Cockatiel molting is normal and this is actually an important process that birds go through.
But for new owners, they may worry when they see their pet’s feathers dropping off one by one. After all, who would want to see that gorgeous plumage shed?
So, if you are not quite familiar with this process, and you would like to understand your pet more – keep reading. We will discuss what exactly molting means, why this happens, and if there is something you can do to make this process easier for your pet.
When Do Cockatiels Molt
At the first sight of your pet’s feathers falling off, this can be worrisome. But cockatiel molting is actually normal and happens for your pet’s health.
What this process does is it helps your cockatiel to get rid of old feathers, so new ones can grow. This is perfectly normal and happens throughout the lifespan of your pet.
Adult cockatiels typically have over 3000 feathers on their body. What these feathers do are very important for keeping themselves healthy and well. Feathers are important for maintaining the bird’s weight while at the same time keeping them warm, allowing them to fly, and protecting them from harsh, external elements.
They also need their feathers to attract potential mates. This is why they like to keep their plumage vibrant and healthy.
Every feather has keratin, which is a type of protein. Used for making various sizes and shapes of the feathers. Cockatiels, in particular, tend to collect and produce so much dust on their feathers, which is why they spend so much time grooming them. This is what we call preening, and they use their beaks to smooth and clean their plumage.
Birds do a good job at maintaining the health of their feathers. But there are many things they do that can cause the feathers to get worn out. These include foraging for their food, migrating, caring for their offspring, and competing for their mates.
This is why the feathers with some damage or those that are already old and worn simply get molted out or shed. Once the old one is out, a new one will eventually grow to take its place. When it comes to cockatiels, they have about two or even three large molts a year. But overall, molting happens all year round. But at the same time, these birds cannot simply lose a large percentage of the feathers they have. They also do not molt out all of the flight feathers during a molting season. It happens gradually.
Once new feathers grow, these typically appear like sharp needles or pins. They poke out of the bird’s skin and start to grow longer. The feather also has a layer of keratin that protects it. Birds preen off the layer after growing the feather in completely.
So, how long does it take for the new feather to grow fully?
It depends. For some, it takes about 10 weeks or so for the new feather to get long and become fully grown until it is already capable of replacing the old one.
As we have mentioned, larger molts happen throughout the year. But these are usually triggered by changes in daylight or temperature each season. But for cockatiels in captivity, the “normal” changes in season may be a bit tougher for these birds to detect. This is why abnormal or even chronic molting may occur.
Further Details About Cockatiel Molting
The number one sign that your cockatiel is molting is when you notice that the feathers are starting to fall off. It may also be just molting lightly, which happens all year round. However, with molts triggered by the changing seasons, the molts can be so large that you may worry your pet is starting to go bald.
When you see a bunch of feathers falling off, this can be concerning for most owners. And as more feathers fall off, and your pet preens its new tiny feathers, there is also a considerable amount of keratin dust on the floor. This happens as your pet preens away this protective keratin that covers the new feather.
Now, a cockatiel molting may be going through some stress. They use up so much energy to produce replacement feathers. Plus, the process of growing these pin feathers can even be painful and uncomfortable. This is particularly true once the thicker and larger flight feathers are starting to grow back.
You may observe some noticeable changes in the mood. Your pet may be irritable and tends to peck or dislike being handled. As their old feathers are shed and new ones grow in, they most certainly are not in a playful mood.
They may also be frequently sleeping. Or if they are awake, they enjoy sitting on the perch and fluffed up. So, it is important to check your bird during the molting process and make sure there are no further symptoms involved. Otherwise, something else may be going on instead of just the normal molting phase.
To make sure that your pet is okay during molting, you need to be more patient and caring to your pet. Allow it to sleep when needed and offer a shower to help ease off dry and hard keratin coverings on their new feathers. This also makes preening easier.
As for their diet, you need to add more nutrient-rich foods that will provide your pet’s body with replenishing nutrients. Some delightful treats such as millet sprays are also good to add as these will make eating fun when your pet does not have much of an appetite.
When your pet is molting, it can be a difficult time for it to go through. This is why some observable changes in behavior may occur including moodiness and irritability. With these things in mind, make the process a little lighter by allowing your pet to rest more, offering healthy foods, and giving mist baths that will help soothe the discomfort it is experiencing.