Common injury situations

Broken leg or wing -

If bones are protruding, you MUST take your bird to an Avian Veterinarian or the bird will more than likely lose the leg or wing! If the break is in the hip or near a joint, chances are you won't be able to fix it yourself and will need assistance.

As long as no bones are protruding through the skin, broken legs or wings can be managed at home.  

For legs, carefully examine the appendage. Thoroughly clean it if necessary.  Cut a coffee stirrer to the length of the broken leg, then slit the stirrer up the center so that you can open it and slip it around the bird's leg for support.  This makes a splint, and while the bird will NOT like it, it will keep the appendage safe until it has a chance to mend. Keep the bird in a small hospital cage with heat, an electrolyte solution in it's water, and clean seed.  I do not usually provide perches for a bird with broken legs, but if the bird is able to perch, placing one low in the cage may help them to feel more secure.  A drinking straw, toothpick wrapped with surgical tape, or even aquarium tubing may be used as a splint depending on the size of the bird.

For broken wings, the same applies to examining and cleaning.  I then use Vet-wrap (a kind of medical tape that sticks to itself without the use of adhesive) to wrap the bird's wing close to its body in a NATURAL position.  This tape looks much like an "Ace bandage", but is disposable.  Depending on the width, you may need to cut a long strip and wrap it around the bird.  I always try to bandage the broken wing close to the bird's body, but allow the other wing (if undamaged)to remain free.  With small birds, this is often a chore that will require a second set of hands, often to merely hold the bird as you position the wing and manipulate the wrap around the bird. As mentioned above, keep the bird in a small hospital cage with heat, an electrolyte solution, and clean fresh seed.

If at any time you notice infection (break in skin turns bright red, swells, oozes, smells bad or any combination thereof), consult your Avian Veterinarian immediately!

Seizures or Stroke -

Occasionally small birds may become frightened enough to cause seizures or stroke.  This is NOT typical, but happens from time to time.  In the case of seizure or stroke, I ALWAYS remove the bird from the bird room to a very small hospital cage and place it in a VERY quiet spot in my home.  I cover the hospital cage with a towel, leaving only a small opening for the bird to see out. I offer heat and electrolytes and hope for the best.  

Often times signs of seizure or stroke can include:

  • Bird flopping on bottom of cage either on it's belly or back. A bird who is stroking or seizing won't recognize you as anything but a threat, so it's important you move quickly but quietly to get the bird secured.
  • Unusual noises - I call this screaming.  It is NOT a pretty sound and nothing like a normal bird! I've found that many birds panic. They "scream" as if a predator has them in their grip.
  • "Twirling" or "star gazing" - I have had birds act as if they had the twirling disease (which can be something as simple as an inner ear infection, or something much more ominous like neurological damage). But Twirling doesn't usually just pop up out of nowhere. If you observe your birds often, you will see signs of Twirling creep up. A stroke or seizure will usually come out of nowhere after a severe scare or shock, or even if the bird flew into the cage bars.

The important thing to remember is there is little that can be done for a seizure or stroke victim bird. Quiet, heat, electrolytes in the drinking water, and darkness will calm the bird until its body recovers somewhat. Some birds will return to normal after one of these episodes, others will not.

Toe nail or beak cut too short, broken, or bleeding -

Depending on the severity, you may merely be able to apply pressure to a toe nail or beak tip that you've trimmed too short.  If the cut or break is deeper and the bleeding won't stop, you may need to see your Veterinarian who will cauterize the wound. But in most cases, a simple b
lood stop powder combined with a few moments of pressure will stop the bleeding.

Cuts & abrasions -

Sometimes our birds will fight with each other, get caught on something in their cage, or pick at themselves until they bleed.  If there are no broken bones and only skin cuts or abrasions, clean the wound thoroughly then apply and antibiotic ointment.  If the wound is large, use a straw or coffee stirrer as a splint, or self adhesive bandage as described above to cover the wound.  Clean the wound, apply fresh antibiotic, and change the dressings daily until it appears to be healing.  As soon as the wound begins to heal, remove the bandages and allow the wound to get air.  If the bird picks at the wound, re-cover it.



If your bird gets sick or injured

If the problem isn't something you know for a fact you can handle yourself, you should contact your Avian Veterinarian immediately (see the Choosing an Avian Veterinarian link for more information).  If you are experienced enough to handle an emergency on your own, you should assess the situation carefully and take appropriate actions immediately!

As a self defense mechanism, birds are able to hide the symptoms of illness until it is nearly too late to save them.  If they become ill or get injured, it is crucial they get the appropriate treatment right away!  In an emergency situation, your quick actions could potentially save their life!

What is considered an emergency?

Really, any injury such as broken appendages, bleeding of any kind, sudden illness, sudden onset of diarrhea, choking sounds coming from the bird, nasal discharge, egg binding, or anything else that keeps them from bopping around normally is considered an emergency and requires immediate attention. Birds that are just beginning to show their illness may begin to "tail bob", in other words, they have become stressed enough that they are weak and breathing heavily.  When they sit on the perch, their tail will bob up and down - keep in mind that some birds have a barely perceptible tail bob as a matter of natural course.  Observing your birds on a regular basis will help you to know the difference between a sick bob and a healthy one!

I tend to go overboard - but then again, I will actually perform minor surgery if necessary. This photo shows just some of the emergency equipment I keep here. In most cases, these items are used for necropsy.

Items you may want to keep on hand

  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Alcohol
  • Surgical Tape and Gauze (I use florist tape)
  • Coffee Stirrers or very small drinking straws (to use as splints)
  • Band Cutters
  • Eye Droppers
  • Tweezers
  • Saline Solution
  • Blood Stop Powder of some kind
  • Syringes
  • Antibiotics in varying strengths and for varying bacterial issues
  • Electrolyte solution

Medical Emergencies - Illness

Illness of any kind can be a death warrant for a bird. Because their metabolisms are so high, bacterial issues and parasites multiply quickly in their system. If the bird is "down" (meaning it can no longer perch), it will dehydrate quickly and/or starve to death if it is too weak to reach a food & water source. It's important to keep at least a few vital aids on hand. When your bird gets sick, time is of the essence. Keeping a range of medications on hand will allow you to treat the bird quickly with the appropriate medication without having to order and wait for medications to arrive. Unfortunately, unless you are skilled in the use of a microscope and other lab procedures, you may not know exactly what's wrong with your bird and should take it to a Veterinarian for testing. You should NEVER just guess and give a bird medication. Using the wrong medication can make matters worse or even kill your bird.

***It is important to note that I rarely need any of the listed medications. More often than not, I end up throwing them out unopened because they expired before I ever cracked the seal.


I've listed the medications and antimicrobials I keep on hand at all times. HOWEVER, I am exceptionally skilled at diagnosis and run my own labs. With the exception of viruses, I can positively identify MOST issues in the aviary myself.  Just like a Veterinarian, I run a series of tests BEFORE treating for any issue, and use sensitivity testing to determine which antibiotic should be used if the issue is bacterial.

If I CANNOT positively identify the offending pathogen myself, I send samples off to a lab - just like a Veterinarian would.


If you do not have the skills and equipment to positively identify pathogens in your own birds, take your bird to your Veterinarian. Using the wrong medication, improper dosing, or using medication at the wrong time, can make matters worse or even kill your bird. I cannot stress this enough!

Medications & Antimicrobials I keep on hand at all times:

  • Electrolyte Solution & Emergency foods such as NV Powder, Quik Gel & ER Formula - in case of dehydration and/or starvation
  • Trimethoprim/Sulfa- for E.coli, Coccidia, and Salmonella
  • Amoxitex - Broad spectrum antibiotic to cover a wide range of bacterial infections
  • Medistatin - for Candida (yeast) - not all yeast infections are treated effectively with this product. The medication must make contact with the organism to work. In early cases, sprinkling it over the food is usually enough. For more advanced cases, syringe dosing is usually required.
  • Doxycycline or Chlortetracycline - for Ornithosis (Chlamydia), Giardia, and other susceptible organisms
  • Erythromycin - for Campylobacter and other susceptible organisms
  • Ronex - for protozoal infections
  • Worm Away - for worming the birds
  • Abba Ivermectin or S76- Ivermectin in case of air sac mites, scaly face/leg mites, and some worms
  • Scatt - Moxidectin in case of air sac mites, scaly face/leg mites
  • Disinfectant and Virucide such as Virkon S, KD Cleanser or Pet Focus


  • Small travel cage or hospital cage
  • Heat Lamp
  • Shallow dishes such as a baby food jar lid or other very shallow dish for food and water
  • Towel to cover the cage
  • Syringes to hand feed/dose if necessary
  • Extra CLEAN perches, dishes & cage substrate (preferably newspaper) - a sick bird will need to have the cage kept impeccably clean to prevent reinfection or relapse.

See more about these items in the
Optional Equipment & Issues portions of this website...