The Off-Colour Bird
Any bird that is off-colour should be kept warm! Birds that are ill will be using energy to fight their illness and to facilitate healing. They may also be consuming less calories, as their appetite will often be reduced.
Being warm-blooded, birds use a significant amount of energy to generate body heat and stay warm, thus if they are kept warm, less heat is used for this and more can be used for getting better.
It is important not to go too far the other way though, as birds can also suffer from heat stress which could make things a lot worse.
Birds usually have a higher body temperature than mammals. The ideal temperature for a “hospital cage” should be somewhere between 25 and 30°C. It’s worth having an infra-red heat lamp or similar stored for this type of situation, or even a dedicated heated hospital cage if you have lots of birds.
Care should be taken in cases of head trauma as sometimes supplemental heat can make swelling in the brain worse. Speak to your avian vet for further advice.
Wing Trauma, Dropped Wings, Possible Broken Wings
Birds will often be in a great deal of pain and steps to minimise flapping or movement of the wings should be instigated to minimise this and also to avoid the bones from becoming too displaced and moving around too much in the case of a fracture.
Placing the bird in a small, darkened transport cage is recommended such that it cannot extend its wings. Pad the bottom with something soft, like towels.
The ends of the primary flight feathers of the wings can be taped together with a small amount of micropore tape, to avoid further flapping. An appointment should be sought with an avian vet at the earliest opportunity for examination and potential x-rays.
Irritating or Toxic Substances in the Eyes
The most important initial step where possible is decontamination. In the case of possible toxic substances in the eyes, the eyes should be flushed with water for 20-30 minutes.
For small birds, an eyedropper can be used. For larger birds, a cup can be used to pour water over a bird’s eyes gradually. The bird should be given periodic “rest” periods of a few minutes during the flushing to minimise stress.
Toxin Exposure of the Skin
Again, decontamination is extremely important. Room-temperature or tepid water in a spray bottle may be used to gently “mist” the bird and dilute the toxin on its skin and feathers, until the substance can no longer be detected by seeing, feeling or smelling.
When removing sticky substances, a small amount of olive oil or peanut butter should be gently worked through the feathers until the substance breaks down and can be rinsed off.
When cleaning substances from the feathers, a small amount of hand dishwashing detergent diluted in water can be applied, but this should all be thoroughly rinsed off with water afterwards.
If birds are becoming stressed by washing, the procedure should be aborted and advice sought immediately from an avian vet.
Ingestion of Toxic Substances
Providing birds with juicy fruits is recommended initially, to dilute potential toxins. In the case of certain toxins, a small amount of activated charcoal mixed in with a favourite treat can be given as an “adsorbent”. This is not recommended for caustic substances, or for heavy metal, petroleum or ethanol ingestion. For further advice, call your avian vet.