Cockatiels – It’s All About Feathers Today

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Today I would like to address two feather issues in cockatiels, feather plucking and molting.

Feather Plucking:

Feather plucking is quite a common problem, especially with the young Lutino Cockatiel. Feather plucking usually happens when the chick begins to feather up, and then one or both of its parents pluck out its feathers. The plucking normally takes place first at the back of the neck, but this often happens over a wider area of the body too.

The experts say it is because the adult birds may be keen to breed again, and this is their way to drive their young from the nest box. When these feather plucking mutilations occur, they normally happen within a few hours, so it is difficult to take effective action in time. Feather plucking can be an inherited thing.

If you know that a particular pair of cockatiels are prone to doing this, you can take precautions to prevent a recurrence. Try sprinkling powdered aloes around the necks of the young each day as they begin to feather up. This is bitter tasting and will hopefully deter the adult birds from feather plucking. The other thing to do is to leave a second nesting box close to the first, and then hopefully the breeding pair will just move into the new one for the next batch of egg laying, rather than persecute their existing chicks.

Once the chicks have left the nest the feather growth will return to normal. There is rarely a recurrence of feather plucking once the birds have left the nest.

Unlike cockatoos, adult cockatiels rarely pluck their own feathers. If they do they could be suffering from Giardia, which is a parasitic condition which triggers severe skin irritation. If this is the case, successful treatment of Giardia will solve the feather plucking problems.


Your pet cockatiel will molt about once every year. When this happens your cockatiel looses it feathers, so don’t be worried, as this is normal. Some cockatiels seem to molt all the time, with feathers falling out and growing in at all different times.

You will know when your cockatiel is molting when you see a lot of feathers at the bottom of the cage. Your bird will take on a rather scruffy appearance with a lot of new stubby aglets, which look like the plastic tips of your shoe laces, all over his body. These are merely the feather sheaths that help the new pinfeathers to break through the skin. They are made of keratin, just like our finger nails. These sheaths also help to protect the new feathers from being damaged while the feather completes its growth cycle.

Your pet cockatiel will seem a little more irritable than normal during molting. This is to be expected, as he will feel itchy and uncomfortable for a while. Your bird may also seek you out more during this stage, as he may have an itch that he wants you to scratch on the top of his head that he just can’t get to. Just be sure to be gentle with these new feathers, as they are still growing in and may be sensitive to the touch.

To ease molting time for your cockatiel you can do the following:

Keep the room temperature between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheit during this time, especially with heavy shedding.

Decrease stress by emphasizing security and rest periods.

Be sure to keep his nutrition balanced.

Promote preening activity.

Some cockatiels will benefit from special conditioning foods, but check with your avian vet first, to see if your bird is a candidate for these.

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write by Ryder

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