When you own a bird, there are a ton of new things you need to look out for. Molting in budgies, especially if it’s very frequent, can be concerning. So, why do budgies molt so frequently?
Budgies keep molting for many reasons. One of the most important things to know about budgies is that they will molt throughout the year. Regardless of the circumstances, you can be sure that your budgie is going to molt for one reason or another. Depending on the bird, a normal molt can occur for weeks or months at a time.
If you have a budgie, it’s important to know that there are other reasons why it might molt. You might also want to know the ways in which your budgie’s molting could be unrelated to their semi-annual shedding.
Normal Reasons for Molting
Your budgie’s regular activities will affect the quality of their feathers. Budgies like to fly freely, preen, and take dust baths. They also like to rub their beaks against various surfaces. All of these actions will cause stress to their feathers, and they will eventually fall out and be replaced by new ones.
A budgie’s feathers are made out of keratin. Keratin is the same protein that keeps human hair and fingernails functions. A budgie’s feathers do not constantly regenerate like hair and nails; feathers grow to completion and then deteriorate with each use. Once your budgie is three months old, it will also undergo its first molt, where it sheds its baby feathers to grow adult ones.
- First molt: Budgies will shed feathers significantly in their first molt. They are getting rid of all their baby feathers in a two to three-week process. This first molt is typically stressful for any bird that undergoes it, so it is typical to expect some fuss. Nonetheless, it is wise to keep an eye on your budgie’s health and behavior during this time.
- Flying: A budgie’s normal flying habits are one of the main reasons why their feathers might be shedding. Since the feathers aren’t constantly kept in shape by keratin proteins, they will lose their quality, even though activities like flying and flapping. If your budgie happens to already be molting, this may deteriorate feather quality more rapidly.
- Preening: Budgies can’t rely on keratin to maintain the quality of their feathers, so they must preen to keep them in top condition. Preening is how a bird grooms its feathers daily. This removes dust, dirt, and parasites. Budgies also have a gland near the base of their tail, which makes special oils that keep their feathers flexible and waterproof.
- Dust bathing: Dust baths are a form of preening. Budgies may bath in dust, dirt, or sand, in order to remove excess oils. Not only will this practice remove oil, it can also increase feather insulation, optimize flight, and smother parasites.
- Beak rubbing: A budgie’s beak is made out of keratin. Unlike feathers, their beak will continue to grow; beak rubbing is an important way for budgies to clean and hone their beaks. Budgies will rub their beaks on trees, clotheslines, and even on metal. Keeping their beak to size can aid them in flight, as the weight can throw them off balance.
Abnormal Conditions of Molting
Preening and molting come naturally to budgies, so it is important to keep them comfortable and healthy. It is possible for your budgie to over-groom itself, or for molting to occur as a result of health problems. You will want to monitor any changes in temperament and habit. It is normal for birds to be irritable during the first molt, but it is important to watch them with caution.
Even if your bird is healthy, molting will cause it to lose flight, lose insulation, make it more susceptible to temperature, and expose its skin to parasites. Feeding your budgie a good diet is also crucial during a molt, as a lack of nutrients will cause feathers to grow improperly. Budgies also disguise health problems to ward off predators, so you want to inspect them frequently.
- Malnutrition: A molt requires constant observation of your budgie’s nutrition. Without proper nutrition, your budgie’s feathers won’t grow properly or at all. Your budgie may also molt abnormally if it wasn’t getting proper nutrition to begin with. Even when your budgie doesn’t seem to be molting, it is important to keep its diet optimal to avoid any problems.
- Catching a cold: A budgie’s feathers provide it with warmth and insulation. During a molt, this protection will be compromised, so you will want to keep your budgie’s and your home environment’s temperature above 70°F (21°C). Cold temperatures can also stress out your budgie, which may exacerbate molting or cause abnormal feather growth.
- French molt: This is a condition of both abnormal feather growth and feather loss. French molt is a virus that keeps feathers from growing back. The virus comes about, typically if your budgie has a poor immune system response. This can be avoided by keeping your bird healthy, including the use of vitamins to stimulate its immune system.
- Dirty feathers: Dirty feathers can keep your budgie from molting properly. While dust bathing is a natural practice for birds, excessive dirtiness can cause your budgie’s feathers and skin to dry, and its feathers to lose their color. If your budgie’s feathers start to look consistently dirty, it is important to take them to the vet for an examination.
- Parasites: You can tell if your budgie might have parasites by observing its behavior and appearance. It may seem to be less spry than usual, or even physically thin. The Giardia parasite is associated with the budgie; it is found in water and will make your bird’s skin very itchy. Your budgie will scream and pluck its own feathers due to the sensation.
Preventing Improper Molting
Your budgie’s health is sensitive, so it is always smart to monitor its health, temperament, food, and environment. Habitual and strict care for your bird can prevent problems before they begin to take root.
Providing regular vitamins with proper feeding will provide all the nutrients that your budgie needs to stay healthy.
Vitamins needed by your budgie include the following:
- Vitamin A: This is important for a wide variety of health concerns. Vitamin A is crucial for strengthening the immune system, keeping feathers shiny, and stimulating appetite in a crowded environment. Vitamin A can be found in sweet potatoes and carrots. Many budgies are also fond of carrot juice.
- Vitamin D3: This provides calcium to strengthen your budgie’s muscles and bones. It also aids in egg-laying and providing strength to newborn and young birds. This vitamin can be acquired either through natural sunlight or through the use of full-spectrum lamps. Too much vitamin D3 may cause kidney damage and stunted growth.
- Vitamin E: This is an antioxidant that helps with immune functions and stress. Ideally, you want to use nuts and seeds to provide your budgie with vitamin E. Vitamin E oil supplements must be refrigerated to stay fresh, otherwise, the oils will turn rancid. This can cause stiff or weak legs in budgies.
- Vitamin B: B vitamins correlate to higher energy and metabolism. This is important in stimulating the health of budgie chicks. One of the best ways to provide this vitamin to your budgie is by feeding it a cultured yeast energy supplement, filled with Thiamine.
If your budgie is molting, you can rule out a number of possible problems simply by being proactive in keeping it healthy and happy. Regardless of their health, budgies will have different molting times. Some will molt over a few weeks, and others might molt throughout the year. There is no need for alarm, as long as you keep an eye on its health, behavior, and food supply.