The biggest part of caring for birds is having a complete understanding of their behaviors and health needs. But if you’re a newbie, you might find yourself concerned if your budgie is losing its feathers. Chances are, your pet bird is molting, and that’s a perfectly natural process. That said, seeing a tiny sea of feathers at the bottom of your budgie’s enclosure can be worrisome if you aren’t expecting it. We look at when budgies molt and other facts about their feather-refreshing routine.
When Do Budgies Molt?
Budgies most commonly molt one to three times a year, typically in the spring or fall. However, some may molt continuously or only once every few years. That’s because pet birds aren’t exposed to the same environmental factors as their wild counterparts. Instead, your budgie will depend on its internal clock and its molt will hinge on your pet’s food intake, sunlight exposure, and warmth.
Why do budgies molt?
Budgies molt to help them stay healthy. Feathers wear down over time. The process of replacing feathers is necessary to keep the ability to fly, getting rid of old or damaged feathers. Budgies need their plumage in tip-top shape to protect their bodies, regulate their temperature, and facilitate flight — of course. Healthy feathers also play a role in courtship in the avian world.
Is molting uncomfortable?
Unfortunately, molting is a mildly uncomfortable and itchy affair. Pinfeathers can irritate your budgie’s skin, and the effort it takes to grow more feathers can leave them with far less energy than usual. The lack of energy can make them a bit cranky and restless.
Your budgie will want those pinfeathers off as soon as possible, so you’ll see your budgie preening much more than usual, and they may rub their heads on various perches, rocks, and toys to try and speed the process along. If your bird is acting especially out of character or if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your avian vet.
Can I comfort my budgie while they molt?
Physical contact with humans while molting may not comfort your budgie, so it’s best to not force snuggles on them while your pet is drained and uncomfortable. To try to make molting a little easier, you could provide your feathered friend with a nice, clean place to take a bath or mist them with a spray bottle. Bathing will help fight back the itch and aid in the molting process.
Talking to them can also bring them some comfort, and ensure they get plenty of time out of their cage. That said, they’ll also need plenty of undisturbed rest, so be sure to read your bird’s cues and give them time to destress.
Do budgies need any special nutrients while molting?
Your pet bird will need more protein, calcium, and iron during the molting process. While providing a well-balanced diet for your budgie is always important, your feathered friend needs nutrients while molting more than ever. Providing a wide variety of fresh produce and high-quality pellets will help keep them healthy during this time.
You could also give them a little scrambled egg, nuts, cooked legumes, and a high-protein seed mix. However, beware of changing your budgies’ diet too much at one time, as that can cause gastrointestinal issues. Gradual changes are best. When in doubt, check with your vet.
How do I know if my budgie is molting?
Some common signs that your budgie is molting include a mess of feathers everywhere, your budgie having far less energy than usual, and not wanting to play. The thing is, those can also be signs of sickness, which can escalate quickly. If this is your first time seeing feathers at the bottom of the cage or noticing your bird is out of character, double-check with your vet to make sure your budgie is molting.
A sure sign, however, is seeing new feathers spring up covered in keratin sheaths. The sheaths are crucial for protecting new feathers and your bird will reveal them when the time is right. Although you may be tempted to help your budgie by preening them and removing the sheath, it’s best to just let your budgie preen themselves to avoid the risk of accidentally hurting them. Plus, you don’t want to reveal feathers before they’re ready.
How long does molting last?
In the wild, many birds heavily molt in the spring and fall but gradually replace feathers throughout the year. If it happened all at once, the process would leave them vulnerable. For pet birds, it’s difficult to say how long the process will last. Similar to the answer about how often budgies will molt, the answers are tied together.
While your bird might molt at the standard times of year, their process will depend on diet, light exposure, and general health. You’ll likely find your budgie often has at least a pinfeather or two coming through. My advice is to get to know your budgie and their particular cycle. That way, you’ll know if the molt will last a few weeks or run gradually all year long.
If your budgie is molting, don’t fret! That means that your avian buddy is healthy, and their body is functioning properly. When you notice your bird in the process, just do what you can to keep them happy and comfortable until their bodies are finished with the cycle.
Be on the lookout for unusual molts with irregular patterns and take them to the vet if you have any concerns. Other than that, provide them with a bountiful diet and create a stress-free environment, and your budgie should be back to their old self in no time with brand new feathers on display.
“Molting in Birds,” Laurie Hess and Rick Axelson, VCA Animal Hospitals, vcahospitals.com
“Diagnosis, Prevention, and Control of French Molt,” Gary D. Butcher and Richard M. Miles, University of Florida IFAS Extension, edit.ifas.ufl.edu
“Budgies – Feeding,” Gregory Rich and Laurie Hess, VCA Animal Hospitals, vcahospitals.com
Kim is an avid bird watcher and owner in South Carolina. She loves identifying, studying, and feeding her feathered friends in their natural habitats. She also has first-hand experience as the owner of several species of exotic birds.