The Art of the Molt

The personal side of a parrot's molt.

The Art of the Molt

I wonder what it's like to molt. Kirby goes through an aggressive molt once a year. I use the word aggressive because it sure looks like his feathers are revolting. No matter where he lights or barnstorms, little blue feathers, done with their service, fall behind. They make their way onto furniture, under tables and in my bed. They are so delicate in nature. Baby blue snow flakes, demanding to be admired.

That's got to feel somewhat odd though. Part of you falling off. Scratch your head, feathers fly. Preen your feathers, one magically pops out into your beak. Sleeping in your hammock, you wake to little feathers, calling it quits, surrounding your feet. You've literally feathered your nest. It looks like an endless process. The more they fall, the funnier you look.

Not long after one falls a pin shows up. A sharp hard pointed thing. That must feel down right foreign. Does it pull on your skin? Does it itch? Does having 87 of them at the same time make you not want to move? I suppose a porcupine might understand this stage.

Kirby is fast entering the funny looking pinny grouchy stage. He rubs against everything, including me. He welcomes pin destruction to open the new feathers. But as his spa professional I have to be careful of both his stimulated frustration and the wrong pin choice. It gets tricky.

He takes cold water baths I prepare every day. Soaking his head and body equally. The floor catches the rest. That must be comforting. Although I'm not a cold water fan myself.

Yesterday I watched Snickers, also molting, preen feathers at the top of his tree stand. Six feet up he works his tail feathers with individual care. I heard a soft almost organic pop, and witnessed Snickers remove his longest tail feather. Twenty four inches of glorious red plume in perfect condition. He inspected the end, looked at me, looked back at the feather end, and let go. It fell to the floor in silence. I picked up the feather while he resumed fashioning the remaining feathers that hadn't given their two week notice.

Butters is the laziest of molters. She simply doesn't care. From the first day of quitting feathers, she looks a wreck. She randomly opens new feathers working the pins to reveal new blues, yellows, and greens. She doesn't feel compelled to create a workflow to any of it. She has no pride. She lands on my hand at lunch and waits for me to handle her work. Her own disinterest is reflected in the amount of feathers quitting their jobs.

The cockatiels merely explode over a 72 hour period. The detonation is somewhere at the 39 hour. After 8 years I just wait for them to look normal, then vacuum. No point in fighting the attrition rate.

Felix molts with the same amount of critical thought he gives everything in his life. I honestly think his feathers are afraid to quit. He molts without a molting period. They seem to just quietly shrink and fall out, hoping not to catch his attention and disdain.

I can't imagine what it's all like. But I do have a front row seat on a selection of ways you can go about it.

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