Birds are simply awesome as pets. They were first kept as pets for their beauty more than 4,000 years ago. Since then they have been synonymous with ‘the pets’ that can easily be accommodated, almost anywhere.
If you love keeping birds or simply want to know about how to keep them as pets, you are definitely at the right place. In this article we are going to talk about molting in pet birds but since you are already here be sure to check out all the articles relating to keeping birds as pets.
What is molting/moulting?
Molting is basically the shedding of the cuticle. In birds it is a common natural phenomenon which can involve shedding the skin and/or fur.
Bird feathers are non-living in nature just like our fingernails and they go through the natural procedure of shedding.
Birds shed their old feathers and in return get back new set of feathers. Feather follicles will only stimulate growth once the old feathers are removed, pretty much like what we do with our hair. This process is known as molting.
For all the bird lovers and the ones who want to enhance their knowledge on bird keeping, it is important to gain an in-depth understanding about molting. In my opinion, it is only then you will be able to take proper care of the birds.
Here are some facts about molting and how it relates to the health of your pet bird:
Different birds molt at different time of the year.
Birds molt at different times, usually right after breeding season. Some may even molt multiple times a year.
There are factors like seasons, reproductive cycle, nutritional status and migration that determines when molting takes place.
Some parrots molt twice a year. So, don’t get tensed if you start seeing your parrot lose their feathers. They will soon regain those colorful feathers after the molting state is over.
The time it takes to fully molt all the feathers depends on the species of birds. The birds we keep as pets may molt at odd times and may even take longer to fully molt all their feathers. This is because of not being exposed to enough sunlight.
The UVA and UVB in sunlight triggers molting and if your bird is not exposed to enough sunlight or you don’t have a full spectrum of light set up for your pet bird, most definitely they will have an unusual molt.
In majority of birds we keep as pets, usual molt lasts a few weeks or a little longer, occur in symmetry throughout their body, without any bald patches.
How to know if your bird is actually molting?
If you are a bird keeper, you already know that birds tend to shed their downy feathers all year round. Downy feathers are the fine insulating feathers that are found under the tougher outer feathers. The process of molting is not shedding these downy feathers.
However, if you see the shedding of entire feathers, shaft and all, accumulating on the bottom of cage or aviary for several weeks then you know for sure that molting is going on.
If you see the shaft of feathers chewed up and splintered, it may be feather plucking, a destructive behavior which is not molting. Spraying them with water mist frequently might help ease their urge of feather plucking.
There could be some other problems with your birds if you see irregular feather loss, which I am going to talk about further down this article.
Importance of molting in birds.
Molting is important for every bird. Like I mentioned already this process replaces the old and damaged feathers with the new ones.
This process also helps regulate their body temperature during the seasonal changes in their habitats.
If you decide to purchase a new pet bird, you should always ask for details on taking care of the bird, including the expected time of molting. These details will help you take proper care of the bird in the long run.
A normal molt will slowly replace the feathers of a bird. At this point in time they need more energy to generate new feathers.
This is a stressful time for them as this process can continue for weeks (sometimes even years in some bird species).
Right nutritional diet during molting.
Let me emphasize on this again. During the time of molting, birds require more energy.
At this time you have to be extremely careful with their diet. Right nutrition is of utmost importance during this period.
The food offered should be increased by at least 25% during this time. More fresh vegetables, fruits and other nutritional calcium and protein rich food should be offered.
Each feather is made from the protein, keratin, so protein is essential all the time, but especially so during this period.
You can also buy special nutritious molting food like Featheriffic at your local pet shops or online.
Provide warm and stress free place:
As the feathers are shed, birds lose the insulating cover they provide. In such a scenario offer them a warm place. Heated perch or full spectrum heat lamps work really great if your birds do not get enough heat or sunlight exposure.
It is natural for the bird to have some behavioral problems during molting. They usually try to defend themselves vigorously and are often afraid of small things or slightest movements.
It is best to offer your bird a quiet and a dark place to keep them away from any stress. Try offering them some sort of privacy by covering the cage. My recommendation is to let the cage be half covered during days and totally covered at night.
This makes them feel secure at all times. You definitely don’t want them to screech all the time and irritate you because that is what a lot of birds do when stressed.
Causes of irregular feather loss.
This may be a serious condition and most likely be totally unrelated to molting. Birds that lose feathers abnormally other than in their usual molting period could have the following problems:
- Your bird might not be getting proper nutrition.
- They might not be receiving the right amount of humidity. Either the surrounding has too much of or not enough humidity.
- Not enough exposure to sunlight or maybe too much exposure to the sunlight.
- They are suffering from some kind of illness.
Birds like (but not limited to) Parrots, Macaws, African Grey Parrots, Ringneck parakeets, Eclectus Parrots, Lovebirds and Cockatoos are prone to abnormal molting due to a virus called Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).
This virus targets their immune system and cells. Symptoms of this virus include irreversible loss of feathers, shedding of developing feathers, development of abnormal feathers and new pinched feathers.
It is best to take your bird to a veterinarian if you suspect unusual loss of feathers in your birds.
Have you experienced loss of feathers in your pet birds? If so, please share your story with our readers in the comment below.
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