Parrots and the Yearly Process of Moulting.

Ptak has become a scritches fiend… He keeps bowing his head and head-butting my finger whenever I ask him to step up. If I end a preening session too soon, he’ll impatiently head-butt my finger. The mere mention of scritches makes him fluff up in anticipation. And sometimes he’ll just bump into random things and fluff up his face feathers, like, ‘Scritches, please, Mr Ball Toy?’ It’s happened with a number of his cage accessories, my leg, my arm, my fingers, clothes, and the duvet cover that is over his cage. Sometimes he’s been naughty and even ends up self-rewarding… He’s very cheeky! It’s because he’s moutling, though. His head looks mostly normal, but the lower half of all his feathers seem to still be pins. It must be extremely irritating.

Itchy bird.

To try and help him during the moult, we preen him when I can. He’s not always in the mood (although he is generally very good natured about telling us when or when not), and sometimes will let me gently roll his pin feathers between my nails. If they don’t break up immediately, they’re too hard and will hurt him. Most of the time they simply break away into a fine powder. That simply means that they’re ‘ready.’

Pin feathers are new feathers growing in after the old one is removed; the growing feather is wrapped in a wax-like keratin sheath and has a blood source flowing to them. It looks like a white, plastic quill. If broken, it can/will bleed profusely. Styptic powder or corn starch on the wound will stop the bleeding. (I’m lucky enough that this hasn’t happened yet.) Because there is a live blood source, the pin feathers are also sore and itchy. If one is pushed or brushed the wrong way, Ptak gets very sensitive. I’ve only been nipped once for that – and I must say rather nicely. Our parrotlet is a good boy…

Bathing extra seems to help him feel a bit better. He gets a mildly warm bath whenever he wants. I’ve made a bathing monster out of him, too. He can’t see or hear running water without wanting to nip in for a quick shower! He’s not so keen on mistings with a spray bottle, but this can also help alleviate itchiness.

Diet is always important, but at this time it becomes critical. You should always be feeding your bird greens, fruits, cooked brown rice or cooked quinoa, etc. It’s good to offer a bit of hard-boiled egg with shell once a week or so, too. A general increase of protein-rich foods in the diet will help grow strong feathers.

It’s a draining process. Your bird may be more tired, less willing to play or come out, and grumpier than usual. There will probably be feathers everywhere, and your bird will be covered in uncomfortable pins.

Poor Ptak’s favourite words at the moment are ‘TICKLE TICKLE TICKLE’ (very demandingly, with a flip of the wings) and ‘scritch, scritch-ee.’ I feel like this is no coincidence.

As I was leaving the room yesterday, though, he looked at me and said, ‘You silly bird! Wanna open the door? SCRITCH SCRITCH-EE.’ (I’ve counted more than 30 things that he says or mimics so far. He has very good timing, I must say.)

I hope the moult is over soon… My flat is overridden with feathers. You can’t sweep them to save your own life. A bird loses a few feathers at a time – symmetrically on its body so that it can still fly – and so this process can take quite awhile.

I’m sure we’ll all be grateful when it’s over.

He will.

Source: Tail Feathers Network.

5 thoughts on “Parrots and the Yearly Process of Moulting.

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    1. Poor Ptak, he is so itchy – in the mornings he hates getting out of his cosy hut. Instead, he reaches out as far as he can and grabs his hanging ball toy, which he then pushes and pulls until it swings into his head. At that point, he fluffs up and enjoys it as it gives him ‘scritches’!


  1. This post is so interesting. Only yesterday we realised that what was happening to our budgie was that he was moulting. We had noticed more feathers than usual laying around on the floor. At first I thought maybe he was hot (being our first budgie, we really weren’t sure) but then I noticed a few pins on his head and I realised that Pico was definitely moulting.

    By reading your post we’ve learnt lots about the moulting process and how irritating it can be for the little ones so we’ll be extra careful when tickling him.

    Do you know how long does the moulting process take? (roughly).

    Ptak sounds like such a sweet parrotlet 🙂


    1. I’m glad to have helped! It seems to depend on the bird – I’ve heard roughly a month for small parrots (big ones take longer), though lots of different things can factor into the time it takes, too, like light. I found this site, which is a good source:

      It’s taking Ptak more than two months so far; it took Mishka about two months total. They both seem to be in constant moult, though, from artificial light. It sure is uncomfortable for them, poor things.


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