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Caring for Sick Birds

By Alan Stanford, Ph.D.
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  1. There are some basic things you can do until you figure out what is wrong with your bird.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Isolate her from the flock to protect them and her. If she can have one non aggressive friend, that helps. 
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Make sure she drinks and eats several times a day. Keep the food and water close.
  11. 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.
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