Your cockatiel's feathers are not only beautiful, they also serve many important functions including:
- Insulating your bird's body to keep her temperature normal.
- Protecting your bird's skin from water.
- Used to attract a mate.
- Used as a defense mechanism against predators.
This is why the process of molting is so important to your cockatiel's well-being.A cockatiel's first molt usually happens between 6 to 12 months of age. Interestingly, cockatiels are actually in a continuous state of molting all year long; however, heavy molting will occur two times a year.
Heavy molting consists of losing a large portion of feathers, including the tail and wing feathers.
You will easily know when your cockatiel is molting; there will be feathers everywhere at the bottom of your bird's cage and throughout your house.
Feathers are made of a protein called keratin. When your cockatiel goes through molting her feathers will be covered in a sheath of keratin for protection. This keratin will be most noticeable on your bird's small, pin feathers. I call them little stunts, because they look like stumpy, little, white-covered feathers.
Your cockatiel will preen more during a heavy molt and the keratin sheaths will come off resembling flakes of dandruff.
Loki often enjoys a good head and neck scratch (pin feathers are located in these areas) to remove the keratin covering from the feathers she cannot easily reach. This is a great way to bond with your bird. For instance, I help Loki preen and then she often tries to groom me by picking through my hair like she does with her tail feathers. It is definitely a bonding experience and will make your cockatiel feel safe because of her flock mentality.
There are some things to be mindful of when your cockatiel is molting. Firstly, remember that it takes about nine weeks after a molt for a new blood feather to become mature. During this time pay close attention to keeping your tiel's wings trimmed and try to prevent night frights and bumping into toys, furniture, or the cage.
Also, remember molting is a time of stress for your cockatiel.
- Will be less active
- Will nap more
- Will be cranky because pin and blood feathers are uncomfortable for your bird.
- It will be easier for your tiel to get sick.
- Give your cockatiel foods high in vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Add more calcium to your cockatiel's diet by adding kale, parsley, and broccoli.
- Serve your tiel unsalted scrambled eggs for additional protein.
Molting is a normal process; however, if your cockatiel goes through a heavy molt all year or if your tiel has delayed molting and does not molt at least once a year contact your avian vet immediately.
Heavy molting more than three times a year and delayed molting can be an indication of medical problems, poor nutrition, or stress.
Molting can be a taxing process. To help ease the stress molting can cause provide your bird with additional love, take part in preening, and supply additional food for adequate nutrition.