Dealing with Bleeds from Broken Blood Feathers

The below advice is focused on treating broken blood feathers, but can also be applied to other bleeds, such as those caused by a broken nail.

Blood feathers

Blood feathers are the newly developing feathers that usually occur in baby birds or that grow to replace feathers lost through moulting in adult birds. Since they are actively growing, these feathers have a large blood supply within the shaft to support them. (These blood vessels then regress as the feather matures).

Broken blood feathers

Occasionally, the shaft of the blood feathers can become broken through trauma which then causes significant bleeding. This should be considered as an emergency requiring veterinary attention as soon as possible. However, there are steps you can take which will slow or stop the bleeding at home until you can have the bird assessed by a vet.

Do not attempt to remove the feather yourself.

Slowing or stopping the bleeding

There are a number of items that you may have to hand which will act as a coagulant to help slow or stop bleeding. These include: cornflour, icing sugar or potassium permanganate crystals. These can be applied to the site of the bleed using cotton wool, gauze or a cotton bud.

Applying pressure

If possible, firm pressure should then be applied to the site using cotton wool or gauze. This should be physically held in place with your fingers for several minutes.

Applying pressure to the site of the bleed will help to slow the bleeding further, or stop it altogether. The success of this will depend on whether your birds will tolerate being handled. It may be that excessive stress can worsen the situation- so you should take extra care not to cause more distress. If the bird appears to panic, avoid excessive handling and apply cornflour or icing sugar as detailed above. The bird should then be kept as calm as possible until veterinary help arrives. Dimming the lights and keeping them in a quiet area will help to keep your bird calm.

Veterinary treatment

Even if you have managed to stop the bleeding, you should seek veterinary treatment for any animal which has experienced significant blood loss. Veterinary treatment usually involves safely removing the blood feather under anaesthetic so that further trauma and subsequent bleeding can be avoided (many birds will cause further trauma to themselves if the broken blood feather is left). It may be that your bird also requires supportive treatment such as fluid therapy, to help their bodies cope with the blood loss.

Aftercare

Your bird is likely to feel very tired and weak for a few days after experiencing a blood loss. You should help support their recovery by ensuring they consume extra fluids (you can try dipping favourite foods in water if they aren’t drinking for themselves) and by keeping them calm and rested until their energy levels have returned to normal. The vast majority of birds will recover quickly with treatment, but it is important to monitor them carefully and seek veterinary help if you do not feel as though they are starting to make a steady improvement within the first day or two.