Cleaning up after pets is a never-ending job.
You may have noticed when cleaning your home how much hair your dog or cat sheds throughout the week.
Parakeets make wonderful companions and require far less clean-up than other pets.
But just how often do parakeets shed their feathers?
Well, all birds go through a process called molting in which they shed old, weak feathers and grow new, vibrant ones.
Parakeets experience their first molt at approximately 3 months. Like all birds, they will experience molting throughout their lives. From a young age they begin shedding feathers and growing new ones. Molting is a natural process, but there are many things you can learn as a parakeet owner in terms of what to expect and how to help your parakeet through their molting periods.
This article will explain what molting is, at what age parakeets first molt, how long molting lasts, when molting occurs, changes in a parakeet’s behavior during molting, and what ways you can help your parakeet to be more comfortable during their molt.
Let’s not waste anymore time and get right into it!
What is molting?
Feathers for birds are similar to hair or nails for humans.
They are considered “dead” and therefore can’t repair themselves when damaged.
Feathers are a complete structure, which means unlike hair or fingernails, they don’t regenerate and continue to grow.
Because of this, all birds shed old, worn feathers and replace them with new ones in the process called molting.
Molting is a natural process that occurs gradually for most birds.
The intensity and frequency of molting depends on the species and is a vital process for keeping birds in tip-top flying shape.
A bird’s feathers are constantly exposed to friction and wear and tear when they rub against trees and branches, fly, preen and dust bathe.
When it’s time to shed these old feathers, birds prepare for regular molts because it takes an immense amount of energy to regenerate new feathers.
Molting periods vary depending on the bird species and their needs.
How can you determine a parakeets age?
Baby budgies have lines on their head.
These dark stripes extend from the parakeet’s forehead to her cere, the soft, colorful area just below the eyes and above the beak.
After they start growing, they shed their baby feathers and the new feathers that grow on top of the head don’t have stripes.
This is a helpful indicator if you are trying to determine a parakeet’s age.
If your parakeet still has these dark lines on the head, she hasn’t had her first molt yet and is younger than 3-4 months. The new feathers are a more vibrant color and will be larger than the baby feathers.
How long does molting last in parakeets?
As the molting process begins, your parakeet’s feathers fall out little by little rather than all at once.
There is no need to pull out your parakeet’s feathers since molting occurs naturally.
When the feathers are ready to come out, they will. If you try and pull them out too early this could hurt your parakeet.
The gradual molting process usually lasts for 2-3 weeks for a parakeet’s first time.
It’s important to be informed about molting and also to be patient and let nature take its course throughout this timeframe.
On occasion, a budgie’s molt may last longer.
When molting is stalled it can be a sign of malnutrition or stress.
If molting lasts for a longer period then you should look for bald patches — especially around the neck and head — that last for more than a few days.
Abnormal feather growth or loss can be caused by a number of factors.
For example, bald patches can happen because of boredom, bad nutrition or feather lice.
If you observe extended molting or abnormal feather loss you should take your parakeet to the vet.
What months or seasons do budgies molt?
Parakeets generally experience molting throughout their entire lives.
After the first baby molt, your budgie will typically molt once a year, sometimes twice.
However, the frequency and length of the molt depends on the individual bird and can change over time.
Some parakeets experience soft molts, in which they shed secondary feathers during hot seasons.
Molting can also be induced by a new diet, stress, illness, changes in environment or seasons, breeding periods and parasites.
While these occurrences don’t guarantee a molt, they can contribute to it.
Parakeet molting behavior
Your parakeet can experience changes in behavior during the molting period.
Shedding old feathers and growing new ones is an uncomfortable experience and can often be stressful.
New feathers, referred to as pin feathers, are itchy and irritable for your bird.
You may notice your parakeet frequently trying to scratch its head feathers throughout the molting period to relieve the itch.
Your budgie may subsequently become cranky or moody.
Parakeets are generally inactive during molting because the process requires so much energy.
Your bird may squawk a lot, eat more and sit for large amounts of time.
Because they passively sit for longer periods, parakeets might suddenly flap their wings while sitting or powerfly flap around the cage to help loose feathers fall out.
Even though your precious pet may seem sad or upset, again, molting is a natural process and it’s best to let the molt run its course.
How to help your molting budgie
Give your parakeet a little extra love during molting.
There are a number of ways you can help your parakeet to be more comfortable during the molting process:
Bump up the thermostat
Losing feathers means losing insulation from the cold.
You can keep the room warmer than usual to help your parakeet combat the cold.
More food, more vitamins
Growing new feathers takes more energy and burns more calories.
You can make sure your parakeet is eating lots of bird feed, fruits and vegetables.
A balanced diet is important to support your budgie while molting.
You can even buy food tailored for molting birds packed with the vitamins and nutrients your bird needs.
Keep your budgie and its cage clean
Your parakeet loses feathers quickly during molting, so make sure to clean as much as possible to make your pet more comfortable.
You should also bathe your budgie at least once a week because this can help release loose feathers.
Provide peace and quiet
Molting parakeets need a lot of rest and will sleep about 10-12 hours a day.
Make sure you provide a peaceful, dark atmosphere so they can rest.
Play with your parakeet
Even though they might be more irritable and grumpy, parakeets need your love and they need to exercise.
Just be sure to avoid grabbing your parakeet because of the discomfort caused by pin feathers.