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What Are Blood Feathers?

Learn about blood feathers from veterinarian Laurie Hess in this Howcast video.


Dr. Laurie: When birds produce new feathers they're called blood feathers. Feathers are actually sort of a tube filled with blood. As the feather pushes through it and when the feather's about to erupt or come out of the feather shaft which develops from the feather follicle, which is sort of like a hair follicle, the blood in the tube then recedes and the tube looks clear and then there's really no danger.

But when a feather first develops, there is blood in that shaft and if the bird should bang the feather or break in some way it can bleed. This is called a blood feather and we get lots and lots of emergency calls from people who have feather's on their birds that break in the middle of the night and are bleeding and it's very disconcerting to see lots of blood in the cage. Right, Sarah?

Sarah: Absolutely, and especially for very small birds it can be very life threatening to lose that much blood. What we usually suggest to people, that until they can get into a veterinarian that they at least, if they have cornstarch at home or even a bar of soap, if you apply pressure with cornstarch or a bar of soap to where it's bleeding, often it will cause the blood to clot.

What you don't want to do is try and remove the feather at home. You can really injure the bird depending on where the feather is located, it can even be mounted in bone, so you can actually break bone if you try and remove the feather improperly.

Dr. Laurie: Absolutely, those feathers anchored in bone have big nerves associated with them, so if you try and pull them out, it can be very painful. So as Sarah said, pressure is very important with a paper towel or a washcloth. If there's active bleeding going on cornstarch, flour.

The bar of soap you just soften the bar of soap up or wax from a candle. You can just gently melt it in your fingers or warm it up and just pack it into the open end of the feather shaft that's bleeding, and you can stop bleeding that way, and that is the most important thing to do and you may save your bird's life if he or she is bleeding.

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