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Do Feathers Grow Back? How To Help Your Bird Regrow Lost Feathers

Table of Contents

do feathers grow back

How long does it take for bird feathers to grow back?

Bird’s can lose their feathers due to a variety of reasons:

  • Feather Plucking
  • Stress 
  • Molting
  • Excessive grooming by a cage mate
  • Viruses and Bacteria

Depending on why the bird lost its feathers in the first place and its state of health, it could take anywhere from 1-12 months for bird feathers to grow back.  

In the case of feather plucking, though, the bird literally pulls out a feather shaft and all.  This can often cause skin damage to the feather follicle delaying regrowth. Plus, new feather growth has to actually be stimulated first. 

In the case of a virus or bacteria infection, feather regrowth may be best achieved with the help of an avian vet.

How long do feathers take to grow back after molting?

Molting is a totally natural phenomena where the bird loses worn and old feathers to regrow new, healthy, vibrant ones. A molted feather falls out because the new, replacement feather was already developing. 

But, how do you tell the difference between normal molting versus a feather that has been plucked out or lost for other reasons? It can be hard. One way to tell the difference between molting and plucking is to carefully examine your bird.

Take a look at your bird. Examine under its wings and look at its back and chest. If you see bald spots in these areas that may be an indication that the bird is plucking its feathers. Birds molt an asymmetrical pattern versus losing entire patches of feathers.

Another way to tell the difference between molting and plucking is to examine the feathers that you find on the cage floor. First you'll want to look at the shaft. That's the thick center part of a feather.  Does it look like this shaft has been bitten off? Simply biting a feather off at the shaft is one form of feather destructive behavior.

do feathers grow back

Next, you'll notice that there are different types of feathers on the bird. Wing feathers are long and more slender while feathers on the torso tend to be more round in shape. Remember, birds molt in a symmetrical pattern. For instance, the first feather on the left wing comes out at around the same time as the first feather on the right wing. So when you're trying to tell if the feathers on the cage have been molted you May see two similar feathers.

Feather plucking doesn't usually happen in this symmetrical manner. Usually, feathers are plucked in patches.

Regrowing feathers is nutritionally intensive. In other words, growing healthy feathers requires a lot of vitamins, proteins, and minerals. a bird that frequently plucks its feathers out may benefit from a high quality feather growth formula like FeatheredUp! FeatheredUp! contains biotin, a group of B vitamins, that are believed to support hair and feather growth. 

Feather Plucking

 

How do I get my birds feathers to grow back?

Feather growth is quite nutritionally taxing on your birds body.  If you want your bird to grow vibrant, health feathers, it will be important to learn about important bird care strategies known as parrot wellness.

Parrot wellness takes into account your exotic pets innate needs.  Exotic birds have unique physical and emotional care needs that are much different than a dog or a cat needs.

When we're talking about parrot wellness, we're referring to, literally, how to care for an exotic bird. A bird that’s getting its physical and emotional needs met doesn't really have a reason to pluck its feathers out. Parrot wellness goes a long way toward growing beautiful, healthy feathers.

Here are some important parrot wellness needs that will help your birds feathers to grow back faster and better than ever!

Preventive Health Care & Pain Prevention. Preventive health care is so important for parents because our pet birds tend to hide their illnesses, injuries, and pain as a survival mechanism. Making sure that you stay on top of your bird's annual medical check-ups will help you catch a disease process early. Pain and illness is  a major contributing factor to birds that develop feather plucking habits.
    Enrichment.Sensory enrichment focuses on the stimulation of the animals' senses. You can divide it into four subcategories: visual enrichment, olfactory (smell & taste) enrichment, auditory (sound) enrichment, and tactile (touch) enrichment.

    There are several ways that you can offer your bird enriching activities. For instance, teach your bird how to forage  for its food. leave the TV or radio on during the day while you're at work. My birds love Bird TV for parrots on YouTube. Offer a range of bird toys that your bird can chew up and shred.  Birds love to figure out puzzles. Make sure that your pet gets plenty of exercise.

    Behavior Training. Behavior training involves teaching your bird natural parrot behaviors, like how to properly groom its feathers, how to eat vegetables, and how to forage. A pet that learns natural parrot behaviors is more emotionally content.
    Behavioral training also involves teaching your bird basic manners. A parrot that is encouraged to behave like a parrot and that knows the expectations of its flock mate(s), which are you and your family, is more content.

    If you're not sure where to start, I'd encourage you to grab a copy of getting started with Clicker Training For Birds. This book teaches you how to use positive reinforcement to advance your bird's skill set. 

    You'll learn important parrot care strategies like:
    • Coming and going from the cage
    • Leaving unsafe object alone
    •  Staying on a play gym
    •  Getting it to enjoy taking baths. and  other grooming activities
    •  Letting you handle its body to examine you tell condition
    •  Wearing a harness
    •  Taking medications
    Nutrition.  Parrots have a high metabolism and just like any pet, need a healthy diet. But did you know that pet birds need to be taught what to eat? Just think about it. There’s a plethora of lush, rich plant life in the rainforest or a jungle. Mom and Dad have to show their chicks which foods are safe and which ones are poisonous.

    FeatheredUp! supports proper nutrition for feather regrowth, but we found that a bird that develops a feather plucking problem often has numerous contributing  factors that come together to induce self-harming behaviors. In other words, several stressors usually come into play to induce such a drastic reaction like feather plucking.

    Your pet bird relies on you to show it which foods it should be eating. So, if you put a bowl of vegetables in front of a bird that hasn’t been taught that the food is safe, it won't eat them. You literally have to eat the vegetables in front of your bird and entice it to try the veggies  on their own. For more about getting your bird to eat healthy check out my video called 9 ways to get your parrot to eat its veggies.

        Why won't my birds feathers grow back?

        Unfortunately, feathers don’t always grow back normally. And sometimes they don’t ever come back. 

        The damage from certain bacterial and viral infections may be permanent.  Also, some internal diseases, like liver and kidney disease can result in permanent feather loss.

        A bird that has feather plucked for a long period of time may have caused so much damage to its feather follicles that the follicle can’t support feather regrowth.  This is why we always encourage caretakers to address father plucking early.

        In conclusion, as you can see there are several causes for feather loss in birds. Molting is a natural, expected feather loss. In other cases, improving bird husbandry practices will curb feather loss in birds.

        Parrots, in particular, have unique care needs, that when not met can result in feather loss. By taking care of parrot wellness needs, you're improving the chances that your bird will avoid feather loss and will maintain beautiful feathers.

        RELATED POSTS:

        How to tell if your bird is sick

        Why do my birds feathers look bad?

        REFERENCES: 

      1. Ron Hines, DVM: All About Your Parrot's Feathers - The Causes of Molt, Feather Problems and What You Can Do About Them
      2. Rob Harvey: Feather Plucking in Parrots
      3. Heidi Hoefer, DVM, Avian Practice: Feather Loss in Pet Birds
      4. Bird Channel: Bird Feather Growth and Health
      5. Tailfeathers Network: Blood Feathers
      6. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Feather Structure

      7. Updated October,  2021


        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 has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

        Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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