First aid for Parrots

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The advice we are giving here is meant as first aid only. We are not vets. if you are worried about your bird or not sure then it's vital you get proper advice from a specialist avian vet fast as sick parrots can go downhill rapidly

Bleeding nails

Usually arise from accidentally cutting into the 'quick' during nail clipping by the parrot's human (be far more careful next time) but the bird may cause the problem itself by overzealous pedicure during preening.

Dissolve some potassium permanganate crystals in a tiny drop of boiling water. Wait a little until the solution is not too hot then apply with cotton wool bud to the nail and hold there for a few seconds. Be careful! This stuff is a powerful oxidant and will stain clothes, carpets and feathers.

Alternatively: use dry cornflour or cayenne pepper from the kitchen: apply directly to the nail with a cotton bud or clean fingers. If you haven't got either of these agents then use a bar of hand soap: just press it to the nail for a few seconds.

Important: don't get any of these materials in the bird's eyes (or your own).

Bleeding blood feathers

Cornflour is the first choice remedy. Ensure your hands are clean then use the flour to block the feather shaft. Next best is a thick solution of potassium permanganate applied with a cotton bud.

Minor infections

Ionic Silver Complex (Silver 100) drops or spray (obtainable from America). Can be used on eyes, skin, throat, mouth, nostrils and can be taken as a dose in water. It is safe for animals, including humans. (use one drop directly into eye or nostril. Use one to two sprays on skin and in the mouth. You can put two or three drops in 200ml of drinking water. NB. use a probiotic to re-establish friendly gut bacteria for approximately 5 to 7 days after use).

Cuts, bruises and burns

Aloe vera gel, Calendula and Dr Bach Rescue Remedy cream can be applied locally. Arnica can be crushed and added to soft foods and fed with a spoon. Aloe vera is also available as a solution, a few drops of which can be added to drinking water.


Stress arises in many circumstances: after trauma or infection, physical changes in the bird's environment, loss of a mate or pal, loss of a human and so on. Often a stressed bird refuses to eat, even though, aradoxically, it is hungry. Electrolyte imbalance then results. This can be rectified with electrolyte solution. If the bird is drinking the solution can be given in drinking water (follow manufacturer's dosage). If the bird is not drinking you can administer the solution through an eye dropper (available from pharmacies and intended for human eye drops) direct into the beak. If you can't get the proper stuff you can buy rehydrating preparations (meant for humans) from outward bound shops and diving centres or you can make up a glucose solution (many wild birds I have found injured on the roadside owe their lives to this). A probiotic in the drinking water is also useful in stress to re-establish a healthy gut flora and thus the absoption of vitamins and nutrients.

Hot tip

Birds have a higher basal metabolic rate than humans and spend more energy than we do just keeping warm. If your parrot (or any bird) is sick you can help him out considerably by raising the room temperature (probably beyond the point that you find comfortable). Specialist infrared lamps are available as well. An injured bird needs a very warm, quiet dark (ish) room.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, CPR

It's possible to do mouth to mouth artificial respiration and external cardiac massage on parrots, just as it is with humans - the principles are the same. You'll need to simulate a heartbeat of 40 to 60 beats per minute with one respiration every 10 beats. There is an excellent article on this at and here is another one:

Know your friend

If you and your parrot are the kind of friends you really ought to be, you are going to be able to hold him and help him out without the need for towels and certainly not gloves (they must never be used).

If you have not reached this level of rapport then handling him when he's ill or has had an accident will be adding to his level of stress. Achieving such a relationship takes months of patient work.

A pinch of salt - By David Lal

Over the years I have rescued a great many baby and adult birds hurt on the road. I found I had a much better success rate if I administered physiological saline: water with glucose and 'a pinch of salt'. I hesitate to mention it here as parrot carers are generally urged to keep sodium levels down. Make up your own mind. If you can't find glucose use honey or household sugar. You need about 1 gram of glucose and 9 grams of salt per litre of water.