Molting is a part of the parakeet’s yearly cycle, and involves the gradual replacement of all the feathers. The process is gradual to ensure that the bird is still able to fly and keep warm as it molts. A parakeet should never have bald patches during this time - if they do this could indicate that they are either ill or stressed out. New feathers appear as white, sharp stubs known as pin-feathers. These cause an odd, spiky look.
As a parakeet molts, they gradually replace every single one of their feathers. Larger feathers will collect at the bottom of the cage and the smaller, downy feathers will drift across your furniture and floor, so slight and insubstantial that they are almost impossible to sweep up. A wet cloth will help, but a vacuum cleaner is the best way to get rid of these, as long as your birds don’t fly into a panic every time they hear or see one that is.
Like all birds, parakeets have an annual molt
A molt usually takes two to three weeks to complete. With primary and tail feathers dropping out, your bird may not feel as confident flying, so don’t get worried if they seem a little perch-bound. A bird that is used to flying around your living room may opt for a quiet night in; and, again, this is totally normal. They may also take on a spiky look as the new pin feathers thirst through the depleted head and neck feathers
You can assist your parakeet during this time by making sure their food bowl is topped up and that they have access to a mineral block. As these things help promote strong, healthy feather growth.
Parakeet Molt Problems
Sometimes this molting process may stall, usually due to malnutrition or stress. The neck and head regions will look threadbare, and new pin feathers may have black or brown tips. If you happen to notice any abnormal feather growth or feather loss, you should report this to a vet, who will diagnose the problem and recommended an action to get your parakeet molting healthily again.
Some birds may develop a condition called “French Molt”, in which feathers drop out and don’t grow back. See the Parakeet Feathers French molt section, below.
Parakeet Behavior When Molting
First time parakeet keepers may worry when their birds’ first moult comes about, as their personalities often change and their energy may ebb. Molting doesn’t cause them any physical discomfort, but tends to make them more passive than usual. Molting birds will often sit for long periods without saying or doing much. Older birds usually take the opportunity to get some more sleep. In some cases, a bird may be jumpier than usual, and may panic at sudden noise or movement. Angry squawks and attempts to bite your hand will greet your attempts to pacify them, so it’s best to let nature run its course.