Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coco's Molt - Nearing an End

When a bird is going through a molt, it can seem like it will never end... especially if you are the one picking up the feathers!

Coco's molt started a little over a month ago. I did not make a specific note of the date, as I know it will start when it starts, and it will end when it ends. If it lasts 6 weeks instead of 4, or 3 weeks instead of 8, it still is what it is. I don't get concerned unless we're looking at a molt lasting several months, and then it would be time for a ride to the local avian vet.

Her molt commenced with nearly two weeks of seeing loads of downy feathers everywhere. I cannot say as I recall this warning in the past, but perhaps I just never paid much attention. The next time I see loads and loads of downy feathers, I will watch to see if it is a harbinger of a molt to come! During that time, I would easily count 20 or 25 fluff feathers each day.

A good time to be sure the vacuum was in working order!

After two weeks of the fluff feathers, she began her regular molt by dropping back and chest feathers. She then moved to losing primary and secondary wing feathers as well as most of her tail feathers. Amazon tail feathers are so strikingly beautiful.

A bird does not lose every feather during every molt.

She is now nearing the end of the molt, as I am finding less fluff feathers, and less overall feathers at the end of each day. Here is a photo of today's collection... compared to a couple of weeks ago, it is like a vacuum-vacation!
The feathers in this picture still indicate that Coco is molting, but it is definitely reaching its logical conclusion.

Amongst bird owners, molting can be a big topic; it is certainly something we all experience. I've never been able to pin down a specific molting pattern in Coco, but this may be because I don't obsess on it. I do find that she often molts in October, and then sometimes again in May. Given that our home environments have controlled temperatures, there is an abundance of food, and our birds are removed from many of the natural triggers in the wild that would institute a molt, it is often nearly impossible to spot a specific pattern.

It has not been my experience that my birds are grumpier or more sensitive, so to speak, during molting than at any other time. Naturally, if they have pin feathers on their heads or bodies, it could appear that they were being grumpy if I were to touch them in such a way as to bump those pin feathers and cause them discomfort.

If pin feathers have been touched in such a way to cause my birds' discomfort, any reaction on the part of my birds would be assigned to the way in which I touched those sensitive pin feathers as opposed to "molting grumpiness". Pin feathers are quite sensitive, so I need to bear this in mind. During times like this, Coco enjoys me simply blowing on the back of her neck since the feathers are often too sensitive to be touched even in a way that might seem exceptionally gentle to me.

It has not been my experience that my birds are 'tired' or otherwise dragged down by the molting process. I see no difference in activity level in my birds during molting. I do read of others stating that molting takes so much out of a bird (energy-wise); it has not been what I have observed over the years. They still have days of higher energy and days of lower energy output that do not seem to correlate to the molting process itself but simply their natural cycles. I'm not equally perky every day... (Ok, waiting for those who know me to point out that I'm not Ms. Perky Patty on most days. I'm more the tortoise than the hare....)

Just as some days they consume more food than others, their activity levels change from day to day as well.

It has not been my experience that my birds are more prone to illness during molting or that they need more sleep. They maintain the same patterns of activity and behavior during molts as at other times of the year. In Coco's 13 years she has never experienced an infection or illness of any type whatsoever, and in Sammy's 28 years he had one sinus infection when he was young-ish. During those cumulative years, Sammy and Coco when through a lot of molts. My husbandry techniques for maintaining a clean, healthy environment, endeavoring to avoid the risks of viral, bacterial or fungal illness, and maintaining strict quarantine procedures for any new flock additions, are the same year around despite molting status.

As I discussed in my Hello - My Bird Won't Bathe post, during this molt Coco went through a period of nearly two weeks when she chose not to shower. While I might think that a daily shower would aid the molting process, and make her more comfortable, she obviously disagreed with that logic. When she did decide to take her shower (Let it Rain) she enjoyed it, and has been back on her normal shower routine since.

So, why during the peak of the molt did she decide not to shower? I can't say. I often see it written that we should 'mist' our birds during molting to make them more comfortable. To the extent Coco was "uncomfortable" because of the natural experience of molting, I believe that it would be her instinct to gravitate to the water if it would positively affect her circumstances. It was certainly an option available each day. But she chose not to take one for nearly two weeks.

Just food for thought... it may not always be the case that what we think would make a bird feel better is necessarily something they agree with. It pains me to think that there may be birds getting misted for their own good during molts or any other time, potentially risking bathing or the misting bottle become aversive (something that the bird works to avoid) because the companion thinks "they need it". Or because they are molting and it "should make them feel better". We can offer it, and allow them to choose what is best for them, and believe that they are exceptionally intelligent and intuitive creatures that once empowered, will make suitable choices.

We do know that birds experiencing health issues, poor nutrition and other stresses can develop stress bars.

An article I have found quite informative on the topic of molting in general, written in 2006 by Ronald Hines, DVM is entitled When Birds Molt. It brings out that the timing of a molt, when an old feather is dropped and a new one replaces it, is governed by hormones, light and reproductive cycles. (All of these can be affected by the artificial environment of our homes). It is not a lengthy article, but I would highly recommend it for interesting reading!

In the meantime, get those vacuums in good working order!


1 comment:

wolfgirl1987 said...

My hand held duster buster is a must for molting time! :)

great post, Robin!

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