Molt & Molting
in Wild & Pet Birds
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The Molt or Molting, is the process in which old or damaged
feathers fall out and are replaced with new feathers.
Broken and disheveled feathers can not be repaired and
so a bird will systematically drop feathers and replace them
with new ones.
At birth, birds can be roughly divided into two main classifications:
Nidifugae and Nidicolae. This depends on whether the chicks can
move away from the nest or have to stay in the nest for a period
Nidifugous birds are born with their down feathers, and nidicolous
birds are born almost without feathers and start to develop
feathers during the natal period.
After the natal period, birds are then liable to periodic molting
of their feathers.
The Juvenile Molt is the first real molt a young bird will go through.
It's often the most dramatic molt in the bird's life. All of the juvenile
feathering and baby fluff will be replaced with adult plumage.
Frequency of Molting
As a general rule, birds in the wild molt twice a year, once
before and once after reproduction.
The earlier molt is not a complete one and does not affect the
wing and tail quills, which are vital for flying. However in some
species the early molt is almost complete and simultaneous leaving
them unable to fly for a short time.
Frequency of molt can also be affected by age, seasonal changes,
hours of daylight and breeding activity.
Birds kept in captivity may not follow the same pattern when
molting as they would in their natural habitat. These birds may
molt at any time of the year, again there is a good bit of variation
between species and other factors.
The Process of Molting
Though there is some fluctuation between species, most birds
drop a few feathers at a time and then grow replacement
feathers using the same feather follicle. This process allows
the bird to maintain their ability to fly during the molt.
Most species become subdued and a bit lethargic and show
behavior changes. However, a pet bird should not stop eating or
spend more than half the day sleeping.
Continual preening is normal during the molt. It may look as
though the birds are itching and like they may have feather mites,
however feather mites are usually not the case. If you are in any
doubt, check with your vet before treating for mites.
What You Can Do to Help a Pet Bird Through Molt
Molting is a very stressful time in a bird's life.
* The number one thing a pet bird
owner can do is provide the
bird with the best possible nutritional diet and a wide variety
of acceptable foods for the species within that diet.
* Feathers are made up of primarily
proteins. 2 essential
amino acids ( Lysine and Methionine) are especially important
during the molt. These two amino acids also tend to be in short
supply in most birds diets.
* Because this is a stressful time
in your bird's life, make sure that
stress levels in the bird's environment are kept as low as possible.
* Pure, fresh water is important for the bird. Don't use
tap water, we recommend only steam distilled or reverse
osmosis water. Tap water has chemicals in it and well water
typically has high amounts of mineral. The liver must detoxify all
water before sending it to the cells.
Distilled water is already 99.9% pure which thus saves a lot of
energy in the bird which translates to less physical stress and more
energy for the bird.
* Make sure your pet bird is
breathing pure, fresh air. Polluted
air is very taxing to a pet bird's system.
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