Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen, so it’s always a good idea to be prepared. While accidents often produce obvious injuries, birds often keep illnesses well hidden. In the wild, if you are sick, you pose a threat by making your entire flock vulnerable to predators, which is why parrots have become adept at masking signs of illness. This is one of the reasons why it is vital to have an annual “healthy bird” checkup. It is not necessary that, once a bird shows obvious signs of illness, it is often very ill and needs immediate veterinary attention. First aid is intended to help you survive until you can see the vet or treat minor injuries.
It helps to have a “hospital cage” for emergencies, a smaller, easy-to-carry cage in which you can isolate a sick or injured bird and easily move it to a warm, quiet area of your home. It is also advisable to have a quarantine area, for new birds entering the house, as well as for sick birds recovering from an infection. This area should be well separated from the rest of your birds to avoid the transmission of germs through the air, as well as those that are spread by direct contact.
Some of the signs of a possible illness include: more time on the cage floor, less talking and playing, fluffy feathers, lack of appetite, drinking more water, personality changes (such as biting or not wanting to leave the cage), swaying tail, puffy eyes, sleeping on both feet with head bent, wings drooping, sneezing or coughing, “popping” in the chest, vomiting, diarrhea, dirty ventilation, etc. I won’t go into specific diseases here, but I hope you get a general idea: if things are “different”, go to the vet! Other problems include broken blood feathers or egg attachment.
It’s a good idea to put together a first aid kit (Your Parrot Place has a nice one for sale!)
Eye and skin wash
Cotton swabs and balls
Assorted dressings: gauze, adhesive, veterinary wrap
Pair of scissors
Forceps or hemostats
Betadine or iodine swabs
Heating pad and / or lamp
Pedialyte (baby electrolyte solution)
Manual feeding formula and syringes
Telephone number of veterinarians and poison control
Generally, with any illness or injury, take the bird to a hospital cage and place it in a warm, quiet, dimly lit room (toilets can work). Provide fresh water (and Pedialyte if necessary). Give him his favorite foods (healthier things you know he will eat) in addition to hot foods like cooked rice or oatmeal. Also, smaller birds often enjoy sprayed millet. If he is not eating well on his own, offer him some hot food with your fingers or a spoon. If needed, you may need to mix the manual feeding formula and give it with a cup or syringe. If you have kept your bird in the habit of spooning or cup eating, this will be easier. DO NOT use over-the-counter remedies from pet stores. It’s too much of a guessing game. I know of a Pionus who became psychotic after receiving an over-the-counter bird “remedy” and kept wallowing in her cage. Some chamomile tea can help the bird relax and ginger tea is good for digestive disorders. If you are familiar with herbal remedies, you can
use them without causing harm to your bird. NEVER give antibiotics without knowing that your bird really has a BACTERIAL infection (and what bacteria!)
Broken blood feathers (or ones that are accidentally cut) can be difficult to stop. Do not use styptic powder on skin or soft tissues, only on bleeding nails. Otherwise, use cornstarch as a coagulant. If the blood feather (immature feather with live blood supply) does not stop bleeding, it must be pulled or the bird may bleed to death.
A note on egg tying: If a hen is at the bottom of the cage, puffed up and struggling, she may be “tied to the egg.” Put it in a warm and humid place (like the bathroom). You can rub some vegetable oil around your vent. However, egg-bound hens can die quite quickly, and if the egg does not disappear within several hours, you should see the vet immediately (a good diet with extra calcium will help prevent this).
So get in the habit of inspecting your birds daily and be on the lookout for signs of distress. Read about diseases and get a basic understanding of bird diseases. “Bird-proof” your home, avoid toxic fumes and unsafe toys. Have a first aid kit and hospital cage on hand. You don’t know what is “normal” for your bird and act quickly if things don’t seem right. Find a good AVIAN vet and visit him annually. Make sure your house, bird cage, and play areas are as safe as possible. Feed the best possible diet to ensure the best possible health for your birds. Wouldn’t it be nice if your first aid kit is never used?
The first aid kit available at Your Parrot Place (under accessories) contains most of the essentials, such as: styptic powder, latex gloves, eye skin wash, 1 “x 6 yard sterile bandage, scissors, locking tweezers, iodine swabs, antiseptic pads, 2 “x2” gauze, cotton swabs, masking tape, hand wipe, emergency information card, instructions, and carrying case. Perishable items such as manual feeding formula , should be stored in the freezer and replaced every six months.