Psittacines have naturally vibrant, colorful plumage. However, parrots can lose their feathers for many reasons, including molting, stress, and illness.
To stimulate feather growth in parrots, expose them to sunlight or artificial UV light to remove feather-degrading bacteria.
Also, parrots need protein (amino acids), vitamins (A, B-complex, C, and D), and minerals, such as calcium. Ensure that your parrot gets sufficient sleep and experiences minimal stress.
Parrots are exotic birds that require emotional wellness and care to thrive in captivity. A parrot with unmet needs is more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors, like feather-plucking.
Unfortunately, this will lead to feather loss, skin damage, and unhealthy feather growth.
Growing and regrowing feathers is a normal part of a parrot’s life cycle.
Most species go through the process of molting at least once a year. They replace their old, worn-out feathers with new ones during this time.
According to AUK, molting often coincides with the migratory season for many parrot species. Meanwhile, in other species, it overlaps with the mating season.
When a parrot is molting, it loses feathers on either side of the body in symmetrical order. This allows the parrot to keep warm and fly as molting progresses.
The shedding process takes parrots anywhere from a few weeks to several months. New feathers usually start as short, pointed quills known as “pin feathers.” Each of these feathers comprises a protein called keratin, which makes up human hair and nails.
Although molting is a normal and healthy process, it can be uncomfortable for parrots. The emergence of sharp pin feathers can leave a parrot feeling stressed and temperamental.
Pin feathers contain blood vessels and nerves, so even minor injuries can cause pain and bleeding.
How To Promote Feather Growth During Molting
There are ways to make your parrot more comfortable during this molting cycle.
Misting the parrot’s body twice a day prevents their skin from drying up and minimizes itching. When your parrot is itchy, it’s likely to scratch itself aggressively, which can damage the skin and prevent the regrowth of feathers.
Ensure that parrots get lots of rest to reduce stress and promote the healthy development of pin feathers. Avoid petting your parrot since pin feathers are sensitive and painful when touched.
Risk Factors In Feather Growth
Healthy parrots typically grow back their lost feathers during molting. However, certain factors might cause a parrot’s feathers to grow abnormally or prevent them from growing at all.
For example, if the parrot plucks out its feathers regularly, the follicles and underlying skin structures may get damaged, preventing new growth.
Likewise, if the parrot has an internal illness, such as kidney or liver disease, it will likely experience permanent feather loss.
Abnormal feather loss may also be a sign of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), which is a common bacterial infection in parrots.
It takes about 12 months for a parrot to regrow its feathers after a molt. The duration of molting may vary, depending on the size and health of the individual parrot.
However, if a parrot has nutritional deficiencies or underlying illnesses, it might experience an abnormal molt. This is characterized by uneven feather loss and bald spots on the body.
Parrots naturally lose old and worn-out feathers and regrow new ones during molting. The process can be quite uncomfortable and stressful for parrots, making them vulnerable to injuries and infections.
If improperly cared for, a molting parrot might experience abnormal molting, resulting in permanent feather loss.
Here’s how to care for your parrot during a molt to promote healthy feather growth:
The loss of feathers and the growth of new pin feathers can cause the skin to feel itchy, prompting scratching. This behavior can damage the skin and feather follicles, undermining new growth.
To avoid this, spray water on your parrot at least twice a day to minimize discomfort and scratching.
Sleep And Rest
Molting can be challenging for parrots, so they must receive ample rest.
Put your parrot in a shaded room where it won’t be disturbed for 12-14 hours every day. Doing so ensures that parrots get sufficient deep, REM sleep, thereby minimizing stress.
No Petting Once Pin Feathers Appear
A parrot’s pin feathers contain blood and nerves, making them sensitive to touch when they emerge. Avoid petting when a parrot’s molting as this can cause pain or damage the fragile pin feathers.
Proper nutrition is essential to the growth and development of healthy feathers. For this reason, ensure that your parrot receives a nutritious diet when molting.
- Collard greens
As a parrot starts to lose its feathers at the beginning of the molt, it’ll feel the cold more.
Not only does this cause discomfort, but it might make the parrot vulnerable to respiratory infections. For this reason, keep your parrot at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Moreover, ensure that its perch or cage is away from windows and doors during cold weather.
Exposure To Sunlight
The exposure of feathers to sunlight inhibits feather-degrading bacteria.
It limits the damage that these microorganisms cause to parrots’ plumage. Alternatively, you can use artificial UV light to aid feather growth if natural sunlight is unavailable.
Vitamins for Healthy Parrot Feathers
First-time owners make the mistake of feeding parrots a diet composed mostly of seeds and nuts.
Unfortunately, they don’t provide the nutrients required to keep the parrots’ feathers healthy. If a parrot is deficient in vitamins, it’s likely to experience poor feather health or malnutrition.
Vitamins that a parrot requires to develop healthy feathers include the following:
Vitamin A is crucial for healthy feather growth and the wellness of parrots. It helps the skin produce an oil known as sebum, which keeps the skin healthy and moisturized, preventing flaking and dryness.
Examples of foods that are rich in vitamin A include:
- Collard greens
Vitamin B7 (biotin) is essential for healthy feather development in parrots. If a parrot is deficient in vitamin B7, its feathers may become:
Molting parrots, in particular, require foods rich in Vitamin B7 to develop pin feathers.
Foods that are rich in Vitamin B7 include:
- Sweet potatoes
A vitamin C deficiency can cause over-preening and feather-plucking behaviors in parrots, damaging the underlying skin structures and preventing feathers from growing.
Some of the best sources of vitamin C for parrots include:
According to The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, parrots that don’t receive enough sunlight are prone to Vitamin D deficiency.
This can result in poor skin and feather quality. To avoid this, ensure that your parrot receives adequate sunlight, especially during the molting season.
In conditions where natural sunlight is unavailable, you can use artificial UV lights to stimulate the absorption of Vitamin D.
Switch them off at night so that they don’t interfere with the parrot’s sleep cycle.
How to Improve Feather Quality in Parrots
To improve the quality of a parrot’s feathers, the most important factor is proper nutrition. Remember, feathers are made from protein, so you need to provide your parrot with a protein-rich diet.
The best sources of amino acids for parrots include grains and seeds, such as:
- Watermelon seeds
- Chia seeds
- Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds aren’t recommended due to their high-fat content.
Vitamins are vital for healthy feather growth. So, offer your parrot vitamin-rich vegetables like collard greens, broccoli, asparagus, and carrots. Also, include fruits such as berries, oranges, and pomegranates in your parrot’s diet, since these are rich in vitamins as well.
Your care routine can be modified to improve the quality of your parrot’s feathers. For instance, giving your parrot baths will prevent the skin drying up and minimize itching.
Likewise, allowing your parrot to enjoy 12-14 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night aids in stress reduction and promotes overall health and wellbeing, which is essential for feather growth. Also, ensure your parrot receives enough enrichment and attention to keep it happy and healthy.