access to a clean bowl of water in which they can bathe at will.
Expose your bird to natural sunlight or bird lights on a timer, set for the length of a natural day, approximately 12 hrs. Likewise, your bird needs a proper amount of sleep. Make sure that it has about 12 hrs. of dark and quiet each night.
A stressed molting bird can easily become nutritionally depleted and lethargic. Preoccupation with its irritating feathers brings it stress relief. This can result in an over-preening or feather plucking habit.
Encourage exercise and socialization as much as possible by placing your bird on a bird stand in an area where it can see the family. While your parrot may not appreciate petting, it will appreciate getting out of the cage and having an opportunity to climb and stretch its wings.
Out of cage time that promotes exercise is a great way to console a molting bird and get its mind off of the prickly pin feathers.
So, in conclusion, while parrot molting can be uncomfortable, there are things that you can do to make it more comfortable.
Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health.
Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians.
With over 30 years experience, in a range of settings, she’s created thousands of successful behavior plans to help turn around challenging behavior.
Diane got parrot fever in the ‘90’s and founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. Nowadays, BirdSupplies.com focuses solely on Science-backed Parrot Wellness with bird collars for feather plucking birds, nutritional supplements to support avian wellness, and a range of educational materials to support challenging bird behavior. Diane’s authored a number of books on supporting challenging behavior in birds.
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