31 July 2011

Trials of parronthood

My mid-morning coffee was just interrupted by an unexpected parakeet-related problem. I went to offer Chestina and Lola a bath, and saw that Chestina’s tail was matted with blood. She shook it, obviously in some discomfort.

This isn’t an uncommon situation in birds. Growing feathers have a hollow shaft which carries blood through them. If the shaft cracks, bleeding results. The recommended procedure is to pluck the broken feather from the bird. It doesn’t hurt the bird much, prevents further bleeding or infection, and the feather will grow back in time.

Of course, it being a Sunday, the vet was unavailable. Any medical assistance was going to be up to us.

Step one was to get a bird in the hand. That’s often the hardest part, but fortunately I was able to grab Chestina on the first attempt. She struggled a bit, then quietened down.

Step two was to examine and clean the tail. Unfortunately, if there’s one thing both birds really hate, it’s having someone mess with their tail. Australia is known for its deadly wildlife, and I can confirm that even the humble budgie can bite to draw blood if sufficiently motivated. In the end I decided it was going to be faster–and hence less painful for me–to dip the whole tail in the warm water, rather than try to dab it with cotton wool.

At this point it became clear that the operation was going to require two people, so rothko took over holding Chestina while I went through the feathers one at a time looking for the broken one. In the end there were two that had blood along the shaft, so to be on the safe side I pulled both. The books say to use needlenose pliers, but the feathers came out easily when pulled. I checked that I had gotten the whole feather out. One of them had a clearly visible blood shaft, so hopefully that was it.

Finally, I did some more cleanup, and applied some of the special styptic powder with benzocaine that we had bought for just such an emergency. Chestina seemed to quieten down a bit, and we released her. No more bleeding, and she’s behaving completely normally–flying, playing, tweeting, and doing a little preening of the severely ruffled tail.

I’ve carefully disinfected everything in the cage, as well as the cage itself. Hopefully the crisis is over. If there’s more drama on Monday, we’ll take her to the vet.

© mathew 2017