It is natural to love your pet bird. You spend hours teaching them how to talk.
You rescue them when they escape their cages, and you protect them from the unhealthy attention of your cat.
You provide your bird with the best food you can find, and you fill their cage with toys.
But what can you do for your bird during its final days?
How to Comfort a Dying Bird?
There are seven ways you can comfort a dying bird:
- Isolate a sick or dying bird from other birds.
- Keep your bird calm.
- Continue to keep your bird fed and hydrated.
- Maintain appropriate temperature control.
- Handle your bird with a soft blanket rather than in your hands.
- Turn down the lights.
- Minimize your bird’s stress.
Now we will discuss each point in detail.
Isolate a Sick or Dying Bird from Other Birds
Many of the diseases that take the lives of birds are infectious.
It’s only common sense to place a bird with a deadly, contagious disease in its own cage.
And if your bird has never really got along with its cage mate (for instance, two females in the same cage, two different sizes of birds in the same cage, two different species of birds in the same cage), this is the time to end the tension.
It also helps sick birds to isolate themselves from other animals.
In the wild, there are many animals that like to eat birds.
Tiny birds naturally react to the presence of larger, carnivorous animals with alarm. It’s best to isolate your bird from your pet dogs, cats, and snakes to help it stay calm.
Keep Your Bird Calm
Give a dying bird a calm environment.
If there is a lot of foot traffic going past their cage, move their cage to a quieter spot in your home.
If you have the cage near a window, so your bird can enjoy some sun, make sure it doesn’t have a ledge where a cat can peer in.
Don’t let your bird be aggravated by a curious squirrel, and make sure your windows are screened so your pet doesn’t have to witness wild birds flying into them. (This is for the sake of wild birds, too.)
Speak to your bird in a calm, low, soothing voice, and make sure your kids play quietly when they are in the same room as the bird.
Birds that can talk often appreciate soft music.
There is even downloadable music composed specifically for sick and dying birds.
You can find it on the Internet with a search for “relaxing music for birds.”
Continue to Keep Your Bird Fed and Hydrated
Sick birds become dying birds when they don’t eat and drink.
As a general rule:
- Birds can die of starvation in as little as 48 hours if they do not eat
- Birds can die of dehydration in as little as 24 hours if they do not drink
If your bird will not eat and drink, you can do crop feeding.
A bird’s crop is a muscular pouch located in the bird’s chest at the bottom of its neck, above the sternum (breastbone).
It is just an enlargement of the bird’s esophagus that allows it to store food to regurgitate to its hatchlings or to its mate when birds are taking turns sitting on their eggs.
You can give your bird food and water with a syringe (without a needle) you place in its mouth.
You use the syringe to squirt water and food into its crop.
Just a teaspoon (5 ml) of water a day can make the difference between continued life and a quick death for your bird.
As little as 10 grams (two teaspoons) of a tube feeding formula mixed with water can keep your bird nourished for a day.
How to Give your Bird Water
- Put about a tablespoon of warm water from a household faucet (assuming your tap water is drinkable) in a small cup.
- Find a 10 cc syringe. Remember, this syringe will not have a needle on the other end.
- Depress the plunger as far down as it will go, and place the narrow end of the syringe into the water.
- Pull up on the plunger to draw water into the syringe. Carry the syringe upside down over to your bird’s cage.
- Place the narrow tip of the syringe over your bird’s lower beak and over the bird’s tongue. Aim the tip of the syringe down and to the right into the crop. (If you aim to the left, you will get water into your bird’s windpipe. This may kill your bird.)
- Press the plunger to release the water into your bird’s crop. Up to 5 ml (a teaspoon) of water should cause your bird no discomfort.
How to Feed Your Bird
There are many brands of bird formula on the market.
It’s best to choose the brand that is highest in fat and highest in calories, but for a dying bird, it is better to be feeding something rather than feeding nothing.
Don’t try to feed fruit, seeds, veggies, suet, or apples to a bird that cannot eat on its own.
- Mix a tablespoon of the bird rescue formula in warm (not hot) tap water, following the directions on the label. Stir until completely mixed. The mixture should have the consistency of oatmeal or cream of wheat.
- Place the container of bird formula in a bowl of hot water to keep it warm. You will be placing the bowl of formula inside a bowl of water. You won’t be diluting the formula.
- When you are ready to feed your bird, remove the plunger from the syringe. Fill the syringe from the top. Don’t try to suck up formula from the bowl. Tap the narrow end of the syringe against the side of the bowl of formula to remove any air bubbles.
- Put the tip of the plunger back into the top of the syringe. Take the syringe to your bird’s cage.
- Place the narrow end of the plunger over your bird’s tongue, aiming it at your bird’s crop, which is down and to the right. (The windpipe is to the left. If you get food in your bird’s windpipe, you will kill the bird.) Press down on the plunger to give your bird the food.
Giving your bird water and food by this method can be a little scary at first, but it can make a huge, positive difference in how your bird feels.
Common problems can be avoided by making sure you get the narrow tip of the syringe over the lower beak and on top of the tongue.
Once your bird’s crop is full, you are done with feeding and watering for the day.
This technique also helps young birds and sick birds that show signs of dehydration (sunken eyes, loose skin) or malnutrition (staying in the bottom of the cage, not wanting to sing or play).
Maintain Appropriate Temperature Control
Birds that are sick have difficulty maintaining body temperature.
They need the heat or AC set between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 and 29 degrees Celsius).
If your bird’s cage is in a big room with drafts and variable heating, you can cover your bird’s cage or place its cage under a heat lamp to keep your bird warm.
But if you use a heat lamp on your bird’s cage, install a thermometer so you will know you aren’t causing your bird to overheat.
If you don’t have a thermometer, a good way to tell your bird is overheated is to watch the way it holds its wings.
When a bird holds its wings out as if to fan itself, the air in its cage is too warm.
Keep your bird’s cage away from drafty doors and windows. Don’t put your bird in direct sunlight during the summer.
Birds left in outdoor cages in the summer can suffer heatstroke.
Handle Your Bird with a Soft Blanket Rather than in Your Hands
A snuggly soft blanket helps keep your bird calm.
Soft blankets feel like the soft feathers birds use to line their nests in the wild.
Holding your bird close to your body helps them feel secure.
They won’t want to fly away when they feel the softness of the blanket and the security of being close to you.
Turn Down the Lights
Birds like to hide when they don’t feel well. Dimming the light helps them to feel more secure in their cages.
Be sure to turn the lights in their room off at night, and place a cover over their cage so they get better sleep.
Minimize Your Bird’s Stress
Sick birds should be kept out of stressful situations. Allowing your cat to stare into your bird’s cage is stressful.
Allowing your children to play boisterous, loud games in the room where you are keeping your sick bird is stressful.
Dying birds experiencing emotional stress may find the energy to fluff up their feathers and pick at their feathers.
They may not want to eat, which can lead to serious problems very quickly.
What are the Signs Your Bird May be Very Sick?
Birds are good at hiding their illnesses.
In the wild, they can’t afford to signal potential predators that they are vulnerable to attack.
Birds may become inactive, but they won’t do anything that announces to the world around them that they are sick.
Bird owners have to be aware of the signs of serious illness in birds, which include:
- Sitting in the bottom of the cage.
- Breathing rapidly or breathing with an open mouth.
- Dropping head.
- Loss of appetite.
Other signs your bird may be seriously ill include a marked increase or decrease in appetite, increased drinking of water, increased urination, sneezing, wheezing green or yellow discharge from the eyes or nostrils, vomiting, limping, wrinkled skin, and ungroomed feathers.
Birds owners often do not notice symptoms until it is too late for the veterinarian to treat the disease.
It’s always best to take your bird to the vet at the first sign something is wrong
Frequently Asked Questions About Taking Care of Dying Birds
Q. How long can a sick bird live?
A. A bird that is so ill that it does not want to eat or drink usually will die in one to three days.
That’s why it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as you notice symptoms.
Q. Can a bird die of a cold?
A. Yes, colds can be fatal to many kinds of birds, especially parakeets.
Birds can also contract influenza and spread it to humans.
Q. Are there situations in which it is best to take my bird to the vet to be put to sleep?
A. Usually, birds do not suffer fatal illnesses very long.
Veterinarians offer euthanasia for birds, but very few caretakers of birds choose it.
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