If you’ve owned a budgie for a while, you may have noticed periods of time when your pet sheds his feathers. This process called moulting can happen for 2 reasons:
- a natural process that’s characterised by fallen feathers that are still whole, or
- due to destructive behaviour which causes broken or torn feathers.
It’s important to carefully monitor your pet as he undergoes this process as extended periods of moulting or excessive featherfall may be indicative of underlying serious illnesses that need to be taken care of immediately.
Read on to learn more about normal and abnormal moulting, the different stages involved and ways to care for your pet during this time.
Normal Budgie Moulting
Moulting is a result of natural causes for budgies and indicators can come in the form of physical and behavioural changes.
During this time, your pet may appear less energetic than normal and shed some feathers. However, they should not have a drastically different appearance.
Signs of normal budgie moulting
The most noticeable sign of your budgie moulting tends to be feathers scattered around the base of the cage and even in the area where the cage is placed.
As the moulting process is energy-consuming, you may find that your budgie sleeps more than usual and is less interested in playing.
Here’s a summary of the common physical and behavioural signs that budgies tend to exhibit when they are moulting.
|Physical signs||Behavioural signs|
|Feathers on the cage floor||Sleeping more often|
|Budgie may look unkempt or puffed up||Less desire to play|
|Often does quick flapping movements|
Causes of normal budgie moulting
Moulting occurs to replace budgies’ old feathers with new ones. This ensures that they retain their function well while improving a budgie’s appearance as the vibrant new coat will replace the old, duller feathers.
However, note that moulting should occur gradually and you should not see any bald patches appearing.
Abnormal Budgie Moulting
Abnormal budgie moulting tends to manifest as bald patches and can come about due to poor health. This may be an exacerbated form of the natural moulting process or occur as a side effect of a more serious problem.
Signs of abnormal budgie moulting
Moulting can be a side effect of diseases and infections hence it’s important to check if your budgie exhibits signs indicative of more serious issues which will warrant an immediate vet visit.
Here’s what you need to look out for:
- Rapid loss of feathers
- Bald patches
- Uneven, asymmetrical moulting areas
Causes of abnormal budgie moulting
Abnormal budgie moulting can occur for a variety of reasons. These tend to stem from factors that harm your budgie’s health such as poor environmental conditions and diseases.
Cold temperatures can be a big stressor for budgies and may worsen moulting or cause reduced feather growth. This may be dangerous for your pet as it negatively impacts his ability to keep himself warm.
French moult refers to a condition characterised by feather loss and abnormal feather growth. This stems from a virus that budgies are vulnerable to if they have a poor immune system. One way to help prevent this is to add vitamins to your budgie’s diet and keep him healthy.
Proper nutrition is crucial for healthy feather growth and a poor diet may cause your budgie to lose feathers. Even when your budgie isn’t moulting, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet for them so that they manage to moult properly when it’s time.
Presence of parasites
Parasites don’t directly affect the moulting process but they may sap the much-needed energy from your budgie and make him even more listless.
In addition, some species, such as the Giardia parasite, may cause itching and cause your budgie to tear at his feathers instead of allowing moulting to happen naturally.
Stages Of Budgie Moulting
Moulting takes place gradually in 3 stages across the budgie’s body. All their feathers are subject to this process beginning with the old feathers falling out.
Stage 1: Loss of feathers
Feather loss occurs gradually and often happens on symmetrical areas of the budgie, i.e. the tips of both wings should moult at the same time. This balance allows the budgie to still fly and move as per normal.
Stage 2: Growth of pin feathers
Pin feathers appear as little white stubs on your budgie’s skin after the old feathers have fallen. These are the precursor to full feathers that come at a later stage. They are not very noticeable as they tend to be hidden by the remaining plumage.
Stage 3: Growth of full new feathers
Pin feathers lengthen and mature into full new feathers, growing from the keratin shafts. This step completes the moulting process and gives your budgie a vibrant new coat.
How To Care For A Moulting Budgie
Moulting can be uncomfortable and taxing for budgies, hence a little TLC goes a long way in helping your pet through this time of transition.
Adopt a high-quality nutritional diet
When your budgie is moulting, provide them with access to good quality food and fresh water at all times so that they can eat or drink at their leisure. Include sources of calcium and veggies alongside high-quality pellets for a healthy and happy budgie.
Complement diet with supplements
Giving your budgie some plumage care supplements may help make the process smoother. These products can aid shedding and feather growth, minimising your budgie’s discomfort.
Moulting puts budgies under a lot of stress, hence, providing them with a comfortable environment to moult is crucial in helping them carry out this process more smoothly.
Furthermore, taking extra care of them during this period can reduce the risk of them falling ill as a result of these stressors.
Maintain warmth in environment
Feathers provide insulation for budgies and moulting may cause your budgie to get cold. This can have harmful effects if your budgie isn’t kept warm enough.
An easy way to circumvent this is to keep the room your budgie is in at around 80°F (27°C). Alternatively, you can also purchase a heat lamp or cover his cage at night with a microfiber blanket.
Provide time and space for privacy
Moulting budgies tend to be a little more temperamental and tired due to the gruelling nature of this process. It may be a good idea to separate the moulting budgie from others, if you have multiple, and give them the space to moult peacefully.
This type of parrot may get distressed if he feels abandoned, so do place them within sight and hearing range of the others.
Whether you have multiple budgies or just one, you can provide hideaways where your budgie can retreat to if he feels overwhelmed or needs to rest.
Give gentle scratches
Moulting tends to be an uncomfortable experience for budgies and they can be seen trying to rub themselves on cage bars to relieve the itch. If your budgie is one who likes human contact, you can give them gentle scratches to help shed the loose feathers as well as bring itch relief.
FAQs About Budgie Moulting
At around 10 to 12 weeks of age, your budgie would most likely undergo his first moult. This is where the budgie sheds his baby feathers for a full adult plumage. You may notice that some of the feathers that grow out are stiffer and less downy than before.
Not all budgies moult on the same timeline as this process is prompted by their biological clock when certain conditions such as sunlight, warmth and diet are met.
Typically, budgies moult their feathers up to 3 times in a year. In temperate countries, their moults tend to occur during the spring or autumn periods.
Domesticated budgies living in regulated light and temperature conditions don’t have specific moulting times during a year. Hence, it’s best to regularly check your pet for signs of moulting and take extra care of them during this period.
If you notice that your budgie’s cage has been littered with whole feathers, they are likely undergoing moulting. This tends to be accompanied by behaviours such as them sleeping more often and being less interested in play.
Typically, moulting lasts about 2 to 3 weeks with budgies experiencing gradual featherfall throughout. However, it’s important to note that not all budgies experience the same duration of moulting. If the moulting persists for a long time or if you are unsure, do consult a vet.