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Information on Blood Feathers

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What are blood feathers?

Blood feathers are newly growing feathers. They are most obvious on the forehead and wing regions. When feathers are emerging, they have a thin blood vessel to nourish the feather - hence the name "blood feathers". When the feather matures, the blood vessel is withdrawn. This is why fully matured feathers may be cut or plucked out without the bird bleeding.

How do I detect blood feathers?

Blood feathers will have a keratin sheath around. The shealth serves dual purposes: 1) it help the newly growing feather (also known as pin feathers) break through the skin and 2) it protects the feather from damange until it has matured. This shealth will make the feather look like a tube or the ends of a shoe lace. They are waxy in appearance and tight. The bottom portion of the feather (near the base) is called a quill. It is darker in color, caused by the blood supply to the new feather.

How do blood feathers break?

The most common place for blood feather breakage is on the wing. This happen frequently when the bird is undergoing wing clipping and blood feathers are not spotted. Since they have a blood vessel in them, cutting such feathers will cause the bird to bleed. The other leading causes are by falling from great heights, crash impacts, night frights, or a genetic disorder (mainly brittle feathers).

How to Handle A Blood Feather Breakage

A small volume of blood loss is all that is required to kill. When your bird has broken a blood feather, you must act quickly and efficiently to prevent as little blood loss as possible. The number one rule here is to remain calm and work quickly . If you can get in contact with your vet, then do so and do so quickly. However, time is the essence and handling blood feathers is not a hard task at all. By the time you to move your bird to the vet, he could have lost so much blood that he could die.

Equipments you will need:
  • Clean Towel
  • Tweezers
  • Corn starch
  • An electrolyte solution (to help cope with the blood loss if the bird has lost a significant amount of blood).
  • A magnifying glass to examine the area of wound

It is highly recommended that you keep a first aid handy. These items will be found in this kit so that when emergencies occur, you won't have to scramble all over the place to pull together the required equipments and materials.

Step One: Restrain the injured bird with a clean towel in a well lit place. Make sure the towel is clean! With an open injury like this, infection is highly possible if you use an old dirty rag or unclean towel. Locate the area of injury (in this case, the bird's left wing) and pull the injured wing out and pin it in an outstretched position with your thumb and index finger. If you cannot hold the bird with one hand, use both hands and ask someone else to help.

Grip the bird firmly so that s/he does not struggle. The more struggling that occurs, the more blood will be spilled. Grip the bird firmly but not too hard. Keep in mind that birds do not have diaphragms (humans have diaphragms which operate involuntarily to pull our lungs in out and so we can breath) so if you grip too hard you can suffocate the bird!

Step Two: Look very closely at the area injured (use a magnifying glass if you have to) and look for the broken quill. Most of the time when a blood feather breaks, the larger fluffy part of the feather will be broken off and the quill will remain inside the bird's wings. Look for this quill. If there is too much blood in the area, use warm water to gently wash away the blood so you can see the feathers more clearly. Find the quill and take a tweezer and yank it out. If the wound is clotted without pulling the quill out, it can very easily reopen when the bird goes to preen the area. Very often, if the quill is ignored, the bird will try to pull it out himself. When the quill is out, apply corn starch on the wound to promote blood clotting. If it is a fortunate break and the quill has fallen off along with the rest of the feather, then apply the corn starch on the wound as well.

Step Three: Apply pressure on the wound after the corn starch is applied. Remember to keep a firm grip on the bird (but not too hard) so that s/he cannot struggle. If there is too much struggling, the wound can reopen and start bleeding all over again.

You can pull the towel near the beak of the bird during the process so that s/he has something to bite into when the pain is too unbearable. Just make sure that the nares do not get blocked off by the towel so s/he can breathe.

Step Four:
An important reminder is to make sure that the bird is not held so long that s/he gets over heated. Work quickly and when you are fairly sure the broken blood vessel has clotted, release your bird so s/he can cool off.

After the wound is clotted. The bird will have stained feather wings for several days to a week. Do not promote the bird to take a bath or attempt to wash the blood stain off the feathers for at least a day so that the wounded area has time to mend and does not re-open. If the bird has lost a lot of blood, it is recommended that you feed him an electrolyte solution which will compensate for loss ions due to the massive volume of blood lost.

A lot of the members are finding their birds status post blood feather breakage. They see evidence such as blood stained cage bars, perches, or feathers. If this is the case, do a quick search of the bird and find out where the bird is bleeding from. Check to make sure that site is not actively bleeding (if it is, apply corn starch and pressure to the area). Allow the bird to clean himself -- there is no immediate rush to grab the bird and wipe the blood off the feathers with a damp towel.
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