Molting is essential to a budgie’s life cycle, typically occurring at least once a year, sometimes more frequently. Molting enables a budgie shed old, worn feathers and regrow new, healthy replacements. The well-optimized diet makes this process easier for budgies.
Budgies become quieter and more lethargic when molting. A molting budgie can also be irritable, as shedding feathers can lead to itchy skin. New feathers must sprout from pores that have been vacated.
Healthy feather growth relies on a balanced diet, so don’t abandon existing food plans, as wholesale change can unsettle budgies. Focus on providing calcium, protein, magnesium, iron, zinc, and Vitamins A, B, and C through food and supplementation.
Leafy greens, shelled hard-boiled eggs, and occasional nuts as a treat will all aid feather growth during molting. These will give budgies everything needed for a successful molt and regrowth of feathers.
Why Does Molting Affect a Budgie’s Diet?
A healthy adult budgie has between 2,000 and 3,000 feathers throughout its body. To understand food’s role in molting, it’s important to understand the different types of feathers.
The outer, colorful feathers on a budgie are vaned feathers. A vaned feather has a long shaft down the center, known as the rachis. This rachis is, in turn, surrounded by barbules, or barbs.
These barbs are connected by tiny hooks that keep them together. Below the vaned feathers are down feathers. These are the feathers that your budgie fluffs up when cold. The budgie is trapping warm air within the down, preventing it from growing too cold.
Budgies’ feathers grow ragged over time because they’re used constantly and undergo wear and tear. This is why budgies molt – they shed old feathers and replace them. These new growths emerge from the follicles that have been vacated and are known as pin feathers.
Pin feathers are initially encased in wax, which is rubbed away during preening. At first, pin feathers are small, stubbly, and itchy, causing discomfort. The right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals encourage a robust and steady growth of pin feathers, which later evolve into vaned feathers.
Budgies’ feathers are made of keratin, which is the protein found in the beak and nails. Keratin is created within a budgie’s body, but a specialist molting diet stimulates natural production.
Do Budgies Eat More When Molting?
IBudgies have a fast metabolism, rapidly burning energy through exercise. As molting budgies are more static, especially older birds that sleep a lot during molting, less energy will be expended.
Additionally, budgies are often uncomfortable during molting. The bird will not be in physical pain, but the shedding of feathers, and growth of replacements, leads to irritable and itchy skin. This could cause the budgie to show less interest in food.
However, the regrowth of feathers takes energy, which is why your budgie is sedentary – the molting process is exhausting. This may lead to your budgie eating just as heartily as usual, so expect some degree of fluctuation in your budgie’s appetite.
While your budgie is molting, stick to a familiar routine and schedule. Keep feeding your budgie at times it expects, in similar quantities.
What matters most during this period is the contents of a budgie’s food bowl. As discussed, offer foods that’ll encourage the rapid growth of new feathers to minimize skin discomfort.
What To Feed A Molting Budgie
To encourage the growth of strong feathers and smooth skin, food for molting budgies must focus on specific nutrients. Even during molting, a balanced diet is essential.
A seed-only diet isn’t a good option during molting because budgies need to consume a range of foods, most notably a selection of fruits and vegetables.
If your budgie has special dietary requirements due to an existing health concern, discuss what to feed during molting with an avian vet.
Protein (Amino Acids)
As discussed, budgie feathers are constructed from keratin. The feathers account for over a quarter of all the proteins in a budgie’s body. Naturally, this makes protein one of the most critical nutrients.
The colder the climate that a budgie lives in, or the more energetic it tends to be, the more protein a budgie will need. The easiest way to offer a budgie protein is through pellets, but if a budgie isn’t used to them or finds them dull, it may reject them.
Some foods can increase a budgie’s protein intake, including:
- Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Walnuts, pine nuts, cashews, or almonds
If you prefer to use supplementation and adhere to an existing diet for your budgie, look for these nine core amino acids that make up the building blocks of protein:
A budgie’s body won’t create amino acids organically, so they must be obtained through food.
You may see differences in a budgie’s droppings if you increase its protein intake. Any protein not converted into energy will be passed as uric acid, leading to looser stools.
If this doesn’t become diarrhea and there are no signs of distress, it’s not a significant concern.
Calcium is the most vital nutrient for a molting budgie. As per Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, calcium provides strength and support to budgies’ bones and feathers.
Captive budgies can be prone to calcium deficiency, so your bird may already be getting calcium supplements. Applying cuttlebone to a cage will provide the calcium a budgie needs.
Budgies’ pin feathers need calcium to grow and flourish. If your budgie isn’t getting enough calcium from its food, or it’s not being efficiently absorbed, the pin feathers will draw on reserves in the bones.
Budgies have hollow bones, and if calcium reserves are depleted, their bones will grow brittle.
While dairy products are high in calcium, mot budgies are lactose intolerant and shouldn’t be offered milk or cheese. Instead, focus on leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale, or even lettuce.
The advantages of a budgie consuming magnesium include promoting brain and digestive health. Clinical Biochemistry of Domestic Animals describes it as an essential dietary element.
Magnesium works in tandem with calcium. When a budgie consumes magnesium-rich foods, the chemical directs calcium directly into the bones. Without magnesium, there’s a risk that calcium is lost in the soft tissue and fails to perform its function.
Wild budgies obtain magnesium from soil and plants, which is unlikely to be part of a captive budgie’s diet. However, leafy greens contain ample magnesium.
Iron can relieve the discomfort caused by the growth of pin feathers during molting.
Foods high in iron bolster blood flow around the body, and the more blood reaches the pin feathers, the faster they grow.
Leafy greens are high in iron. You can also offer your budgie the occasional cashew nut as a treat, though these fatty nuts should not form the cornerstone of a molting diet.
A chopped baked potato or tinned beans, pulses, and lentils are good sources of iron.
Zinc keeps a budgie’s natural skin oils balanced and abundant, which is particularly important during a molt when the skin is comparatively tender.
Asparagus and broccoli have a high zinc content. If your budgie already has dark, leafy greens in its diet, which is likely, consider offering small quantities of brown rice, oats, or corn.
Vitamin A is indispensable to captive birds for their eyesight, immune system, and hormone regulation. Vitamin A also aids molting by encouraging sebum production on the skin.
Sebum is a naturally occurring oil that acts as a moisturizer for a budgie’s skin and feathers.
If your budgie lacks Vitamin A during a molt, its skin is more likely to crack during the generation of pin feathers, which will be sore and painful.
Once the feathers grow, Vitamin A enhances feather health. The continual generation of sebum waterproofs the wing feathers and ensures coloration remains bright and vibrant.
Wings that are dull around the rim may point to a Vitamin A deficiency.
You’ll find Vitamin A in leafy greens, egg yolks, yams, and carrots. Supplements are also commonplace, but it’s easy for a budgie to get too much Vitamin A.
Vitamin B is broken down into multiple complex vitamins, each offering a different value to a molting budgie. The most indispensable B vitamins include:
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1) – Calms stress and reduces the temptation to pluck at feathers, especially itchy pin feathers.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – Keeps the skin smooth and healthy, encouraging feather growth.
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) – Ensures the budgie has enough energy to make it through the molt.
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) – Breaks down the amino acids in protein and transports them to the blood, encouraging healthy feather growth.
As B vitamins are water-soluble, there are supplements that budgies can take while hydrating.
Vitamin C can play a significant role in feather health, reducing the discomfort of a molt. It bolsters elastin and collagen levels in the skin and feathers, making new feather growth easier.
While citrus fruits contain high levels of Vitamin C, the acids can cause stomach upsets.
You’ll find Vitamin C in kale, broccoli, and tomatoes. Alternatively, you could offer a serving of strawberries to a budgie with a sweet tooth.
Vitamin D works in conjunction with calcium during a budgie’s molt.
We discussed how essential calcium is to a molting budgie. Vitamin D, like magnesium, enables a budgie’s body to absorb and process calcium.
Giving budgies calcium without Vitamin D means it won’t be processed and absorbed.
Vitamin D can be absorbed through the sun’s UV rays, so allow your budgie to spend more time in the sun to assist with shedding and regrowth.
Fresh fish, such as salmon, is high in Vitamin D and can be fed to budgies in small quantities. Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, so boiled eggs are a good option.
The molting process for budgies usually takes around 2-3 weeks, but a specialist diet may expedite this timeframe. Provide your budgie with the extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs.