Caring for your Sick Bird

A major problem with sick birds is that they all tend to show similar symptoms, no matter what the disease. The typical sign of a sick bird is that it is usually quiet, drowsy, rests with both feet on the perch, has its feathers ruffled and the head tucked under the wing or drawn back into the chest, with the eyes partly dosed. Some may squat on the perch or floor of the cage and show excessive stretching of the wings and legs, together with shivering.

The moment a bird is noticed to be sick, it should be isolated and placed in a warm environment, preferably 30-32 deg. C. for twenty four hours. This warmth is easily provided by placing an electric light bulb immediately below the floor of the cage; it will provide a constant source of heat but will not illuminate the cage. The exclusion of droughts is very important. Note the droppings first. With the healthy bird these should be made up of a firm, black ring of faeces with a white soft center of urine. In inflammatory intestinal conditions, droppings will be watery or pasty when mixed with the urine. Where there is a temperature or infectious disease, droppings are frequently yellow, and in other diseases the faeces sometimes change from yellow to green or sometimes bloody in terminal cases. Where these occur the bird should be taken to a veterinarian promptly.

Nectar and fruit-eating birds have loose droppings normally. Lorikeets and lories, if fed fruit and green feed, may also have loose, wet droppings without their being abnormal.

Observe whether the cuttlebone is being properly used. When the bird has quietened down after being moved, check whether the plumage is normal or ruffled. Note whether the bird is bright or listless and whether there is evidence of a good appetite. Is the bird at all emaciated or weak? If you are confident in handling the bird, it should be examined for abscesses or swellings, or abnormalities of any kind. The nasal openings should be pressed gently to express discharges. If the condition is not obvious, the bird should be taken to a veterinarian.

An injured bird needs to be handled carefully and as little as possible. Place it on a soft surface in a warm cardboard box, cover the box, and transport it as soon as possible to the surgery for the vet's examination.