Molting is a natural process where budgies lose their old, worn feathers and replace them with new, vibrant feathers.
The first molt occurs at about 10-12 weeks of age and then annually once a budgie is fully grown. It’s an uncomfortable experience, so some budgies become irritable during this time.
Budgies molt their feathers 1-3 times a year. Usually, this happens in the spring or fall, or once during each season.
Domestic budgies are exposed to artificial light and controlled temperatures, so they can molt at any time. A molt usually takes 2-3 weeks, but up to 10 weeks if there are complications.
A molt is triggered by the budgie’s internal clock, which depends on how much food, sunlight, and warmth it’s exposed to.
For this reason, not every budgie will molt based on the same timeline.
What Season Do Budgies Molt?
Wild budgies usually molt during the spring or fall, which corresponds with food availability.
Molting is an arduous process, so budgies need to eat lots of healthy, nutritious foods for energy. During the autumn and winter months, food is more scarce.
Budgies know the seasons have changed based on sun exposure. In the spring, sunlight becomes more intense and lasts longer. Additional sunlight informs the budgie that food will be plentiful, warmer temperatures will arrive, and the mating season will soon be here.
A budgie’s body will instinctively know when it’s time to molt. Due to artificial lighting, it may always seem like summer in your home, causing your budgie to molt throughout the year.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict when a pet budgie will molt its feathers or how often.
Do Budgies Molt In Winter?
According to the Wilson Bulletin, budgies can molt at any time during the year.
While artificial light is partly responsible, the most important factors are food and warmth. Pet budgies don’t have to worry about a lack of food or cold temperatures, unlike their wild brethren.
That said, wild budgies sometimes molt during the winter, depending on their access to food, migration patterns, and the local weather.
If a wild budgie is living in a warm environment or has migrated to a more favorable climate for the winter, it may shed its feathers and grow in new ones.
At What Age Do Budgies Molt?
A budgie’s first molt occurs at 10-12 weeks of age. During this first molt, a budgie will gradually lose its baby feathers and replace them with adult plumage.
How Long Does Budgie Molting Last?
Once a molt starts, it can last from 2 weeks to 3 months. It varies from budgie to budgie, and no two birds will be the same.
The following factors dictate the length of a molt:
- Sunlight (natural and artificial light)
- Food and its nutritional value
- Stress levels
A budgie’s molt should take 2-3 weeks. Some budgies can complete the entire process in about 1-2 weeks, while others take up to 10 weeks.
The longer timeframes usually apply to budgies that aren’t molting for natural reasons. For example, if a budgie sheds its feathers due to stress or sickness.
What Does A Molting Budgie Look Like?
One of the first signs of molting is black dots on a budgie’s head.
A molting budgie doesn’t become bald or featherless. Molting is a gradual process where old feathers fall off and are soon replaced by new ones.
These new feathers start as tiny white stubs. Known as pin feathers, they’ll press up and out of a budgie’s skin, eventually emerging from its plumage.
A budgie may look more fluffy while the new feathers are growing in. This will be most apparent around the head, where the tiny feathers can look like spikes.
Budgie Molting Stages
The process looks the same, whether it’s a young budgie’s first molt or an older budgie’s annual molt.
A normal and healthy budgie molt is comprised of three stages:
A budgie will slowly lose batches of feathers. They’ll fall out in a consistent pattern, such as on both wings at the same time or on mirroring sides of the budgie.
This ensures the budgie can still fly, move, and interact as normal without being off-center or poorly balanced. More feathers will fall out in the coming days.
Pin Feather Growth
As your budgie gradually loses more of its old feathers, you’ll notice tiny white stubs forming on its skin.
These are known as pin feathers, which later grow into full feathers. Since the remaining plumage mostly hides the pin feathers, you may not notice them until they’ve grown past the others.
Pin feathers can be very itchy, so you may notice a slight personality change.
New Feather Growth
Small pin feathers will grow from the white keratin shafts and turn into new feathers. These will gradually extend to their natural length, covering a budgie’s body.
The molting process is complete once a budgie has grown its new fluffy, vibrant feathers. Its personality will normalize, and its energy levels should be restored.
Why Is My Budgie Molting So Much?
Some budgies molt 2-3 times a year, but you shouldn’t find your budgie constantly molting.
The following factors can trigger constant molting:
Molting is a rejuvenating process for budgies. If a budgie is overwhelmed by stress, its body may molt again to reset the process, but this is rarely effective.
Budgies need a strong and healthy system to complete a molt properly. The stress can trigger a molt and result in complications while the molt occurs.
Parasites and Pests
Fleas, mites, and other parasites eat away at the feathers and irritate the skin. So, a budgie may shed its feathers to remove parasites and any damaged feathers.
Unfortunately, parasites return or switch to new feathers as soon they grow in.
Feather lice are the most common culprits, which appear as small dark spots that stick to the webbing of the feathers. These parasites cause various difficulties during a molt and must be removed.
A budgie may be too unwell to maintain its feathers, causing them to deteriorate sooner.
This can trigger a molt to grow in new feathers. Likewise, if a budgie’s system is trying to preserve itself, it may trigger a molt as a fresh start, as it would with stress or parasites.
Illness is often caused by poor nutrition, but it can also trigger a molt.
Once a budgie is molting, it may be unable to complete the process if malnourished. It takes a lot of resources to develop new feathers and rejuvenate the skin as the molt finishes.
Also known as “budgerigar fledgling disease,” French moults are common.
According to Academia, the cause of budgerigar fledgling disease remains unclear, but many veterinarians believe a virus causes it.
A French molt will trigger a random molt and can have unnatural results. It affects the flying and tail feathers, causing them to fall out without being replaced. A budgie can lose its ability to fly.
No treatment or therapy can alleviate the adverse effects of this disease. The good news is that French molt only affects a budgie’s normal plumage growth and ability to fly.
How to Help A Molting Budgie?
A molt isn’t painful for budgies, but it’s uncomfortable.
The following factors will make a budgie feel better during a molt:
Feather loss makes it harder for a budgie to insulate itself, so it can get cold. Keep the room at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, provide a heat lamp or cover its cage at night.
Molting budgies are usually less energetic, more temperamental, and easier to upset. You can ease some of this stress by separating the budgie from the others.
It can be within the sight and hearing range of the other budgies. However, this gives a budgie the space and privacy it needs to molt peacefully.
Also, create a quiet and dark space within the cage where your budgie can rest.
New feathers will initially emerge as small protruding stubs on the skin. These pin feathers can be itchy and uncomfortable for budgies.
Gently roll the shafts between your fingers to break apart the keratin shell that coats them and free the softer feathers.
This will be beneficial in hard-to-reach areas, such as around the head or back of the budgie’s neck.
Wild budgies molt their feathers 1-3 times a year, usually around spring and fall. However, pet budgies can molt any time of the year. The molting process for wild and domesticated budgies takes 2-3 weeks.