Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broken Blood Feathers

Every bird has blood feathers, which are actually new feathers that are growing in following a molt.

Blood feathers contain an artery and a vein with a supply of blood circulating throughout. The blood flow in these new feathers is what nourishes the growth and allows for it to become a mature feather.

You can easily tell the difference between a blood feather and a mature feather by looking at them. A blood feather has a dark colored base due to the blood. A mature feather is clear because as the feather grows, and the blood is no longer needed it subsides back to the body.

Blood feathers are not a problem, unless they become broken. When a blood feather is broken it can be a very scary situation. If your bird has broken multiple blood feathers she may be covered in blood.

Broken blood feathers are considered an emergency situation because if left untreated your bird can bleed to death.

There are two ways to treat a blood feather:

  1. The blood feather needs to be pulled out from the skin to stop the bleeding.
  2. If you cannot pull out the blood feather, contact your avian vet immediately and apply flour or cornstarch to the blood feather to allow it to clot (this is only a temporary fix, the feather needs to come out).

Supplies to have at your disposal in case of a broken blood feather include:

  • Needle nose pliers or a pair of hemostats (tweezers are not strong enough).
  • Cornstarch or flour
  • Q-tipsClean water: to dampen the feathers
  • Your avian vet's phone number

About a year ago, I came home from a trip to find Loki with a broken blood feather. I became hysterical because I had no idea why she was bleeding. I went online and read everything I could about blood feathers and called my avian vet. I was afraid to pull Loki's feather out. While on the phone, Loki pulled the feather out her self! I took her to the vet the next day and Dr. Rolfe said the blood feather was almost fully developed, which was why Loki was able to pull it out.

This was an extremely scary situation, but with the proper knowledge beforehand it would have been less stressful.

Blood feathers can become broken through a variety of ways including:

  • Night frights
  • Bumping into toys or the cage
  • Clipping feathers too short

Night frights occur when cockatiels become spooked by a noise during the night. Cockatiels are basically blind in the dark, so any noise can frighten them since they cannot see what is going on.

The best way to prevent night frights is to leave a night light on for your bird and to cover only half of the cage. I do both of these things for Loki, and I find the night light to be particularly beneficial.

Broken blood feathers can be serious; it is important to prevent them, to have supplies on hand in case, and to be knowledgeable about them.

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