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A Parrot's First Molt

When a young parrot begins their first molt, it often begins with a fairly dramatic loss of feathers in the head, neck, and chest regions. In green-cheeked conures, this typically takes place when the bird is between 6 - 9 months old. This first molt tends to also be the "roughest", and can easily leave a young bird looking a bit patchy and bedraggled. This is because baby feathers just aren't as durable as adult feathers; baby birds grow so quickly that their first set is made primarily to “use 'em and lose 'em” - but dropping several feathers at once also means growing several at once! 

While new feathers are growing and developing, they're individually encased in keratin sheaths - these are the spiky pin feathers you see on your bird. Pin feathers will initially have blood flow to facilitate the new feather's development, and at that stage they're also highly sensitive - trying to touch them will likely earn you a quick reprimand from your bird! Once development is complete, the pin feather’s blood supply will naturally taper off completely. This will cause the keratin sheath to essentially dry up and become very brittle, and it will begin to flake away in tiny little dandruff-looking pieces. This is when things get itchy!


At this stage the new feather is ready to emerge, and your bird may allow you to help preen away the casings on their head and neck that they can't reach on their own. A gentle roll between your fingertips is all it should take! If you happen to touch a pinnie that isn't quite ready, have no fear - your bird will let you know! As you can imagine, growing all those new feathers uses quite a bit of energy, and can be a painful/itchy process, so they may be a bit more tired and/or cranky when they have a lot of pinnies going at once. If your bird seems a bit uncomfortable or has some especially stubborn sheathes, try offering daily opportunities to bathe - that will help soothe any dry and/or irritated skin, and works wonders to soften up those keratin casings.

As always, if your bird is acting especially "off" during a molt, we recommend reaching out to your Avian Vet for a check-up to be on the safe side. 

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