B.I.R.O. BIRDS - Birds Exotic Pet Health - Pet Care Information from GreenCross Vets Australia
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Exotic Pet Health - Birds - B.I.R.O. BIRDS



First Aid Priorities

Stop Bleeding

Examine the bird briefly and stop any bleeding.  Bleeding can be stopped by placing some clean cloth (not towelling) over the wound and apply firm pressure for about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to restrict the bird’s breathing if the wound is on the body.  Carefully remove the cloth to ensure that bleeding has stopped.  Do not remove any bloodclots.

Treat for Shock

Birds that are in shock appear weak, unresponsive, fluffed up and breathe in slowly and out quickly.  Place the bird in a quiet, semi-dark, warm, humid environment.  Warmth is essential – temperature should be between 25 and 30 degrees.  Place a clean cloth or some newspaper in the bottom, which is laid out flat.  A hot water bottle can be filled with hot water from the tap and wrapped in a slightly damp cloth, which is placed near the bird.  The bird will take 4 to 6 hours to recover from shock – if it doesn’t – seek advice.  While the bird is in shock, don’t force it to eat or drink.

When the Bird has recovered from Shock

Visually examine the bird

Stand a short distance away and examine the bird visually.  Look for any deformity, unusual wing positions or lameness.  Note the following:

  • Eyes – should be both open and bright.  Pupils should be equal in size.  Unequal pupil size may indicate head trauma.  If eyes are partly closed then the bird is unwell.  One eye closed may mean an injury or infection.  Check to see if the bird responds to the movement of your hand.
  • Head – head nodding, head tilting and periods of eye closing can indicate severe illness or trauma.
  • Breathing – a healthy bird’s breathing is hard to detect.  Laboured breathing may mean possible respiratory infection.
  • Feathers – missing feathers may indicate an underlying wound.  Feathers fluffed out can mean the bird is unwell and trying to warm itself.
  • Posture – birds that are weak will sit.  A healthy bird will sit only to sleep.  Leg paralysis can be caused by insecticide poisoning, trauma to the head or spine, or fractures in the back, legs or pelvis.  Wings should be similar in the way they hang.  A drooping wing can indicate a fracture.  A broken wing can be immobilised by taping the wing in its natural folded position (not too tightly so as to restrict breathing).  Micropore tape or vet rap tape doesn’t stick to the feathers.  If the bird has obvious injuries such as a broken wing, missing foot or broken leg, then seek veterinary advice.

Physically examine the bird

Begin by examining the head and check for any sign of eye injury, abrasions, beak injury etc.  Check the neck feathers for feather loss or matting which may indicate a wound.  Feel the body, paying attention to the breast (keel) bone and breast (pectoral) muscles.  If the breastbone is prominent and the muscles feel sunken, starvation, parasites such as worms, or a chronic illness may be indicated.  Examine each wing.  Gently hold the wing tip and pull it away from the body, so the bones and joints can be felt for fractures or dislocations.  Examine each of the legs for fractures.  The bones in the legs are easier to feel if the leg is extended.

Cuts and Wounds

Cuts and wounds can be gently cleaned with a dilute solution of antiseptic such as Savlon or Hydrogen Peroxide 1% or a solution of warm salt water.  Don’t remove any clots of blood as this can start the bleeding again.  If a cat or dog has injured the bird, veterinary assistance should be obtained as to the need for antibiotics.  The bacteria in cats and dogs mouths can cause severe infection, so the bird may die in a few days, if not from an actual puncture wound to one of the organs.

First Aid Kit

A few things you can consider getting as a standard first aid kit:-

  • 1 roll micropore – ½ inch or 1 inch or Vetwrap for taping wings
  • 1 roll sticky taped used for taping snapping beaks when examining birds
  • 1 bottle antiseptic powder or liquid such as savlon liquid or hydrogen peroxide 1% for use on open wounds.

Special Note: Avoid the use of antiseptic cream or ointment, as they can contaminate the feathers and cause excessive preening or self-mutilatio

Products to keep on hand for feeding

High protein infant cereal such as Heinz High Protein Cereal for infants from six months, or Farex High Protein Cereal for infants from six months (good for all infant seed eaters)
Wombaroo Insectivore Raising Mixture (ideal for mixing with lean mince for insect/meateaters)
Packet dry cat food (soak in water for insect/meateaters)
Dry Lorikeet Mix (lorikeets and honeyeaters)
Oxheart (cut into small pieces and freeze, for meateaters)
What to feed your bird
Birds need a balanced diet of protein,carbohydrates, fibre, fats, vitamins and minerals as well as clean water.  Birds like variety so interchange the suggestions following.

Insect Eaters (honeyeaters, frogmouths, magpies, kookaburras, dollar birds, peewees, kingfishers, crows, pheasant coucals, noisy miners, butcherbirds, plovers, friar birds, currawongs, swallows, silvereyes, pardalotes, cuckoo shrikes, koels).

  • Juveniles – mine mix dip in water, mealworms, insects, soaked cat biscuits, pet food mix, egg and biscuit mix)
  • Adults – mince mix, meal worms, insects, soaked cat biscuits, meat variety cat food, egg and biscuit mix.

Carnivorous Birds (hawks, eagles, falcons, frogmouths, kookaburras, magpies, butcherbirds)

  • Juveniles – soaked cat biscuits, mince mix, chopped baby mice, chopped chickens, pet food mix, insects, strips of lean meat dipped in insectivore slurry, ox heart.
  • Adults – strips lean meat dipped in insectivore slurry, ox heart, mince mix, mice, chickens, pet food mix, large insects

Note: chopped clean feathers can be added to the mixes for extra roughage

Nectivorous Birds (honeyeaters, friar birds, noisy miners, lorikeets)
Special note: omit mince mix for lorikeets.  Most honeyeaters, friar birds, noisy miners are also insectivores

  • Juveniles – nectar substitute thickened with high protein cereal to a semi-runny consistency, lorikeet dry mix, egg and biscuit mix, small amount sugar nectar, small amount soaked cat biscuits and mince mix, soft fruit, chopped greens, native blossoms
  • Adults – as for juveniles

Fruit eating Birds (figbirds, orioles, some pigeons, koels)

  • Juveniles – soft fruit, native fruits such as lillypilly, figs etc. figbirds, orioles and koels can also be given small amounts of soaked cat biscuits and mince mix, insects and mealworms.
  • Adults – as for juveniles.

Seed eating Birds (galahs, cockatoos, rosellas, pigeons, doves)

  • Juveniles – granivore mix, high protein cereal mix, egg and biscuit mix, chopped greens, soft fruit.
  • Adults – commercial seed preparations (depending on the size of the bird), fruit, chopped greens.

Water Birds (ducks, native hens, coots)

  • Juveniles – chopped greens, chick/turkey starter, pigeon seed, multigrain bread, mealworms, insects, mince mix, pet food mix.
  • Adults – greens, wheat/pigeon seed, multigrain bread, mealworms, insects, mince mix.

Note:  water birds like to have water near their food and dabble their food in it.

Game Birds (quail, scrub turkeys etc.)

  • Juveniles – insects, mealworms, chopped greens, mince mix, chick/turkey starter, seed, fruit, pet food mix, mince mix
  • Adults – same as juveniles.

Products mentioned

  • Wombaroo Insectivore Rearing Mix – usually available from produce and pet stores.
  • High Protein Cereal – available from baby section in the supermarket sold as ‘Heinz High Protein Cereal for infants from six months’ or ‘Farex High Protein Cereal for infants from six months’.
  • Granivore Rearing Mix – available from produce and pet stores for rearing baby seedeaters.
  • Egg and Biscuit Mix – available from produce and pet stores.
  • Calcium Powder – calcium carbonate available from produce and pet stores.
  • Lorikeet Dry Mix – available from pet stores, produce stores and supermarkets.

Diet Mixes

  • Mince Mix – handful lean mince, two teaspoons insectivore, pinch of calcium powder, two teaspoons ground cat biscuits.  For juveniles, roll into balls appropriate to bird’s size then dip into water before giving.
  • Nectar substitute (1) – 1 cup raw sugar, 2 raw beaten eggs, few drops bird vitamins such as Avi-Vite.  Make up to four cups with water.  This can be batched into daily requirements and frozen.  It can be thickened with High Protein Cereal.
  • Nectar substitute (2) -  use any of the following and interchange regularly – High Protein Cereal, Vitabrits/Weetbix, crushed plain biscuits, rolled oats, semolina, rice flour.  Just prior to feeding, mix the dry ingredients with water and a little honey to a semi-runny consistency.
  • Sugar Nectar – 4 heaped tablespoons brown or raw sugar to 500ml warm water.  Mix till dissolved.
  • Egg and Biscuit Mix – mix with a little water to a crumbly consistency.  For juveniles, roll into small balls appropriate to birds size and dip into water before giving.
  • Pet Food Mix – mix two parts meat variety cat food to one part high protein cereal.
  • Chopped greens – finely chop spinach, silverbeet, lettuce, grass, thistle, dandelion.  Lettuce has little nutrition by itself and cabbage should be avoided.

Special Notes

Never squirt water down a bird’s throat.  This may result in the bird inhaling the liquid into the lungs.  Use an eyedropper placed near the side of the bird’s mouth and let the bird swallow the drops slowly.  Don’t put a new bird with birds that you may already have caged – disease is easily transmitted.  If you have a sick bird, keep them isolated and clean the cage thoroughly with disinfectant after use.  Always wash your hands after handling a bird and before you handle another bird.

Points about caring for baby birds

Precocial birds are those birds such as plovers, waterfowl and quails that are born with most of their feathers when they hatch.  They can usually feed themselves straight away.  As with all baby birds, they should be kept warm.  Keep water and food near them in shallow dishes.

Special note:  baby water birds such as ducklings like to have their food in their water.

Altricial birds are born with no feathers and their eyes are closed.  Warmth is absolutely essential for these birds.  Temperature around 38-39 degrees to begin with, gradually decreasing as their feathers grow.  Tiny babies can be fed around every two hours to start with, then gradually increasing the time over a few weeks.  Don’t feed a baby bird unless its crop is empty and it has passed droppings since its last meal.  If it hasn’t digested its last meal check the temperature, it may be too low.  Clean the baby after feeding with warm water and a tissue.  The amount of food fed at each feed depends on the age, size and species of bird.  A general rule is to continue feeding until the crop appears well rounded and taut.  Don’t overfeed.  Disturb the baby as little as possible between each feed.  Thoroughly wash feeding utensils between feeds.

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