Molting is a natural process for your parakeet. It results in feather loss and replacement -- out with the old and in with the new. Molting occurs gradually, so your parakeet shouldn't appear featherless. Stress can also trigger a molt. If your parakeet constantly appears to be molting, or if his feathers don't grow back in, take him to the vet for a checkup.
Parakeets experience their first molt at the age of 3 months. After losing their baby feathers and gaining their new set, they look like full-grown birds. If you're not sure of your young bird's age, look at his head for dark stripes. Those lines extend from his forehead to his cere, the colored area above the beak containing his nostrils. If he still has these stripes, he's under 3 months old and hasn't molted yet.
A parakeet can molt any time during the year, most specimens doing so on a semiannual basis. The cycle ranges from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the individual bird. During the molt, you might notice that your parakeet isn't as active or noisy as usual. While he's not sick, his immune system isn't functioning in top form. Since he's losing feathers, it's especially important that you keep his living area free of drafts. A budgie likes to bathe, so continue providing him a shallow bowl to clean himself, or mist him gently. This aids in removing loose feathers. Don't try to pull out feathers yourself -- you're likely to end up hurting your bird.
If your parakeet isn't molting on schedule, due to health or other issues, his feathers can lose pigment. Those feathers that should have dropped out appear dirty. Excessive preening by the bird or handling of the budgie by his people can also result in pigment loss. If your parakeet's feathers start looking dingy and he doesn't seem to molt, take him to the vet for an examination.
Abnormal Feather Loss
If your budgie's feathers grow back oddly or large areas don't grow back at all, he could be suffering from the virus causing psittacine beak and feather disease. Since it's very contagious, suspect this disease if he's recently come in contact with new domestic birds. Bored or sick parakeets might start feather-plucking, an activity that mimics some molting patterns. Your vet can determine what is ailing your pet. While there's no cure for psittacine beak and feather disease, feather plucking can result from improper nutrition or lack of sunlight, so it can be reversed.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.