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Cockatiel feather problems – A detailed guide with solution

Mackenzie Gary



Your cockatiel may experience feather loss, feather cysts or torn feathers. These diseases are seen in parrots and are a syndrome of bird feather picking behavior.

Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons. The reasons are molting, or maybe the cockatiel is taking too much stress and breaking its wings.

Types of cockatiel feather problems

Cockatiel feather problems may include:

  • Feather loss
  • Feather cyst
  • Frayed feathers

Feather loss:

It is very-common in cockatiels, but if your cockatiel is looking weak and losing a lot of feathers here and there and there are no newborn feathers on their body, that might be a health issue.

Feather cyst:

It appear in the birds when a growing feather within the follicle is unable to push out to the surface. It can appear anywhere, but mostly this disease is found in the primary feathers of birds. The symptoms of feather cysts may include recurrent infection and elongated swelling of the skin.

Frayed feathers:

The abnormal arrangement of hairs in the feather may predict the frayed feathers of your bird. Frayed feather generally happens due to mineral deficiency in cockatiels. Itchy skin and feather loss may also cause frayed feathers.

Feather diseases that need to be looked after in the cockatiels:

The symptoms and types of feather regulation in the cockatiels may include:

  • Pin feathers
  • Clubbed feathers
  • Loss of pigment in colored feathers
  • Loss of powder down feathers
  • Bloody shafts in feathers
  • Drooping wings.

Pin feathers:

Although, it sounds like a baby bird is turning into an adult one. That is why his pin feathers are growing. But they can hurt your pet because of their pinned shape. You have to teach your cockatiel to avoid touching pin feathers because touching pin feathers can cause bleeding too.

Clubbed feathers:

The cockatiels who have survived the acute stage of the disease and remain alive then their feathers become deformed and short because of the lowering of immunity for survival.

Loss of pigment in colored feathers:

The reason behind the color of the cockatiel may be because of his severe lung disease, often caused by fatty lung disease. It is because of this that gray feathers may be turned to bright yellow feathers.

Loss of powder down feathers:

Loss of powder down feathers are observed in only a few species. One of them is cockatiels.

The powder is present on the feathers of birds to let them fly easily and to provide them with the ability of waterproofing, feather care, and the absorption of mud.

Loss of powdered down feathers can be an alarming situation because powdery feathers comfort the birds in taking a higher flight and also help them in maintaining their Birdy nature.

Bloody shaft in feathers:

Bloody feathers / bloody shafts in feathers may predict the growth of your baby cockatiel to an adult cockatiel. But, it can be harmful to your baby birds if they cause damage to the body of your baby cockatiel and he may break out into the blood.

Severe bleeding may also cause weakness to your bird and maybe he will faint from that.

Drooping wings:

It is very natural in birds that they want their wings to be dried enough to let them fly easily. But, in some cases when the wings of the birds get wetted, then the birds droop their wings to get back to normal state.

Drooping of wings is not particularly a disease, but when the bird is misted/overheated and attempting eagerly to get back to normal position then he is feeling poor. That is why this condition may also be termed as a disease or particularly an unfortunate situation for cockatiels.

Molting and feather plucking in cockatiels:

It is a natural process in which the bird sheds its old feathers and the new feathers grow instead. Molting is a necessary process for a bird that lets them fly easier. Because of molting, the old and damaged feathers of the birds are shredded. It leaves space for new feathers to be grown at their positions.

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There are two types of molts.

  • Partial molt
  • Complete molt

Partial molt:

In partial molts, the shedding of feathers happens in the distributed slots of time.

For e.g. First the feathers on the right side of the birds molt. After that, the feathers on the left side will start molting as the right side has sufficient new feathers.

Complete shedding:

In complete molts, the feathers of the whole body start shedding all at once.

Periods of molting:

Molting of the cockatiels happens in different periods, which are as under,

  • First molting
  • Normal molting

First molting:

The first molts of your cockatiels happen when he comes between the age of 6 – 12 months.

Normal molting:

After first molting, healthy nutrition cockatiels molt twice or thrice every year.

In normal molting, a new feather takes 7 -10 days to appear on the skin of the cockatiel after the shedding of the old feather. But, it takes about 6 -8 weeks to grow a completely new feather (transformation of blood feather to a mature feather).

Normal molting takes at least 10 or even more than 10 weeks to happen completely i.e. shredding of old feather, then the birth of new feather (blood feather) then its transformation to a complete mature feather.

Seasons for molting:

Molting of most birds happens in the season of spring and fall and during these seasons they shredded their feathers partially.

What does a cockatiel need during molting?

During the molting of birds, several factors need to be taken care of by the pet parent.

A few of them are listed below:

  • Diet of the cockatiel (protein)
  • A pet-friendly atmosphere

Diet of the cockatiel:

During the molting process, birds need to be nutritional accordingly as per their needs. At this time, your cockatiel needs calcium, iron, and protein in an excessive amount as compared to that of their normal diet because mottling is never a simple process.

Your cockatiel is giving growth to a new feather and his old feathers are shedding, which needs a lot of good care and good nutrition too, to help him in the rapid growth of his feathers.

What should I feed my molting cockatiel?

Feed is one of the very important factors that affect the health of your cockatiel during the molting period. You should have to provide your cockatiel with food that is enriched with calcium, proteins, and iron.

You can also treat them with fresh vegetables and fruits and can also provide them with pellets and seeds. Some pet parents can also treat their cockatiel kids with eggs as the source of protein but this is of course not necessary.

You can treat them if you want to. During feeding your cockatiels during their molting periods, always remember that they need some extra energized food as they are going through a sort of growth process.

During which they need a good quality of food and a happy living to cope up with all the situations very easily.

Pet-friendly environment:

A pet always needed a pet-friendly environment. So, if you decide to pet a cockatiel because you are impressed by its cuddly extrovert nature and you just want an extrovert guy to live with you, then it is your utmost duty to provide them with a pet-friendly environment.

A cockatiel itself is a bird who likes to live with you and adore your presence when you are there so you have to provide them with a good cage, with the food of their choice, especially in the molting period.

During molting, your cockatiel is going through a hard phase of its life in which its feathers are shredded and new ones are coming. For that, he will surely need your help in making him feel better, otherwise, he could be stressed out.

You can observe some abnormalities in the behavior of your cockatiel. This might be because the molting period of your cockatiel has begun and now you have to take care of them. Here are the answers to your most thoughtful questions.

What does it look like when a cockatiel is molting?

When your cockatiel starts molting, you can see a few spikes on its head which are like wax and pin feathers. You can see your bird is in trouble while having molts. Because it is way too difficult for the birds to go through with such a crucial phase in which their feathers are shredding and new feathers are growing but in the form of pin feathers.

It can also be a cause to start bleeding because of their sharp and pointed nature. You can provide them with ease by gently rolling their heads with the tips of your fingers.

How do I fix my cockatiel’s feathers?

There are possibly two probabilities as to why your cockatiel is facing feather loss.

  • They are plucking their feathers
  • Their molting process
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When plucking their feathers:

When you are observing that the feathers of your cockatiel are falling excessively, you are sure that they are plucking their feathers. In this case, the first thing you do is to consider their health.

If you think they are in good condition and are not going through breeding or molting processes, then leave them. They will handle it by themselves. Nature has embedded them the ability to grow their feathers once they are broken without any certain disease or injury.

Molting process:

As already mentioned earlier, cockatiels generally molt during the fall and spring seasons. During the molting process, their old feathers start shredding and new feathers are expected to be grown on their bodies.

So if your pet cockatiel is going through the stage of molting, its feathers start breaking or shedding, then you do not have to be worried about that. Because this is quite a natural process, that is a part of the growth of your pet.

You can not stop their feathers from breaking or prevent them from shredding because, as mentioned earlier, this is the part of their growth and every cockatiel must have to go through this natural process.

All you have to do is to provide them comfort in a pet-friendly environment, play with them often so that they cannot feel stressed, and provide them with nutritionally enriched food that helps them to get their feathers back quickly and rapidly.

If you have mysophobia, a question often arises in your mind, are the feathers of my cockatiel clean and free from dirt? No worries, here is the answer to your question.

Why are my cockatiel feathers messy?

The feathers of your cockatiel become messy for several reasons. Some of them are listed below:

  • When the cockatiel is not preening
  • Dull coloration
  • Stress bars

When the cockatiel is not preening:

Preening is the process in which birds gently bite their feathers with their beaks to elongate them. This process is naturally happening and every bird knows when is the perfect time for them to preen.

Preening helps the bird in maintaining the perfect alignment of its feathers. A happy and healthy bird can preen several hours a day and is still content because there is self-satisfaction in preening because it indicates the growth of birds from a baby to an adult one.

But if the bird is not preening then its feather gives a dusty look and becomes ruffled and ratty apparently.

Dull coloration:

The feathers of your cockatiel look messy maybe because of the dull coloration of his feathers. Maybe his deep dark yellow feathers turned grayish because of molting or some sort of disease (as discussed earlier) dulled the actual color of his wings and because of that loss of his natural feather color, his feathers might look messy.

Stress bars:

Your cockatiel might be stressed and not feeling well for about many days, and maybe that stress-bared situation made him look like a dull one, or maybe his feather color is lowered.

But, specifically, in this case, there is a possibility of visual factor that connects your feelings to your mind. Your cockatiel might be looking dull because he is not a happy-looking kid, as he used to be.

So because of that dullness in his mood, his feathers are also looking messy to you.

Witnessing your cockatiel losing feathers may also raise a lot of questions in your mind, that might be:

Why is my cockatiel shedding feathers?

Feathers are the dead organic parts of the body of birds that need to be shredded or replaced after a certain part of the time, just like we (humans) have our fingernails.

Shedding or losing feathers after a certain age and during a specific season indicates the molting process of birds. This is not a piece of bad news at all, but in fact, when your cockatiel starts molting the prediction is that he is transforming from a baby cockatiel to an adult one, and being a pet parent, you should be happy about their growth.

But, the alarming situation falls when the molting becomes severe and causes weakness to the body of your cockatiel.

The cause of this excessive molting might be a malnutrition factor, or maybe your pet is depressed or maybe going through a critical phase of boredom.

This can be dangerous to the health of your pet cockatiel and can result in the formation of bald patches on the skin of the cockatiel. So for this, you have to consult him with the pets specialist.

Is it normal for cockatiels to lose tail feathers?

Yes, it is perfectly fine. Cockatiels lose their feathers when they have their molting periods which is quite a natural thing and you do not have to be worried about that until or unless you observe that your cockatiel kid is not in a good mood or is plucking his feathers by himself.

There is one more reason to be consulted upon. That is if your cockatiel is losing its feathers but new feathers of the cockatiel are not grown-up or he is feeling sick.

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The reason for this may be lacking in the provision of a pet-friendly environment or the reason might be the malnutrition, that your pet is not getting enough diet which is mandatory to be taken at that time.

Because, during the molting or feather losing process, what happens is that your cockatiel is losing its old feathers and new feathers are coming, to replace the old ones.

This is an energy-consuming process so, if you do not treat your bird in the right way or do not provide him with good food, then this may cause excessive loss of feathers of your cockatiel which is needed to be worried upon.

Do cockatiel feathers grow back?

Yes, of course. Molting is the natural process for the birds in which their old feathers fall and are replaced by new feathers. The molting process takes time of at least 10 or more weeks to completely settle down.

Actually, during molting old feathers of the cockatiels fell or shredded and new feathers were born to take the place of the old shredded feathers. These newly born feathers are known as blood feathers, which took more than 3 weeks to transform into mature feathers.

When your cockatiel is molting, there might be a lot of questions in your mind that are answered below:

How do I know that my cockatiel is molting or plucking?

Molting is a natural process of shedding feathers which are replaced by new ones. All this happened in a time of almost 10-15 weeks. But it’s very difficult yet necessary to observe whether the pet is molting or plucking his feathers.

But keep in mind the factor that once your cockatiel has done with his first molt then, his molting period happens every year twice or thrice during the seasons of spring and fall.

So, if you have seen that a lot of the feathers of your cockatiel have fallen on the ground, it might be because they are plucking their feathers.

Cockatiels usually pluck their feathers because of the various reasons that are listed below:

  • Stress situations
  • Boredom
  • Lack in the provision of activities.

How long do my cockatiels molt for?

The molting period varies from time to time. If your cockatiel is going through the first period of its molt, then it will take longer than the next ones. The main reason for this longer than usual time is because he is going through this process for the very first time and, as already discussed earlier, molting is a process of growth, so it will take time.

The time of normal molting varies from cockatiel to cockatiel. But the factors affecting this time are listed below:

  • Provision of nutrition
  • Stress/anxiety
  • Pet relation with his parent

Provision of nutrition:

During the molting period, a healthy diet enriched with nutrition is necessary to build the good health of the cockatiel.


When your pet is going through a molting period, it is very necessary to keep them away from worries and tensions so that they can pass through molts, healthily.

Pet relation with his parent:

If you are a pet parent and want your cockatiel to pass through the molting period healthily. Then, it is your priority to maintain the best relationship with your cockatiel along with the provision of good food and a pet-friendly environment for them.

If you are not happy and upset with your cockatiel then it will be affected worse on their health and it could be way too difficult for them to cope with that situation healthily.

Can cockatiels molt at three months? They can’t molt at this age. The minimum age of molting is 6 months.

It is perfectly fine when your cockatiel is losing its feathers during molting.

Molting is defined as the naturally happening process in which the old feathers of the cockatiels are shredded or fall. We do not have to worry about that because the falling of old feathers cultivates the growth of new feathers. Molting is one of the processes, which predicts the growth of the cockatiel.

The molting period varies from cockatiel to cockatiel and it depends on the feed of the cockatiel that how long your cockatiel would take during molting. Whereas normal molting period for a healthy cockatiel may be found to be at least 10 weeks or it could also take longer but it is perfectly fine.

How do I help my cockatiel molt?

You can help your cockatiel molt because of the following reasons that are listed below:

  • Provision of nutrition riched foods
  • Maintenance of the pet-friendly environment
  • Good relation with their keepers.