Since bird bones have incredibly high calcium levels and are mostly hollow, it’s relatively common for birds to injure their legs. Usually, it comes from falling off their nest or perch or an attack by a predator.
Wondering how to help a bird with a broken leg? The best way is to transfer it to a safe place, carefully place a splint if you feel confident, and call a vet immediately for professional care.
Correct care is vital since the bird healing well is a matter of life and death, especially concerning a wild bird with a broken leg.
Table of Contents
- How Do You Know Your Bird Has a Broken Leg?
- Types of Fractures
- Step-by-step to Help a Bird With a Broken Leg
How Do You Know Your Bird Has a Broken Leg?
A bird with an injured leg can be seen limping around and unable to climb and stand on their perch. Having difficulty balancing and using their wing as a crutch to compensate for their fractured leg are also bird broken leg symptoms.
A bird’s leg comprises three parts: the upper leg or femur, the shin or tibiotarsus, and the lower legs or the fibula. In most cases, birds fracture their shin bones. In other words, there are cracks or visible breaks in their legs.
Typically, birds fracture their bones due to falls from their nest or perch. Occasionally, it may be due to an attack by a predator. In rare cases, it may be due to existing medical conditions or nutrient deficiency.
Types of Fractures
Veterinarians classify several different types of bone fractures:
- Simple – the bone cracks and doesn’t break the skin
- Compound – bone pieces stick out through the skin
- Greenstick – the bone is cracked and bent at an angle but does not break into two separate parts
- Comminuted – bone breaks into two or more fragments. The fractured pieces can either pierce the skin or not.
- According to the angle of fracture – transverse, oblique, or spiral
Baby birds commonly only suffer from simple or greenstick fractures. It is also generally easier to fix a baby bird’s broken leg than an adult bird’s. When adult birds suffer from extremely complicated fractures, veterinarians may, at times, recommend euthanasia instead.
Step-by-step to Help a Bird With a Broken Leg
What to Prepare
To help a bird with a broken leg, you will need the following:
- Heating lamp (or hot water bottle)
- Betadine (or any other antibiotic ointment)
- Cornstarch, baking soda, or styptic powder (if the wound is bleeding)
- Cotton swab, popsicle stick (or any other thin yet sturdy stick for a splint)
- Vet Wrap
- A cardboard box or small tank or cage, lined with blankets or rags, to keep the bird safe and comfortable.
Here’s what to do to save a bird with a broken leg. The same steps can be applied to all birds, from efforts to fix a duck’s broken leg to a budgie’s broken leg.
Step 1: Secure the bird
A bird with a broken foot will be agitated. Wrap the bird in a towel or ask help from a friend to hold it down to prevent the bird from causing further harm to itself.
If you have a heating lamp, it’s best to place the bird under it to lessen the creature’s stress. If not, a hot water bottle can be an excellent alternative.
Step 2: Clean the injury
Using a cotton swab, gently apply some betadine or other antibiotic ointment to the area of injury to lessen the risk of infection. However, apply utmost care to avoid adding additional stress to the fractured bone!
If the bird’s wound is bleeding, you may apply cornstarch, baking soda, or styptic powder to help stop the blood flow.
Step 3: Wrap the bird’s leg with gauze.
Once the bleeding has stopped and ointment has been applied, wrap the bird’s leg gently in three to four layers of gauze. Wrap it with enough pressure to keep the leg stable but not so tightly as to cut off circulation.
Step 4: Apply a splint
Using a cotton swab, popsicle stick, or any other thin yet sturdy stick, splint a bird leg to keep the bones in place and speed up the healing process.
The splint must be exactly the length of the bird’s leg. If the stick extends beyond the leg, it may poke and injure the bird. If the splint is too short, it may not be enough to facilitate the healing of the fractured bone.
When applying the splint to fix a dislocated bird leg, align the bird’s bones correctly. If not done accurately, you may cause more harm than good. Afterward, add another layer of gauze over the splint and secure it with Vet Wrap.
Step 5: Make the bird comfortable.
Once your first aid is done, care for a bird with a broken leg by placing it in a lined cardboard box, small cage, or tank where it can lay comfortably. Remove sticks and other objects with which the bird may accidentally harm itself.
Again, a heating lamp or hot water bottle will help your bird feel more relaxed and safe, which will discourage shock. If using the former option, make sure that you dim or turn it off during the night so as not to disturb its internal clock.
Step 6: Take the bird to a professional
While these preliminary steps can all be done at home, you must still seek out the aid of a professional.
At the earliest possible opportunity, take the bird to a vet who can ensure your splint is applied correctly and that the bird is not suffering from any other injuries.
The vet may run further tests, such as X-rays, or prescribe pain medication to the bird if needed.
There is no set cost to fix a bird’s broken leg–it depends on each vet and shelter. However, it is a non-negotiable part of the healing process.
1. Can a bird’s broken leg heal on its own?
A bird’s broken leg may heal with enough time if left alone. Without a correctly applied stiff splint, though, it’s not guaranteed the leg will recover correctly or well enough to be usable again.
Thankfully, the splint is usually sufficient to aid the bird’s healing. Very rarely is surgery called for when fixing a bird’s broken leg.
2. How long does it take a bird’s broken leg to heal?
Because of their bone structure, baby birds heal faster and better than adult birds.
That being said, a fractured bone will start to get better as quickly as 1-2 days, though the leg may not be able to bear weight for 5-7 days.
Sometimes, if the fracture is severe, the bird broken leg healing time may take up to 10 weeks to completely set and heal.
Note that it’s possible for a bird with a broken leg to fly. Even if you notice the bird itching to get back to the skies, forcing it to rest until cleared by a vet is best to ensure complete recovery.
3. Other Tips
Here are a few more things to keep in mind when helping a bird with a broken leg:
- Treat more urgent concerns first – if the bird is dehydrated or in shock, you must deal with these first before tending to the broken leg.
- Don’t use woven gauze – birds will likely pick at woven gauze and cause it to fall apart. Use non-woven gauze instead.
- Minimize handling of the bird – the more you touch the bird, the greater your chances of accidentally injuring it further.
- There must always be padding between the splint and the bird’s skin.
A broken leg can be fatal for small animals such as birds. They may suffer shock from losing too much blood or simply be unable to defend themselves from predators or forage for food.
Thankfully, how to help a bird with a broken leg isn’t too complicated, and there are many shelters, clinics, and vets around willing to help.
All it takes from you is a bit of preliminary bravery, care, and some basic first aid materials to ensure the survival of our little injured winged friends.
George and I became friends after a birdwatching trip with our new group. And we have been enjoying every adventure together. When he told me the idea of establishing a site that shares our experiences and fun, I immediately agreed. After trials and errors, here we have Thayerbirding.