Is Your Bird Experiencing Feather Loss?

Parrot feather plucking
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If you have a baby bird in the house, they are likely going through the completely normal molting process where they experience feather loss. Birds molting their feathers is a normal process in nature. It is similar to human beings shedding hair that may be damaged and needs to be replaced with fresh strands. Bird feathers also get damaged and can't be repaired because they are made of keratin. Molting in birds also happens in response to seasonal changes and the hormones they produce. 

The Molting Process

As their feathers are growing you might find your home’s floor and the enclosure you keep your bird in littered with bits of keratin. This is the feather sheath that has been burst open by the emerging feather. It looks like quite a bit of keratin but it's perfectly normal when you consider that your baby bird is growing in an entire brand new set of feathers. So you might find yourself sweeping and vacuuming more often. 

It takes a lot of energy to produce and replace these feathers, so molting usually occurs in less stressful and strenuous times when it’s easier for their systems to replace the feathers. In the wild, this typically occurs right after nesting season or just before migration. If a bird cannot fly, it will be in danger. Flight is absolutely crucial in avoiding predators and it is probably their best defense mechanism. 

What to Expect When Parrots Molt

Parrots typically replace a few feathers at a time when needed. This is to ensure that the parrot can still fly.

You may find your parrot preening a bit more during a molt. If you have two bonded birds they may choose to help each other out by working together to eliminate the stubborn keratin sheaths surrounding the feather. You will see them pick at the sheath to release the feather from its protective sheath. 

Itchiness During Molting

Molting is an itchy experience. When those sheaths come in full of the feathers, you might observe your bird picking at his feathers or scratching at those hard-to-reach spots such as his head or neck. This action releases those feathers and makes it easier for them to develop. It also makes the bird less itchy. Showers are also beneficial in alleviating the itching. It also softens the keratin making the feathers easier to burst through that sheath. 

Many birds don’t mind a little bit of head scratching to help release those feathers form their keratin sheaths. But some birds may find it painful or uncomfortable. 

What to Feed During Molting

Because a bird's feathers and sheaths are made up of protein, you might want to ensure that your companion pet has a dietary increase of good proteins during a molt. Introducing your pet bird to a little scrambled egg. Or add a few cooked beans into aChop or Grain Bake to make the process a little easier on the system. You may want to check with your avian vet regarding the bird's diet to see what they suggest could help with the molting process. Any dietary changes should be checked by your avian veterinarian, as well. 

If you do see an unusual excess of lost feathers, please consult with an avian veterinarian. The vet will need to see if there your bird has a health problem that might be causing the steep loss of feathers.