by Phil Samuelson & Diane Burroughs
A sick or injured bird needs reassurance and love but also quiet, warmth, restricted movement and very easy access to food and water.
Pet birds face many household dangers, and sickness and injury are fairly common. Whether a bird flies into a window pane and sustains a concussion, gets attacked by a cat, breaks a wing or fractures a leg during a fall, becomes egg bound, has a serious bacterial infection or experiences another debilitating condition, a secure hospital cage is necessary for its recovery. A Bird hospital cage is on our Top 5 Must-Have Bird First Aid Supplies List!
The bird hospital cage should be short in height to discourage climbing and encourage rest. And, the perches should only be elevated between 1-5 inches from the bottom, depending on your bird’s post injury strength and size. A typical bird carrier constructed of polycarbonate, like the Wingabago Bird Carrier, can easily be converted into a hospital cage with a few simple adjustments. We love the Wingabago for most birds because it is enclosed, it encourages your bird to perch, has easy access to food and water dishes and you can get a custom cover to muffle noise and other disturbances.
Look at the Crystal Flight CS4 for Macaw’s to help your large, long tailed bird recover.
Since many pet birds have a travel cage already, keeping your travel cage set up as a hospital unit is probably the quickest way to provide appropriate housing during the recovery period. Converting a travel cage also makes things less stressful for everyone when transporting the bird to your veterinarian.
The hospital cage must shield your bird from stressful distractions. Think of it as a safe nest cavity where your bird will feel safe enough to rest and recover. Ideally, the cage will occupy a warm, quiet room away from household traffic. Make sure that both the cage and the location you keep it in protects your bird from disturbances like other pets, noises and activity that will startle it or cause it to thrash about, resulting in further injury.
Next, make sure that the bird perch is an appropriate and comfortable diameter and made of a material that is easy to grasp. You want your bird to use it’s energy to get well, not fight staying perched. Of course, if a fractured leg is the problem or the bird is unable to perch, soft bedding like towels, pine or Eco-Nest should substitute for the low perch. If necessary, a cage cover or thick towel will go a long way toward minimizing disturbances and trapping in heat.
Supplemental heat should be available for an injured or sick bird. Just like when you have the flu, if you have a heating pad or an electric blanket (and, in my case layers of sweat shirts), warmth allows your bird to use it’s energy to recover rather than heating it’s body. The ideal temperature for the bird’s hospitalization period is about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Supplemental heat can come from under-cage or interior heating pads or a heat lamp elevated above the cage. A cost effective new product, called the Snuggle Up Bird Warmer offers thermostatically controlled warmth that allows your bird to recover. Place half of the hospital cage on a heating pad or reptile heater. Another alternative is to use an Infrared Heater like those available from Avitech. Place it on one side of the cage and allow your bird bird to go to the other unheated side as needed.
Choose a hospital cage that is easy to keep clean. Pet birds are notoriously messy and messes attract harmful bacteria. A sick or injured bird needs to use all of it’s energy for recovery, not fighting infection! Change the liner or bedding in your hospital cage once or twice a day. Even more for larger birds. Use a bird safe disinfectant to wipe off food and poop splatters at least daily and change the water dish 2 or more times a day. If your bird is really sick, consider having two hospital cages so that you can promptly put your bird in the second one as you are cleaning the first one. Remember, any stress that your bird experiences could cause a set back.
Nutrition and Hydration
Often, a sick or injured bird will refuse to eat or drink. It is important to make eating and drinking as easy as possible for your bird. A sick bird that has to “work” to eat may simply starve itself to death instead.
Hydration is extremely important at these times because a sick bird can easily become dehydrated from diarrhea or regurgitation, and an injured bird may be reluctant to drink. The cage warmer may cause your bird to dehydrate faster, too. Consult with your veterinarian about proper hydration. Two products that may be very useful to keep in your bird first aid kit include Cool Bird and Electrovites from Avitech.
A bird scale will be invaluable for monitoring your birds weight. A 10% drop in weight can occur in just a few days if your bird refuses to eat or drink. Consult with your avian vet to know when you should take your bird in for gavage feeding to help maintain weight.
A Few Words of Comfort
Finally, remember that your bird will be in some distress, and a gentle word can help reassure it that there is nothing to fear. Birds grow very attached to their owners and will appreciate the calming attention. Talk in a low, comforting voice to your avian friend, and assure your pet that he/she will be alright. This is especially helpful if you have had to use restraint to treat the bird and will help your bird understand that you are trying to help. After all, your parrot understands a lot of what you say to it.
And, most importantly, follow your veterinarian’s advice to the letter!
MUST HAVE Essential Conditions for Bird Recovery
• Quiet environment
• Clean hospital cage that encourages rest
• Paper lining or bedding that’s easy to change and allows you to observe droppings
• Low perch, if necessary
• Supplemental heat from heating pads, infrared heaters or a heated lamp
• Fresh, clean water
• Nutritional and Electrolyte Supplements
• Thermometer to monitor cage temperature
• Cage cover or towel to quiet outside activity and wipe up messes
• Nontoxic antibacterial cleaning solution like Pet Focus for cleaning and disinfecting