Did your bird bump into its cage or fall and suffer from broken blood feathers? If your bird is in that situation right now, don’t panic.
In any case, never pull the blood feathers because that can be extremely painful for your beloved feathery companion. Then, how should you treat it?
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What causes broken blood feathers
- What to do if a bird breaks a blood feather
- And how long does it take for a broken blood feather to heal
Birds will likely experience breaking their blood feathers in their lifetime, so you need to prepare an action plan in case it happens to your feathery companion.
But before jumping into that, let’s first get insights into what is blood feathers and their role in your bird’s body.
What is a Blood Feather?
As its name implies, blood feathers, or pin feathers, are the newly growing feathers with a steady blood supply flowing in the shaft and keratin type of coating or feather sheath surrounding it.
Basically, they’re not done growing yet. That’s why they have a direct blood supply.
Blood feathers grow after a molting season when birds lose their old feathers.
And the feather shaft refers to the feather’s stiff middle part. It works similarly to a vein that delivers blood to where the body needs it.
What Do Blood Feathers Look Like?
When new blood feathers emerge from the skin’s feather follicle, they look like spikes, quills, or the feather shaft itself.
The base where the feather develops and is nourished by blood as they grow is dark blue. But the smaller feathers around the head are usually pinkish.
At first, you may not spot the pink, blood-filled shafts immediately because they’re not visible in the head, neck, and torso.
But you can definitely see pinkish blood flow in your bird’s larger wings and tail feathers.
Which feathers are “blood feathers,” and how can you tell if a bird has a blood feather?
Blood feathers can be identified through their bulbous, thick shape and visible blood flowing within them. It’s like a quill but with blood inside.
Where Are Blood Feathers Located?
These feathers grow in different parts of the bird’s body, including the head, neck, and torso, but they’re more visible on the larger wings and tail feathers.
What Happens When Blood Feathers Mature?
When the feather tips mature, the blood recedes to the follicles. Then, the bird will slowly remove the keratin sheath from the maturing tip by preening, and the newly formed feathers will come out.
At this point, your bird will love it if he can have a preening buddy, who could be you or another bird, that will help to roll the feather tip and remove the sheath from the feathers’ mature part.
After fully maturing, the feather will lose blood supply and be a dead skin unit.
You don’t have to worry much about bleeding when your bird’s feather breaks or falls out because bleeding is no longer an issue.
What Causes a Broken Blood Feather?
So, what causes blood feathers in birds? Or how do birds get broken blood feathers?
Avians sustain broken feathers due to trauma when they bump their wings into their bird cage too hard, fall, or hit their wings when flying.
The injury in their blood feathers can result in bleeding and get worse when not treated promptly.
Are Broken Feathers Painful?
Having broken blood feathers is very painful for birds, and it can be a traumatic experience for them. It can result in rapid blood loss.
And worse, your bird may flap its wings due to fear and pain, thus increasing its heartbeat and worsening the bleeding.
So, how should you deal with broken blood feathers?
How to Treat Broken Blood Feather and Deal With It
Here are some tips on how to deal with broken blood feathers on birds.
Don’t Pull Out The Broken Blood Feathers By Yourself
Pulling out the broken blood feather is the last resort for veterinarians because it can be an extremely painful process for your little avian companion.
Since feather shafts are deeply embedded in their living skin tissue, you may rip out some tissue when you pull out the broken feathers.
The feather follicle may cause permanent damage to the ligaments and bones during the process. And this traumatic experience may affect your bond with your bird, making him nervous and anxious like a bird with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
So, never do it by yourself at home. Then what should you do?
Induce Blood Clotting
The most efficient first aid and home treatment for broken blood feathers is inducing clotting. Remember that your goal must be to minimize blood loss and prevent further injury.
To help stop the bleeding, apply a styptic powder, corn starch, cornflour, icing sugar, or potassium permanganate crystals to the site using cotton wool, gauze, or a cotton bud.
These powders can act as coagulants and aid your bird in stopping the bleeding.
Well-nourished birds have remarkable clotting abilities, but those with vitamin K deficiencies may need more coagulant and supportive care.
If possible, apply pressure to the bleeding site using cotton wool or gauze for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then, check the wound to see whether the bleeding has stopped or slowed down.
Applying pressure may help slow the bleeding, but if your bird doesn’t tolerate handling well and panics, it can cause more distress and harm than good.
So, you better let the coagulants do the job and keep your pet as calm as possible if they’re terrified and restless. It’d also help if you dim the lights and put them in a quiet area until veterinary care arrives.
Apply More Coagulants
If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply Styptic Solution or flour coagulants to the site. Then, get a fresh gauze pad and apply more pressure for 10 minutes.
Observe the Clotting
Watch out for your bird because if it still bleeds profusely, you must seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
But if the bleeding has slowed down or stopped, get your bird hospital cage and lay a clean, soft towel at the bottom.
Then place your bird in a dimly lit and peaceful environment, provide easily accessible water and food, and check your bird every 15 to 30 minutes for signs of blood.
You need to call your trusted avian vet if your bird hasn’t stabilized for an hour.
Consult Your Vet
Since pulling out a broken blood feather is painful, vets usually use pain medications and intravenous (IV) fluids if the bird loses lots of blood.
But How Do Vets Remove Broken Blood Feathers?
- Tweezers/ Hemostats/ Forceps depending on the bird’s size
- Coagulants like flour, clay paste
- Spray bottle for cooling down overweight birds and searching for a questionable feather.
1. Using a towel, your vet will restrain your bird to keep it from moving as he removes the feather and reduces the stress on your pet after a painful procedure.
2. Then, using a spray bottle, he will find the broken blood feathers and check how damaged the feather is. If the feather has matured more than half of it, it can be saved with coagulants, but if it bleeds significantly, it needs to be removed.
3. Pulling out the broken blood feather should be done quickly with just one movement. Otherwise, it can result in complications and profuse bleeding.
The trick is to get a good grip on the shaft by placing the tweezer or forceps perpendicular to the feather’s growth. Only the shaft will be grabbed, not the flesh.
4. Then, your vet will apply pressure on the skin for about 10 seconds and pull the shaft in one swift movement while keeping the feather complete and the inferior umbilicus intact. This isn’t easy because it requires blood loss control techniques. That’s why only veterinarians should do this job.
5. Then, vets place a coagulant to aid clotting and a sterile gauze to apply pressure to the feather follicle until it stops bleeding.
6. Consult your avian vet after a week so he can re-evaluate your bird’s condition and check further developments.
Can a Bird Die From a Broken Blood Feather?
The broken blood feather can pose a medical emergency because it acts as an open faucet that allows blood to pour out of your bird’s body. Your pet may lose a significant amount of blood, especially the small ones.
The wound will bleed until it clots, but if your bird lacks Vitamin K, it may struggle to clot the blood by itself and suffer.
That’s why feeding your bird with the following vitamin K-rich foods is important:
- turnip greens
- Swiss chard
- mustard greens
- green leaf lettuce
Since birds can’t tolerate much blood loss, untreated broken blood feathers can sometimes be fatal.
Can a Broken Blood Feather Heal?
Will a broken blood feather heal on its own?
95% of the time, the affected feathers grow normally, and the feathers remain intact in the future.
Do broken feathers grow back?
Yes, broken feathers can grow back when the old one is pulled. And the new feather’s maturation process takes 4 to 6 weeks.
How long does it take for a broken blood feather to heal?
Healing can begin right after clotting, but the recuperating time can vary depending on how much blood was lost, pre-injury health, and other bone or ligament damage or shock.
If the injury is mild and the blood clots quickly, no additional tissue damage is incurred, and the bird can recover in 24 to 48 hours.
But if your pet lost a significant amount of blood and other organs have been affected, you may need an electrolyte mix for your bird.
Bird Electrolyte Recipe
Here’s an electrolyte recipe you can follow and try feeding to your birds.
- 2 cups of fresh water
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Just mix these ingredients, and you’re good to go!
Note that this electrolyte is not a replacement for veterinary care. It’s safer if you can visit your trusted avian vet. You may need to force feed your bird if necessary, and it’s weak using a dropper.
Can a broken blood feather get infected?
Yes, leaving a broken feather shaft can cause feather cysts or infection.
How to Support And Take Care of Birds with Broken Blood Feathers
Having broken blood feathers is a medical emergency for birds. But even if your pet is injured or bleeding, you must remain calm and aim to stabilize your bird without causing more injuries.
Your goal must be to:
- PRESERVE YOUR BIRDS LIFE
- PREVENT FURTHER INJURY
- PROMOTE RECOVERY
If you’d panic, your bird can sense it too, and it’ll feel fearful, causing increased blood pressure and flow and more bleeding.
So, you must stay calm when dealing with broken blood feathers and act fast!
Final Tips on Dealing With Broken Blood Feathers
Due to blood loss, birds with broken blood feathers will likely feel weak and tired. So, you need to provide your bird with supportive care by providing extra fluids and letting them rest until they fully recuperate.
If you haven’t dealt with it yet, make sure to plan so you can act fast and treat your bird promptly in case it happens to your pet.
Always keep your hospital cage ready and clean and keep a Styptic powder in your first aid kit and replace it yearly.
We’d also want to reiterate never to pull out a broken blood feather at home unless you’re very experienced. Some blood feathers grow from the bone, so pulling it out improperly can severely damage the bone.
Furthermore, recovery will take longer, especially if the wounds aren’t properly cared for.
But by monitoring your bird and providing supportive care, you can help your bird recover.