Close

The Molting Process in Parrots

new feather growth

Molting is when a parrot sheds old, worn out feathers and grows new, fresh ones. Birdsupplies.com | UnRuffledRx makes several products to support molting birds.

Bird lovers should know how much stress a molt is on a pet bird. About once or twice a year most pet birds experience a molt. Birds molt old, worn out feathers shortly after the breeding season. 

Parrots need fresh healthy feathers in preparation for the rest of the year. If you have a pet bird or parrot, it will experience a molt once or twice a year.

Bird feathers are not just an adornment. Healthy feathers are critical for flight, safety, insulation and warmth and sexuality. Feathers are your parrots prized possession and proper  skin and feather care is critical to your pets well-being While molting is a taxing experience for your bird, it is critical for its well-being. How will a molt affect you and your pet bird?

Table of Contents

FAQ Molting in Parrots

What is Molting?

Molting is a process that all birds experience.  Shedding old, worn feathers makes way for new feather growth. Healthy feathers are a bird’s greatest possession as they allow a bird to fly and escape stressful or dangerous situations. Colorful feathers are like a bird’s calling card! They attract the opposite sex and insure a new generation. Plus, feathers offer extraordinary insulation keeping a bird warm.

What are the parts of feathers?

Each feather is made up of keratin, an insoluble protein and consists of several distinct parts:

  1. Calamus - the hollow shaft of the feather that fastens the feather to the bird's skin
  2. Rachis - the central shaft of the feather to which the vanes are attached
  3. Vane - the flattened part of the feather that is attached on either side of the rachis (each feather has two vanes)
  4. Barbs - the numerous branches off the rachis that form the vanes
  5. Barbules - tiny extensions from barbs that are held together by barbicels
  6. Barbicels - tiny hooks that interlock to hold the barbules together.

What causes feather wear?

A bird’s feathers take a lot of abuse. The feathers of wild parrots are exposed to wind, dirt, harsh sun rays, heat, and cold. 

Pet birds or captive parrots may not experience natural elements but they frequently experience malnutrition or stress leading to inferior feather health. Furthermore, confined captive parrots damage their feathers on cage bars. 

Captive parrots that have their flight feathers clipped experience feather damage when the fall off of a perch potentially breaking off much needed tail feathers and wing feathers that aid in helping them balance themselves. Imagine the wear and tear that feathers endure. They are like the armor that protects a bird from the elements.


Preening Parrot

Why Do Birds Preen?

Even if your bird can't fly, it has an instinctual need to preen its feathers. Preening is when the bird cleans and realigns all of the feather parts so that the feather can provide lift when the bird takes flight. Preening also aligns the feather so that each feather lays properly.

As individual feathers break down they lose their ability to assist a bird in flight or insulate against the elements.  Old feathers are shed or molted away to make room for strong, new, vibrantly colored feathers.

What triggers a molt?

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow the daily light cycles that an organism experiences. All living things experience Circadian rhythms, from tiny microbes to plants to animals. 

The role of light in birds regulates hormone levels which in turn triggers a molt. Again, birds living in the wild experience a very different molt than a pet bird living in a cage that is housed in a room with artificial light.

How does a molt occur?

When a bird is going through a molt, it will lose its feathers in a symmetrical fashion. That means that if one or two feathers are lost on one side of the body the exact same feather on the opposing side of the body is lost. This process allows a bird to bear stable flight during a molt while staying protected from the elements. 

Molting an entire set of feathers takes from several weeks to a few months depending on the size and species of bird. What is molting like for Birds? A bird must be in tip top health condition in order to regenerate healthy feathers. On top of that, feather regeneration is pretty irritating.

How are new feathers regenerated?

New feathers are regenerated in the form of pin feathers, or short, thick pointed quills.  Each feather is a complex organism made up of proteins and amino acids.  Feather regeneration requires that a bird be in optimal health so as to not deplete the body of nutrients. Each feather is made up of keratin, an insoluble protein and consists of six distinct parts - that were described above.

If the bird experiences a stressful event during the feather growth process it will show up in the feathers in the form of stress bars. These look like lines across the width of the feather.  If your bird has a lot of stress bars, you should take it to the vet to find out what may be causing it so much stress.

Feathers with stress bars are weaker and vulnerable to breakage.

Birds experience considerable physical and emotional stress during the molt. In fact, some weakened birds may not survive a molt. You’ll notice that your bird may be more cranky or nippy than usual when it is going through a molt. 

A canary will be quieter, conserving its energy toward feather growth rather than singing. Nutritional resources are directed toward growing healthy feathers and new feather growth is somewhat irritating. Pinfeathers may hurt and itch enough to aggravate a pet bird.  

As the new feather is being formed, the pin feather is filled with blood and feels somewhat moist. Once the new feather growth is complete, the keratin dries and cracks allowing the new feather to emerge. Generally, birds are able to groom the keratin away on their own, but captive birds often need help removing the keratin on the back of their head.

In Conclusion, molting is a totally natural process, but it is stressful for your bird.  You can support your bird's nutritional requirements to grow new feathers with UnRuffledRx FeatheredUp!

Learn more about Regrowing Feathers in this blog post

Subscribe