When budgies are babies, they all go through a molt when they are approximately 10-12 weeks old. This molt is when they develop their adult head cap and lose their baby bars. A budgie’s first molt usually lasts about 2-3 weeks.
As adults, molting frequency varies from budgie to budgie. Some budgies molt only annually; others may molt bi-annually; others may molt monthly.
If you observe your bird closely and keep a journal or log of its molting, you may begin to notice a pattern.
Most budgies molt annually and the whole process takes between 2-3 weeks to complete. The molting process is gradual and will result in all the budgies feathers slowly falling out and then being replaced with new one.
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Why do Budgies Molt?
All birds must molt at least once annually for the health and vibrancy of their feathers, but there are environmental, social, and health factors that can provoke additional molts throughout the year, such as:
- Seasonal change
- Environmental change
How long does molting last?
The length of a molt also varies from budgie to budgie. Some budgies molt for one week; other budgies may molt for ten weeks at a maximum.
If an illness or parasite causes the molt, the budgie will remain stuck in the molt cycle until the catalyst resolves.
The length of your budgie’s molts is another factor you should note in your budgie care log to pick up on a pattern, as well as the factors at play around the beginning of your budgie’s molt that could have potentially triggered the molt.
Is molting natural?
Molting is a natural process in bird biology. It serves several purposes.
- It serves the evolutionary purpose of making budgies’ feathers look healthy and vibrant to attract potential mates.
- It is similar to the process of shedding that cats and dogs experience, allowing budgies to shed old, frayed, threadbare feathers and grow new ones.
You can recognize a molt by a bulk of feathers shed from areas of the budgie such as the body, wings, and tail. However, the budgie should not be bald during the molt cycle. If you notice large patches of bare skin, it could be a sign of a health problem, and you should seek veterinary care.
If a budgie is stressed or not eating a balanced, nutritious diet, molting may suspend or freeze. The budgie will have pin feathers with black or brown tips and will be sparse around the head and neck. Seek veterinary guidance for any strange activity with your budgie’s feathers during molting.
A common condition among young budgies is French Molt, also referred to as “budgerigar fledgling disease”. Veterinarians believe the cause to be viral, but this is unclear. It’s possibly contagious.
This condition causes tail feathers to fall out and affects flying feathers, leaving many budgies permanently unable to fly.
This condition is most often not a threat to a budgie’s life, just an immediate threat to their permanent ability to fly.
What to expect during molting
Molting is a very uncomfortable time for a budgie. Pin feathers (new feathers growing in) are very itchy for your bird and even sting at times. You will notice the budgie constantly preening and rubbing its head on things, trying to scratch the head feathers that it cannot reach.
A personality change is also noticeable in molting budgies. They have less patience with humans and even other birds; they are cranky, bad-tempered, inactive, squawk a lot, and eat and rest more than usual.
During this time, you should not snatch them or hold them when they do not want you to due to the discomfort of their pin feathers.
How can I help my Budgie through molting?
Ensuring your budgie is eating a healthy, balanced diet (bird feed, fruits, vegetables), is one of the best things you can do to help them get through a molt cycle.
Pet stores even sell specifically formulated molting food for birds with all of the vitamins and nutrients your budgie needs to molt. Still, you do not need to buy this special molting food if you are already making sure your bird eats a high-nutrient, high-vitamin diet.
You can also buy vitamins to add to their seeds and even a spray that helps the process of molting. Both are available on Amazon which we have linked to here.
It is also imperative that budgies in a molt cycle get a lot of rest. They need to sleep 10-12 hours daily. You can help them do this by making sure that they have a quiet, dark place to rest for at least half of the day each day.
When your budgie wakes up from their 10-12 hour sleep, exercise is vital. Make it fun; make it a game. Play with your budgie (if it isn’t in too bad of a mood), and help it get some exercise. Remember not to grab your budgie or hold it against its will because of its itchy and painful pin feathers.
Once a week during molting, you should bathe or mist your budgie. This aids growth of feathers and alleviates some of the discomforts from their pin feathers.
As you can see, molting is an annual event, and you should not be concerned. The only time you need to be concerned is when large areas appear without new feathers. This could be a sign all is not well and you should seek the advice from a vet as soon as possible.