Broken blood feathers (pin feathers) are common among budgies.
Most blood feathers develop without incident, but some budgies break or injure them while playing or interacting with other birds.
Most broken blood feathers heal gradually, as long as the blood around the area clots and there’s no further physical trauma. This often happens when an owner plucks out a damaged blood feather.
You can initiate clotting by slowly but firmly pressing the blood feather with some sterile gauze. Also, sprinkle a clotting agent, such as cornstarch or baking powder, onto the wound.
Where Are Blood Feathers Located?
Blood feathers are those that are still developing. Therefore, the feathers are connected to the budgie’s internal system, notably the bloodstream.
So, blood feathers can be found anywhere on the budgie’s body, including the head and neck area.
Blood feathers are commonly seen on the wings and tails because these feathers experience a lot of wear and tear from constant flying and need to be replaced regularly.
It’s relatively easy to detect a blood feather even before it ruptures, as they’re usually smaller in size and darker in the shaft than in any surrounding feathers.
Also, their quills are bigger than those of fully developed feathers. They have a waxy keratin sheath that’s easy to see upon closer inspection.
What Causes Broken Blood Feathers?
Blood feathers can be damaged in the following ways:
Damage can occur during fights or rough play with other birds.
Although budgies enjoy each other’s company, fights between two budgies can be deadly. It’s not uncommon for one or both birds to sustain injuries, including damaged pin feathers.
A budgie can get its wing caught between cage bars or in certain toys. If so, a blood feather can get broken as the budgie attempts to free itself.
Falling from perches, whether due to lack of stamina or loss of focus, can cause harm.
In baby budgies, the most common cause of broken blood feathers is falling. Since young budgies can lack the stamina to perch all night long, they can fall off their perch during their sleep.
Night frights, which are common among budgies of all ages, especially when they’re still young, can trigger irrational behaviors, leading to broken blood feathers.
It’s common for distressed budgies to constantly pull their feathers, which can lead to breakage if the budgie pulls on a feather that’s still growing.
Feather plucking is most common during the molting process. Some budgies temporarily change their entire personalities and become jumpier and more aggressive than usual.
Sometimes, the molting process stalls, interfering with the normal development of already sprouted feathers. These weak feathers can break and bleed following minimal contact.
Stalled or delayed molting can be due to malnutrition and stress. The signs include blackish or brownish tips on new feathers and a spattering of threadbare spots around the head and neck region.
What Happens When a Blood Feather Breaks?
As the name suggests, blood feathers have blood in them and start bleeding when damaged or broken.
In healthy budgies, the bleeding stops quite quickly as the blood clots. According to the American Journal of Physiology, blood clotting is faster in birds than in any other animal species.
In some birds, clotting may be delayed or not take place due to medical conditions, such as thrombocytopenia (blood platelet deficiency) or when the feather comes away or is pulled out.
Bleeding can worsen due to increased heart rate, which may be caused by fear or pain.
Can Your Budgie Die from A Broken Blood Feather?
Budgies are tiny and only have a few milliliters of blood in their system (about 1/10 of their body weight).
This means they can go into hypovolemic shock if they lose just 10 drops of blood. Although it can be reversed with immediate treatment, hypovolemic shock usually results in death.
Fortunately, broken pin feathers aren’t fatal in most cases.
What To Do When A Blood Feather Breaks
Your budgie’s chances of survival depend on the following factors:
- Stopping the bleeding quickly
- Preventing additional injuries
- Promoting fast recovery
Here are the recommended steps to take:
Keep the Budgie Still
If the budgie moves around while you address the wound, it can break other blood feathers.
So, restrain the bird by wrapping it in a cloth and holding it firmly in your hands. This way, you can fully examine the injury without the budgie doing further damage.
Stop the Bleeding
If there’s still blood coming out of the wound, stop it by firmly pressing a sterile gauze onto it. This will prevent infection and promote clotting. You may use a cotton ball if gauze isn’t available.
After drying the area, apply a clotting agent with cornstarch, baking powder, or styptic powder. This will help the wound clot more quickly and prevent further blood loss.
How to Treat A Broken Blood Feather
The most effective way to treat a broken blood feather is removal. Keeping a damaged pin feather may be too painful for your budgie and can affect its health in the long term.
Don’t attempt to clip any of your budgie’s feathers by yourself. Aside from possible health complications (follicle damage, leaving a part of the feather in, etc.), the process can damage your bond.
According to the University of Lincoln, budgies can grow attached to their owners, and the deeper the bond, the harder it is for your bird to get over the trauma you caused it.
If you remove the blood feather overly cautiously, the pain goes on for longer than the budgie can comfortably handle. However, pulling the feather out too fast can rip out skin tissue or part of the follicle.
This not only causes pain but affects the development of new feathers.
How Long Does it Take For a Broken Blood Feather to Heal?
Once the bad feather is pulled out and clotting occurs, the external healing process starts immediately. Normally, a new blood feather will appear within 4-6 weeks.
To promote faster recovery, you need to keep the budgie well-nourished with essential nutrients, particularly Vitamin K, which helps with blood coagulation and metabolism.