Moulting More Taxing Than Breeding? by Vetafarm Australia

Richard HorvitzAug 3, '18

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Moulting More Taxing Than Breeding?

by Vetafarm Australia

Did you know that lost and replaced feathers during the moult account for a whopping 25% of the total protein mass of your birds? This means that your birds lose and have to replace a quarter of the total amount of protein in their bodies – fairly astounding numbers when you think about it!

Feathers and their sheaths are composed of greater than 90% protein, in particular proteins called Keratins. Keratins are special proteins that are built inside the body using amino acids as the foundations. The process of making the Keratin protein for feathers is a demanding and inefficient one, so forming the perfect feather without correct nutrients is very difficult - birds on seed and vegetable diets will struggle.

However, having access to the correct amino acids to build the protein is only half the battle, the energy required to build the amino acids into the protein Keratin is massive. To put this into perspective, the energy needed for new feather growth is 2.5x more than the energy needed for egg production!

When the moult begins can be effected by many different factors, age, season, day length, hormone levels and breeding cycles are all involved in the timing. These things are hard to control.  What we can control is the nutrition our birds have access to, ensuring they have the best chance at a healthy,  stress free moult and the growth of strong, vibrant feathers. After all, the plumage is one of the first places we look when judging the condition of our own and other people’s birds.

There are a few things we can do to make this possible.

Complete Diets: Vetafarm pellet diets are designed by avian vets to provide precise nutrition for all stages of your bird’s lives. This means they are formulated with the accurate amounts of amino acids and energy for your birds to moult without incident along with the vitamins, calcium and other minerals needed for general health and breeding.

Moulting Aid: For birds on seed and supplemented seed diets, Moulting Aid is the ideal additive to ensure crucial amino acids are available during this demanding period to build the protein Keratin. Moulting Aid is a complete vitamin, mineral and amino acid supplement that will complement seed diets perfectly. Moulting Aid can also be used all year round as a general additive to seed diets and is commonly used this way by bird breeders and keepers across Australia with great success

Meat: Meat is another good source of the particular amino acids needed to make Keratins. Meat can be fed to most birds in small quantities and is a good dietary supplement in the right amounts.

Although good nutrition is the core of successful moulting and healthy feathering, there are some other factors that can play a part and become serious problems in some cases also.

Other factors to be aware of are:

Disease: Beak and Feather disease (Circovirus) and Polyoma Virus are the most common viral diseases that cause poor feather production. Chronic Psittacosis, chronic parasite burdens and bacterial gut infections may cause feathers to be of poor quality.

Chemicals: Some commonly used chemicals are known to damage growing feathers. The best example is a pigeon wormer called Mebandazole. This chemical will create curled and deformed feathers if administered during the moult.

Stress: “Stress Lines” on feathers are commonly seen in young hand reared birds. They can occur when the bird has been subjected to something that has upset the rapid production of the growing pinfeathers and left the shaft weakened with visible lines across it. Most of these will moult out in the first moult, but something serious has happened during growth to measurably upset the bird’s metabolism.

Moulting is a stressful time, you can make it easier and reap the rewards of perfect plumage by understanding more about what this period demands from your birds. Ensuring good hygiene, parasite control and above all proper nutrition, is the key to success during the moult.

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