What to Feed an Injured Bird? Do’s and Dont’s!

There are big differences between what you need to do to feed an injured pet bird and what you can do to feed an injured wild bird.

In this article, we will start with a discussion of how to feed pet birds with the most common injury, a broken or torn beak.

Then we will move to tips on what to do when your pet bird can’t get to the food because of an injury to a leg or a wing, and then how to help injured birds in the wild.

How to Feed a Pet Bird with a Beak Injury

A bird’s beak functions a lot like a human’s lips and teeth. Birds use their beaks to grasp their food. They use their beaks to crush their food.

Birds also use their beaks in self-defense. They use their beaks to explore their surroundings and to build their nests.

A pet bird that injures its beak is in a lot of trouble. It will depend on you to help it eat and drink. It will need special care as long as it takes for it to recover.

Put Your Bird in a Hospital Cage

Pet birds with beak injuries can make them worse by trying to feed in their usual cages. It’s best to put your pet bird in a hospital cage while it recovers.

You can make a hospital cage from a small fish tank or a bird cage just big enough for your bird to sit or lie down comfortably.

Make sure your bird’s hospital cage is warm. Use a heating pad placed beneath (not in) the container to a temperature of 85° to 90° F (30° to 33° C).

Partially cover the cage to protect your bird from drafts and to give it extra privacy.

If you don’t have a hospital cage for your bird, remove the perches and toys, and place a towel at the bottom of the cage, where it can rest.

Hydration First

Once you are sure your bird is warm, offer it some fluids, such as Pedialyte or pure fruit juice.

Place a spoon of liquid near its mouth, or use a syringe (without the needle!) to place a few drops of fluid in its mouth.

Never force liquids into your bird’s throat. Always let your bird decide when it is time to swallow.

Two Methods of Feeding

If your bird does not have a severe beak injury, you may be able to entice it to eat by offering its favorite foods.

Mash its favorite fruits, or pulse its favorite seeds or nuts a few times in your food processor.

Mix some ground bird food pellets in with the mix. Then place a spoon of food next to your bird’s mouth and let it decide how to eat and when.

When a bird’s beak is entirely missing, It is possible to keep the bird hydrated and fed with a technique called gastric lavage.

This is something your veterinarian can teach you how to do.

Don’t try it on your own until you have had success feeding your bird with your vet’s direct supervision. Forcing food down your bird’s throat can cause it to aspirate food into its lungs.


Birds with beak injuries find it easier to eat when they don’t have scratchy throats, too.

Using a mister or a vaporizer to keep the air in your bird’s hospital cage while they are recovering will help them stay fed and hydrated.

Also read: Can a Bird’s Beak Grow Back?

How to Feed Pet Birds with Leg or Wing injuries

When pet birds have leg or wing injuries, you mainly need to make sure that they can reach their food and water.

Put them in a separate cage, so they won’t have to compete for food and water.

This cage should have no perches or toys. Cover the bottom of the cage with a towel or soft litter that you change every two days. Make sure their food and water bowls are within easy reach.

Also read: Can a Bird’s Broken Leg Heal On Its Own?

Should You Feed Injured Wild Birds?

When you see an injured bird in your backyard, it is only natural to want to help.

Since most of us aren’t bird vets, the first thing we think of is to offer food and water.

But not every kind of food is helpful for every bird, and not every bird that seems to be in distress needs our help.

Before you start feeding a bird in distress, the first thing to do is to make sure that it needs your help.

Here are some quick guidelines to help you decide what to do to help a bird.

Baby Birds

Anyone who loves animals will have an impulse to help a baby bird they find on the ground. But usually the help a baby bird needs is not food.

Baby birds that don’t yet have feathers belong in their nest. The best thing you can do for a featherless baby bird you find outside its nest is to put it back.

Chances are that its parents cannot carry it to safety, but they can feed it once it is returned.

Baby birds on the ground that have feathers may be trying to learn how to fly. The thing to do for these birds is to let them try again.

If they are in danger from a cat, a dog, or lawn equipment, place them in a secure, sheltered location where they can take off one more time.

Also read: What Can You Feed A Baby Bird? Do’s and Dont’s!

Adult Birds

What do you do if you find a bird with an obvious injury, like a broken wing or a broken beak?

Unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist, you need to transport the injured baby bird to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Federal laws in both Canada and the United States prohibit interference with the natural life cycles of wild birds.

However, you can make the bird comfortable while it is waiting for professional help.

Find a cardboard box, like a shoe box, large enough to hold the bird. Pet carriers also work, as long as they don’t have mesh metal wire over the door.

If the bird recovers and tries to take flight, it can injure itself by hitting hard wire.

Place a soft towel or a small blanket on the bottom of the container. Make sure the box has unobstructed ventilation holes to keep air flowing inside.

Have a second towel (a dish towel works well) to cover the box so it will be quiet and feel secure for the bird inside.

If you are planning to hold the bird in a cool or cold place, prepare a heat source, like a heating pad, that you will place against the side of the box, on the outside.

Once you have prepared the box for holding the bird, it is time to pick it up and move it.

Put on gloves. Even tiny birds can have sharp beaks.

Gently wrap the bird in a towel, and move it to the box. Place the bird in the box. Remove the towel you used to move the bird.

Close the door or the lid, and call your local wildlife rehab center for further guidance.

Wash your hands, even if you have worn gloves, so you don’t pick up any bacteria or parasites that may have been on the bird.

Wildlife rehabilitation specialists will be able to give the bird the help it needs.

It is OK to place a dish of water in the holding container, so the bird can drink if it is thirsty. But you need to consult an expert to know what baby birds need to eat.

Other Common Questions About Feeding an Injured Bird

Q. Can a bird ever recover from a broken beak?

A. Sometimes veterinarians can repair defects in bird beaks with acrylic.

It is also possible to fit a bird with a prosthetic beak, although it will have to be replaced several times in growing birds.

Q. Can a bird eat and drink if it has only one beak?

A. Birds with a missing upper or lower beak can sometimes learn to eat and drink again over time, but you will have to hand feed them for months while they are learning how.

Q. How can I prevent beak injuries?

A. The most important thing you can do to prevent beak injuries in pet birds is to turn off ceiling fans before you let them fly around the house!

It also helps to close the drapes over your windows and to cover mirrors with towels, since birds will not realize that they cannot fly through them.

Close any doors that could accidentally slam shut on a bird in motion, and cover open flames and pots of hot liquids.

Q. Why is it so important to make sure a bird is warm before feeding it?

A. A bird does not swallow food directly into its stomach. It stores food and water in its crop, and then swallows it later.

A bird that is cold because it is in shock will not be able to get food past its windpipe and may choke on the food and water you offer it.

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