Has your budgie’s cage floor turned into a sea of feathers? Are you seeing strange pins on its head and body? Might your bird be a bit more cranky than usual? No worries, nothing bad is happening: it’s just budgie molting! This is a natural, recurring process that can leave your bird a bit cranky for a couple of weeks.
Like other bird species, budgies regularly molt to replace their feathers. Let’s go into what happens during a molt and what you can do to keep your bird comfortable.
Why is my budgie molting? | Molting explained
What is a molt?
Many animals molt twice a year in order to grow and shed their winter coat. Most budgies only tend to molt once every year, usually during spring, just in time to be able to attract a mate with their fresh new coat. That being said, some unlucky souls go through it twice a year or more.
Budgies don’t shed their feathers to prepare for cold weather, but to keep them fresh and functional. If they didn’t molt, they would end up looking pretty awful after a while and might even lose the ability to fly. Molting ensures old feathers are replaced by brand new ones to last the bird for another year.
New feathers will appear, sometimes in huge amounts, covered in keratin sheaths. These sheaths protect the new feather, which is still directly connected to your bird’s blood supply, from damage. These new, covered feathers are referred to as pinfeathers and they cause many a new bird owner to panic. No worries: your bird hasn’t contracted some kind of worm-like parasite and the sheaths will fall off by themselves.
Did you know? Baby budgies will go through a first, big molt at around three months of age. They lose their baby feathers and the barring on top of their head to reveal their adult plumage.
How long does molting last?
As with molting frequency, the time it takes for a budgie to replace its feathers varies per individual. Some of them go through the whole process in just one or two weeks, while others shed feathers for more than two months.
The intensity of a molt can vary as well. In some instances it’s just a few feathers here and there, while other times you end up having to vacuum daily and with a very raggedy-looking bird.
Is molting uncomfortable for my budgie?
You betcha! It’s not hard to imagine that molting isn’t a very nice process for a bird to go through. That’s why your budgie can appear low-energy and even cranky when it’s shedding.
- The first reason that budgie molting is uncomfortable is that it appears to be a very itchy ordeal. Pinfeathers irritate the bird’s skin. You’ll probably see your budgie preening itself loads and trying to reach difficult feathers by rubbing its head on perches and other objects.
- Secondly, regrowing all those feathers takes a lot of energy and nutrients. That’s why a molting budgie will sleep more, seek less contact with humans and other budgies, and might be more interested in its calcium block and food in general.
- Lastly, there’s the matter of safety. Although they don’t lose all their feathers at once to avoid becoming unable to fly, a molting budgie will still be in a state of unease because it knows it might not have the energy and wing power to flee from possible predators. This is another reason why many birds withdraw a bit during a molt.
Did you know? If your budgie has been molting for more than three months straight or if its feathers aren’t growing back in, you might want to ring your avian vet for advice. This might be a sign that something is off, like thyroid issues or even heightened stress levels. This also applies if significant bald spots appear.
How can I help my budgie during its molt?
It’s not nice seeing your beloved budgie molting and feeling uncomfortable, but luckily, there are some things you can do.
Of course, you should leave your bird alone if it doesn’t want contact, even if it’s normally very snuggly. Other than that, you could try the following:
- Baths. Many budgies will love to splash around during their molt. This alleviates some of the pinfeather itch and helps to make sure the molt goes smoothly. If your budgie doesn’t like to bathe, you can try misting it with a spray bottle.
- Rest. Plenty of sleep is very important for proper feather development! Make sure your budgie gets around 12 hours of undisturbed shuteye. It’s also a good idea to provide a quiet spot that the bird can retreat to during the day.
- Nutrition. A proper parakeet diet is always important, but even more so when your budgie is molting. A high quality pellet, lots of veggies, a good source of calcium and access to fresh water at all times are crucial.
- Scratches. Not all budgies will accept head and neck scratches, especially during a molt, but if yours does then you can help alleviate its itches. Just be gentle and don’t get too offended if your bird gives a warning bite: you might have rubbed a pinfeather the wrong way and caused a sting. Scratches can help loosen pinfeather sheaths in spots the bird can’t reach by itself.
- Comfort. Just try to make sure your budgie is comfortable. Keep the home at room temperature and try to avoid stressors.
Although it can be a bit exasperating to deal with feather storms and a cranky bird, budgie molting is a normal part of this species’ yearly cycle. Don’t stress and just try to keep your budgie as comfortable, stress-free and well-fed as possible. It’ll be over before you know it!
If you have any more questions about budgie molting or if you want to share your own experiences in dealing with a molting parrot, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!