Caring for Sick Birds
By Alan Stanford, Ph.D.
Brown Egg Blue Egg
- There are some basic things you can do until you figure out what is wrong with your bird.
- Inspect her for parasites. You might be surprised but mites and lice can easily kill a bird! If not they can weaken a bird to the point that it gets sick.
- Are there small bugs around her vent, on her head, or under her wings? These could be very tiny red dots (mites) they could be larger translucent/white/yellow (lice). Lice also show us as clumps (of eggs) stuck to the base of feathers.
- Are her leg scales raised and the legs large and rough looking? This is scaly leg mites.
- Inspect her for other injuries. Look for
- Weight loss. Is she thin? Feel near her breastbone; does her breastbone protrude?
- Problems around the vent. Is it dirty? Is her vent pasted or pasted shut? Clean around the vent and carefully inspect it.
- Broken bones
- Missing feathers
- Swollen crop
- Beak so long she can't eat
- Toe nails so long she has trouble walking
- Hot spots indicating injury
- Swollen abdomen (bound egg or worse)
- Abscesses around eyes and throat
- Unusual manure
- Bad odor near ears or beak
- Discharge around eyes/beak/ears
- Noisy breathing
- Patches on the mucous membranes inside the beak
- Crop full or spongy
- Plugged nares (nostrils) or ears
- Anything else.
- Keep an eye on the manure. The consistency changes throughout the day and day by day. You should not see blood, excessive mucous, or anything else unusual.
- Feed her beneficial bacteria (lactobacillus), they keep digestion going correctly and fight disease by crowding out disease bacteria. You can just mix 1-2 teaspoons of ACTIVE culture yogurt with a small amount of food and give this as the only food until she eats it. You can also buy lactobacillus at health food stores, pharmacies, Wal-Mart, and Lake's Unlimited 800-634-2473.
- Isolate her from the flock to protect them and her. If she can have one non aggressive friend, that helps.
- Keep her warm. One good suggestion is a pet carrier with a heating pad on low beneath and OUTSIDE the carrier. Another is a light bulb in a reflector. If she is too weak to move, be sure she doesn't get too hot.
- Give her a good diet. Supply high energy supplements like chopped hard boiled or microwaved egg. Another good food is a hand rearing formula for caged birds. Kaytee Exact and Nekton Tonic K are good. We have saved many weak chicks and adults with Nekton Tonic K. You can get these at a local pet supply house or at Doctors Foster & Smith 800-381-7179.
- Give her vitamins and electrolytes. These are available at poultry supply and farm stores. Some prefer not to mix it in the water but sprinkle them on the food.
- Make sure she drinks and eats several times a day. Keep the food and water close.
- If necessary, use an eyedropper to feed her. Be careful to place the eyedropper far back in the mouth. There is a hole at the base of the tongue that leads to her lungs. Get water in there and you will make things worse.