I’ve had my newest cockatiel for around six months now.
She is the chick of a good breeder I know, and it’s been a real joy to have her around the house.
She’s quirky, fun, and just great company.
I’ve had parrots before, though, so I know that eventually, one thing is coming: molting.
After a long while, though, she still shows no signs of molting, so I’ve been curious about when I should expect it to happen.
I wanted to know and be prepared for it, so I decided to look into it.
So, when do cockatiels molt?
Cockatiels usually molt between six and 12 months old. It depends a bit on the weather, and warmer weather can encourage a molt earlier. From then on, they will molt once or twice a year. This will usually happen in the fall or the spring.
Molting is a totally normal part of your cockatiel’s life, so be on the look out for it.
That said, if your cockatiel appears to be molting early, this could indicate a problem.
If there are other signs, which I will get into, that they are not molting but self-harming, then this too needs to be something you look out for.
Let’s look further into this.
What time of year does a cockatiel molt?
The answer to this one is going to depend somewhat on your local climate.
It will be influenced to molt earlier in the year if the weather is warmer, but most commonly, it will molt in either spring or fall.
Molting in these months gives it time to get a new coat of feathers ready for the summer or the winter.
The winter is especially important, as they will want their new feathers to keep warm.
But it’s equally important to take the opportunity in the spring to renew their feathers and molt.
So, you should really expect your cockatiel to molt in the fall or spring—or both.
As I said, they usually molt every 6-12 months, so you could well have a cockatiel that molts twice a year in the spring and fall.
Again, though, it will depend on the local climate.
Try and control its local climate as much as you can, keeping it on a regular rhythm, and you should notice its molting in regular intervals.
So, how do you actually know if your cockatiel is molting?
How do I know my cockatiel is molting?
You’ll start by noticing that the cockatiel is preening itself a great deal more often.
This is when it ruffles its feathers with its beak, cleaning and freeing them up of any dust or other particulates.
Naturally, this will shortly be followed by seeing a lot of feathers and flakes everywhere, most commonly in the bottom of its cage.
You should see fully formed feathers at the bottom of the cage as well as virtually anywhere else the bird tends to hang out.
It’s vitally important, though, that you make sure the feathers are fully formed.
When stressed, cockatiels are known to engage in self-harm.
This will often take the form of pulling out their feathers, usually breaking them in half in the process.
If the feathers you see in the cage are broken, splintered, or split, then you may have a problem on your hands.
They should be fully formed if the bird is just molting.
Remember, molting should occur once or twice a year, usually in the transitional seasons.
If it seems to be losing feathers erratically, then it is probably not molting but self-harming.
Consult a vet as soon as you can in these cases to identify the problem.
How long does a cockatiel molt last?
The whole process, from beginning to lose feathers to the final product—a fully replaced coat, with entirely new feathers and a completely mature bird—can take around 10 weeks.
It will depend a lot on the individual bird, and again the local climate.
But you can expect it to take at least 7 weeks, and probably 10 at most. It may be longer, but not in most cases.
Be sure to keep an eye on the whole process to make sure it is going over smoothly, and your bird is getting all of its feathers replaced healthily.
Can cockatiels molt at four months?
Four months would be very early for any cockatiel to start the molting process.
It might be that the bird is actually a bit older than you think, if it seems to be healthily molting at four months.
Speak to the breeder again just to make sure of the age of the cockatiel.
If you’re certain of the age, then it may not be molting at all, but self-harm.
Again, look to whether the feathers are broken and split, or if they are fully formed.
Young birds are much more prone to behavioral problems than mature ones, so make sure that they are properly molting and not harming themselves.
So, as much as molting is a normal part of your cockatiel’s yearly life, you still need to keep an eye on it when it does happen.
There are lots of negative behaviors which can be mistaken for molting, and which can get worse if you don’t address them.
That said, as long as you provide for all of your cockatiel’s needs, they should molt healthily once or twice a year from the time they are about 6 months old.