What’s the difference between feather preening, plucking & molting.

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What’s a feather?

It’s a product of the protein known as Keratin and comes in three flavors: contour, sensory, and down – feathers.

Feathers perform far more services for birds than you probably ever thought.

Mature feathers are dead and can only be repaired through imping, although their initial growth is called a pin feather and is quite alive. 

If a pin feather breaks a bird can suffer blood loss so the pin feather must be removed as quick as possible.

Here’s how you can remove a pin feather:.

Sometimes there’s no avoiding it, your bird’s nails haven’t been trimmed in a long time and some blood drips on their feathers during the trimming process.

More commonly a blood feather (growing new feathers requires fresh blood flow in the feather shaft until the feather has matured) will break.

Most times a few drops will emerge. Sometimes it’s more than you bargained for.

The best way to stop blood flow is with a a product like Quick Blood Stopper which every bird owner should keep in their medicine chest.

The same premise applies to feathers a it does your bird’s toenails.

If caught unprepared, corn starch, white flour or dragging the nail on a bar if soap will work in a pinch (no pun intended).

I prefer hydrogen peroxide to remove any blood on the bird’s body, applies with a soft cotton wash cloth or even Q-tips, although mild dish soap and water can work with a lot of patience.

Make sure your bird is secured – a light soft cotton towel is best. Be calm, talk in soothing tones and have high value treats available to reward the good behavior.

Your bird may hoop and screech, sometimes it’s not worth the trauma to the bird to remove the stain, it’s OK , it’ll get preened out in time.

There’s quill pens and Quill office-supply both named after the hollow base of the shaft of a feather.

The upper portion of the feather is called the “rachis”.

The actual feather part is smaller barbs on top of larger barbs designed to be held together much like a zipper.

Like after parties for the rich and famous, the fluffy base of a feather is called the afterfeather.

3 1 Whats the difference between feather preening, plucking & molting.

W R Ogilvie Grant – Trustees of the British Museum 1921.

W R Ogilvie Grant Guide to the gallery of birds

Something I find really interesting is that molting occurs symmetrically.

In other words lose 2 feathers on the left-wing,

expect to see to the same 2 feathers on the right wing fall very soon thereafter.

Just before the molt the blood vessels gripping the old feather dry up which loosens the surrounding tissue.

So how do the new feathers get rid of the old feathers? They really can’t – until the old feather loosens up or simply yanked out. The moment that happens a new feather starts to grow.

This means that if you pull out your birds pin feathers you’ll hasten the process of molting. In the wild it’s hard to stop nature so a new follicle begins manufacturing a new feather even though the old one is still there and at some point may just give a little bit of a push to get rid of the old feather.

Also published on Medium.


He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they would visit their monthly birdie brunch in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.