Experiencing a molt for the first time with your parakeet can be disconcerting. Your normally cheerful and colorful little guy will lose feathers to the point of looking ragged and may become irritable during the process. He may appear sick -- and indeed he can get sick from molting complications -- but molting in parakeets is natural.
Parakeets go through molting seasons pretty much throughout their little lives. Molting is the normal process that eliminates old, worn out feathers to make way for new ones to grow in, kind of like shedding in dogs and cats. Parakeets start molting when they're approximately 12 weeks old and will molt yearly after that. Losing a number of feathers can make your little bird look tattered, and the new feathers growing in will be uncomfortable and itchy; so although normal molting won't make your parakeet sick, it can sometimes seem that he's ill. Although your 'keet will lose feathers during a molt, he should never have bald spots. If your bird experiences abnormally high feather loss, contact your vet.
When Molting Can Lead to Illness
Although normal molting won't make your parakeet sick, it can cause circumstances that could lead to an illness. Feathers are your bird's way of insulating himself, so losing a mass of feathers can make it difficult for him to stay warm; if he catches a chill, he may become sick. The risk is that a sick parakeet will have a hard time growing back the healthy feathers, making him sicker and even less able to grow feathers.
Molting 'Keet Care
Your parakeet won't need much help from your during a molt, but you can do a few things for him that will make the process more comfortable if not easier. Keep him warm. Eliminate drafts and don't let the temperature in his room drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Feed your parakeet a high-quality diet even when he's not molting. Good nutrition -- quality parakeet food along with fresh fruits and vegetables -- during a molt is crucial. Talk to your avian vet about a vitamin supplement to give him during molting season. If you don't typically provide your little one with a cuttlebone be sure to give him one when he's molting for extra calcium. Spritzing your parakeet with warm water during molting season will help keep him comfortable as the shower will soothe his itchy skin.
A type of abnormal molt is considered an illness itself. "French molt" is a condition that causes more-than-normal feather loss and breaking of tail and wing feathers. If your parakeet experiences French molt, his flight feathers will fall out in an uneven pattern and new feathers won't grow in as quickly as normal. It's not known what causes French molt to occur, but some possibilities include nutritional deficiency, papovavirus infection and budgerigar pox virus. Any time your parakeet experiences an odd or severe molt, have the vet examine him to determine if French molt or another condition is to blame.
- "The Complete Book of Parakeet Care"; Annette Wolter and Monika Wegler
- Avian Web.com: Lineolated Parakeets
- "The New Animal Doctor's Answer Book"; Michael W. Fox
- Budgie Care.com: Budgie Molting
- "Parakeets for Dummies"; Nikki Moustaki
- Avian Web.com: French Molt
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.