Molting Season – Adding Insult To Injury

Molting Season – Adding Insult To Injury

 April 7th, 2011
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Camelot and blue throated macaws

In case breeding season isn’t enough to make you crazy, we can now also embrace molting season. Half of me loves the molting season. I am always fascinated by new feather growth – out with the raggedy and in with the shiny and new. The other half, perhaps the bigger half, hates it for the extra work it creates.


I am taking care of the Womach’s budgies while they are on the road. A small bird might have as many as 3000 feathers on it’s body – X 2 budgies = 6000 feathers. Doing the math, and looking at what’s on the floor, these birds should be naked.  And I hope I have finally learned to stop trying to sweep up those feathers they deposit on the floor near the cage. Sweeping creates a breeze and breezes make the tiny white feathers take flight all on their own. Soon the feathers are deposited everywhere. I found one stuck to a shelf in the fridge.

The real positive here is the fact that is probably is the end of the hormonal behavior for the littlest birds in the flock. Generally speaking, when the serious molting begins, the breeding urges are in a decline. Feather and egg production both use considerable amounts of the body’s calcium supply, so it is uncommon for both to be happening at once. I hope the bigger birds are paying attention.

Goffins cockatoo - Theo's tweaker

I get excited for my birds to finally rid themselves of certain unruly feathers. My goffins cockatoo, Theo, has a wing feather that somehow twists upside down and points upward and away from her body. I can truly live without that feather, but she seems in no hurry to let it go. When I rehomed my first umbrella cockatoo, Abu, her tail feathers were a ratty mess. I was told that, in her former home, she was left free to roam an area with textured cement floors accounting for the worn feathers. It was such a thrill the next year when they were replaced with silky new ones.

Indian ringneck

This time of year there are always questions about molting. I have noticed a lot of them this year are pertaining to concerns that their birds are slow in shedding certain feathers and wondering if these feathers will be molted this year since they weren’t the year before.

There are conditions and circumstances that can be a deterent to the molting of old feathers. Poor diet, stress and ill-health can play a huge role in the disruption of the molting cycle. If your bird suffers from any of these things, its body has more important concerns than the exchanging of feathers and will fail to do so. If your bird is long overdue for a good molt, you should bring her in for a work-up and be sure to tell the vet about your concerns.

Greenwing macaws

For those of you with birds who have had feathers damaged in an accident, or who are feather destructive and have damaged their feathers themselves, know that these feathers seem to defy the typical molting cycle and may take a while to fall out. This can also apply to birds who have received severe wing trims, where the flight feathers have been cut too far down the shaft.
The only thing that stimulates feather regrowth is the loss of the existing feather. Barring any health or emotional issues, the feather will eventually be molted. Please never remove a feather for aesthetic reasons. It can be too painful and traumatic an experience for your bird to endure for the purposes of appearance. The only time we should forcefully remove a feather is when it is a broken blood feather presenting an immediate danger to the bird or if a damaged feather is hanging painfully from the follicle.

Blue and gold macaws

So right now the birds are screaming and biting and somehow there are feathers in the silverware drawer. Soon it will be over…until next year.

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13 Comments on “Molting Season – Adding Insult To Injury”

Ronni  04/11/2011 1:40 am

My daughter used our Umbrella Cockatoo’s feathers in her wedding bouquet–very unique and a tribute to her love of all creatures avian.

Vavoom  04/11/2011 12:21 pm

Molting… birds are amazing little creatures aren’t they?!?! And sooo beauiful too <3

Janet Wooley  04/11/2011 4:15 pm

I also save their feathers in a large jar and share with friends, family and co-workers. My co-workers attach them to their pens! With a blue front amazon and a Blue and Gold Macaw I always have plenty to share!!!

FLHippy  04/11/2011 9:35 pm

Charley laid SEVEN eggs this year… Molting means the whole egg thing has come to an end.

She would let herself out of the cage go onto the bed get under the covers and lay the egg. Or try for three to six nights. It’s all very stressful for poor sleepy me…

John Fross  04/12/2011 12:50 am

JOHN FROSS, I have a Yellow Nape that is 28 yrs. old. In those 28 yrs. she HAS NEVER HAD A MOLT WHERE SHE LOST ALL HER OLD FEATHERS. Last yr. I took her to a vet for a complete physical and she said she was fine, except she was too fat. We have been working on that with no success. I tried to switch her over to pellets but she absolutely refuses to eat them. She would starve to death before she would eat a pellet. I tried things you suggested and they never worked either. I’M AT A LOSS WHAT TO DO ABOUT HER NOT MOLTING. Anyone out there with some suggestions?…………………………..THANKS

Lily  04/12/2011 9:56 am

Well, with 5 birds all molting and screaming & 2 dogs blowing their winter coats, my poor vacuum cleanerS are going to blow up, lol. We save the large feathers for various reasons, but my husband really likes playing tricks on people by hiding them behind his back, then “sneezing” or “coughing” and throwing the feathers out forward as if he sneezed them or coughed them out, lmao, it sounds weird maybe, but it really is hysterical to watch!!

Lily  04/12/2011 9:57 am

With 5 birds all molting and screaming & 2 dogs blowing their winter coats, my poor vacuum cleanerS are going to blow up, lol. We save the large feathers for various reasons, but my husband really likes playing tricks on people by hiding them behind his back, then “sneezing” or “coughing” and throwing the feathers out forward as if he sneezed them or coughed them out, lmao, it sounds weird maybe, but it really is hysterical to watch!!

Patsy Seo  04/12/2011 1:04 pm

One of sunshine’s beautiful red and green feathers along with a small semiprecious stone and a piece of paper or cardboard with a quote of Pierre in Tolstoy’s War and Peace prayer.
“May I fall into sleep as a stone and wake as a feather in the morning” Sealed together with a couple of strips of the clear wrapping tape (Same as masking tape only clear) Make a lovely book marker for my books.

pat caique crazy  04/12/2011 3:34 pm

I love my parrots all 12 of them and it is amazing how I use to SQUAWK about dust bunnies under the couch!!!! I have gotton used to this season and even tolerate the added garnish on my supper plate when I see the beautiful result on their bodies when the feathers are replaced.


Patty  04/14/2011 9:33 pm

Hi John,
A couple of my birds don’t really molt all of their feathers in a single season. They seem more inclined to release some here and there throughout the year or years. If I am not paying attention, I miss it. It is possible that your YNA’s problems are diet related. What is her current diet? I urge you to keep trying to get her onto healthy foods. It took me two long years to get my umbrella cockatoo to eat a vegetable (broccoli was his first) and I am still always trying to improve his diet by coming up with clever new ways to do things. It’s a huge challenge, but it has been worthwhile.

Patty  04/14/2011 9:40 pm

Hi FLHippy,
I can tell you with certainty that Charley will continue to over-lay eggs because of the wonderful nest site she has found beneath the covers in your bed. Is Charley by any chance a cockatiel? If she is, be aware that this species is prone to chronic egg laying and egg binding. It would be best for her health if you kept her out of dark places that are perceived as nests, such as cabinets, boxes, bags and…in your bed! She will be less likely to lay if she doesn’t feel she has a nest to incubate in.

Patty  04/14/2011 9:41 pm

Hi Ronni!
I LOVE that. What a clever idea!!!

Terry B  04/19/2011 10:55 pm

My senegal doesn’t molt. He may lose a random feather but never goes through a full molt. This was very good information. I am the bird’s 3rd owner and I’ve had him for about 3 years. I estimate he is about 13-14 years old. He came to me plucking. He looks a lot better but is still a mild plucker. This makes me wonder if there is something else going on. The suggestion of having him go through a physical is a good one.