Why do birds moult?

Just like our hair and skin constantly replace itself, birds grow new feathers – and the old has to make room for the new. How often and how fast feathers are replaced differs from species to species.

Moulting after breeding

Most domestic birds moult very quickly after breeding. They lose so many feathers at once that some of them are unable to fly for quite some time. Birds without a set breeding season such as parrots moult all year round. They replace their feathers one by one so that they are still able to fly (and breed) at any time.

Under pressure!

A “stress moult” is when a lot of feathers are lost at once and is triggered by a large shock. Stress causes a bird to suddenly lose its feathers, which has the potential to save its life – If a natural enemy seizes a bird and it starts to stress moult, the attacker is left with only feathers in its mouth while the bird is able to escape “by the skin of its neck”.

Stuck in the moult

Being “stuck in the moult”, on the other hand, is an illness where feathers look blunt and dull. Feathers do not grow back on the throat and neck, leaving bald patches. “French moult” this is another disease where birds do not moult and no new feathers grow. French moult can be acute or chronic and is caused by a virus, which means that there is a risk of infection for other birds. Visit your vet if your bird shows signs of either of these illnesses.

Budgies

Budgerigars, the most popular pet bird, do not moult at any particular time of the year. They replace their feathers at different times and at varying speeds. During a normal moult, budgerigars never lose all of their wing feathers at once. In the wild, budgies always have to be able to fly.

Moulting is not an illness and birds do not have to be treated or cared for in a particular way during this time. You can’t really do anything to help – other than providing extra minerals. Moulting is quite a physically demanding time, as a bird’s body has to produce new feathers, and nutrient-rich feed can help make the process easier.

Call into your local store today to discuss your bird’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.