Similar to human hair, feathers are made of horn, a “dead” material that cannot regenerate. As you can imagine, the feathers of a budgie are subject to a lot of wear and tear or can even get damaged.
Since the spring, as already mentioned, can not regenerate, it is necessary to regularly replace these worn or damaged springs. This process of shedding old feathers and regrowing new ones is called“molting“.
Unlike other bird species, such as ducks, budgies and other parrot birds do not change plumage at certain times of the year, but replace the different feathers in succession more or less throughout the year. In wild budgies in Australia, however, molting usually takes place outside the breeding period, as such a double burden would understandably weaken them too much.
The clearest sign of molting is the feather pods that can then be spotted in the plumage, often making the budgie appear somewhat “spiky”. In the so-called feather sleeves ( = surrounding horn layer) are the regrowing feathers.
During the molt , budgies scratch, peck and preen themselves more to free the new feathers from the surrounding thin horny layer (feather pods) and also generally behave somewhat more quietly.
In order to remain airworthy at all times, budgies never change all their feathers at the same time, but only certain parts of their plumage. A molt cycle, i.e. the complete change of plumage, thus takes about 9 months.
The duration of the individual stages of the molt thus depends on the size of the currently shed feathers and can thus vary between 3 weeks and 2 months.
- Down and cover feathers: 3 weeks
- Wing feathers: 4 to 6 weeks
- Tail feathers: 2 months
At the beginning of a section of the molt, the corresponding feathers loosen and fall out. The budgies assist in this process by pulling out loose feathers with their beaks.
Subsequently, a new spring is formed. These are initially stuck in a feather sleeve (thin horny layer) and are supplied with a large amount of blood so that they can be supplied with the nutrients they need to grow.
As the growth process progresses, the blood vessels then become more and more regressed. The finished n ib then no longer contains blood vessels and has a hollow shaft.
The moult is a strenuous process for the budgerigar and it has an increased energy and nutrient requirement during this time, which should be taken into account in the diet.
For old, sick or weakened budgies, even the normal molt can be a major stress and they are particularly susceptible to pathogens during this time.
For a young budgie, the juvenile molt, which it goes through at about 3-7 months of age, is the first molt of its life and it changes its entire plumage once during this time.
One could also compare the juvenile moult with puberty in humans, since the budgie not only changes its appearance, but also becomes sexually mature .
The most obvious change in appearance is the decrease in wavy markings on the head from the waxy skin to the back of the head. In addition, depending on the color of the budgie, the color of the wax skin can also change (in roosters to blue or pink or in hens to brown).
Nutrition & Support
Due to the increased energy and nutrient requirements during molting, it may be necessary to adjust or supplement the budgies’ diet accordingly.
The increased energy requirement can easily be met with the additional administration of millet or by using a higher-energy grain mixture.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, plumage formation requires above all silicic acid, but also amino acids containing sulfur.
While it is not necessarily required, it can also be quite useful to use a grain mixture that also contains herbs to aid in plumage development.
It is particularly important to give suitable fresh feed during the moult, as this contains a lot of the required nutrients.
Particularly suitable are:
- Cucumber (esp. silicic acid)
- Broccoli (high protein)
- Carrot and Fennel (important minerals)
- Field horsetail and bird’s knotweed(esp. silica).
- Ribwort plantain, common plantain, etc. (especially silicic acid, sulfur-containing amino acids)
- Chickweed, Dandelion (Minerals & Vitamins)
- Clover, Nettle (high protein)
- semi ripe or ripe millet (silica & energy)
- Golliwoog (Minerals & Vitamins)
- Sprouted food (rich in vitamins)
During the moult, it may be useful to use suitable supplements containing the required vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Commercial “molting aids” are not recommended, as they are usually not very helpful and often contain undesirable ingredients (see “Moulting aid “).
During the moult, the budgie has an increased nutritional requirement. In addition to minerals and vitamins, silicic acid is required for plumage formation (cf. hair in humans).
If the required nutrients are not available to the budgie in sufficient quantities, e.g. due to an unbalanced or insufficient diet, it will appear tired and listless. In addition, it is particularly susceptible to pathogens in this state and moulting disorders, such as a stock moult, may also occur.
Bleeding & blood quills
Unlike adult feathers, which are composed entirely of horn, the shaft of regrowing feathers is still well supplied with blood. This is partly visible in the so-called blood quills, in which feather sheaths appear red due to blood circulation.
Consequently, if feathers that are in the process of growing break off, severe bleeding may occur, which may even be life-threatening under certain circumstances. It is therefore advisable to use a hemostatic agent on hand or in the first aid box in the first aid box.
- Noticeably many unopened feather sleeves on the head, giving it a “spiky” appearance.
- Worn and unreplaced body springs.
- Budgie looks very “ruffled”.
There are not enough of the nutrients available that are needed for new feather formation.
There may be several reasons for such nutrient deficiency during molting:
- An unbalanced or insufficient diet resulting in a deficiency of amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
- Improper husbandry, where, for example, the budgie gets too little UV light or is in a room with too little humidity.
- A hidden disease (e.g. liver or kidney problem or tumors) or hormonal disorders.
If organ damage and other problems have been ruled out by the veterinarian, in addition to a high quality grain feed and sufficient fresh food, also the administration of an appropriate preparation for the food supplement, like e.g. “Korvimin ZVT + Reptile ” or “PRIMUS VITAL” (sugar-free) to remedy the nutrient deficiency.
In the case of a pronounced stock moult, injections by the veterinarian with vitamins, etc. may still be necessary.
In addition, of course, you need to make sure that the budgies get enough UV light (a Bird Lamp, if necessary) and that there is sufficient humidity in the room with the cage.
Shock molting is not a molting in the true sense of the word, but a protective reflex in which the budgie sheds its tail feathers and sometimes some of the small feathers to escape a predator or the like.
Since it never throws off its wing feathers in the process, it can still fly away afterwards.
The shed feathers then grow back as in the normal molt.