Blood Feathers in Birds: Pulling Feathers vs. Styptic Powder

Updated on July 29, 2019
Taylor Peca profile image

Taylor is a bird and animal enthusiast. She writes about animal care and health.

Blood Feathers in Birds
Blood Feathers in Birds | Source

What Is a "Blood Feather?"

A blood, or "pin" feather, is a newly growing feather that tends to be very painful. This type of feather can be identified by its bulbous, thick shape, and the blood that is visibly flowing within it. It is entirely normal for any bird to have one, especially during molting season.

Are They Dangerous?

These types of feathers are also very fragile and break easily. This can happen if a bird becomes frightened or bumps into something. When they break, they will bleed profusely and may even cause death. It's essential that the bleeding is stopped before the bird is in danger.

Safety

Broken blood feathers can be fatal if left untreated. Incorrectly pulling a broken blood feather can also cause life-threatening injuries to your bird. Always consider working with a vet.

What Does a Blood Feather Look Like?

It's important that you check your bird regularly for blood feathers. When you know where they are, it's a lot easier to identify which one is broken when the surrounding plumage is saturated with blood. Identifying the correct feather can help you know where the base is and where it is broken. Although the below pictures are gross, they will help you with identification.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An unbroken blood feather plucked from the follicle.African GreyA diagram of a blood feather shaft.
An unbroken blood feather plucked from the follicle.
An unbroken blood feather plucked from the follicle.
African Grey
African Grey
A diagram of a blood feather shaft.
A diagram of a blood feather shaft.

Pulling Blood Feathers vs. Using Styptic Powder for Bleeding

Styptic powder is a cornstarch mix (some people use flour as a substitute) that is made to stop bleeding in animals. When pressed firmly against a wound (such as a nail bed), it clots the blood and the bleeding likely stops. It is not a definite solution, although some people prefer it because plucking can be very hard to do, and failing to do it properly could result in injuring the bird further.

Styptic powder is not my preferred method when it comes to stopping bleeding for two reasons:

  1. When your bird is in pain and you're holding it upside down, it is going to struggle, it is going to be very upset, and it is likely in pain because of the pressure you have to use to stop the active bleeding.
  2. The bleeding may start again if the bird bumps into something.

Plucking Is More Effective but Not for Beginners

Plucking, on the other hand, is harder, but if done correctly, is much more finite. In order to successfully pluck the feather, you must find the feather and grip it from the end of the shaft and pull from the direction that it grows in. This should remove the entire feather from the follicle of the skin and the bleeding should stop. If you've done this correctly, the feather should be intact except for the original break; it should have a rounded stem where the blood is gathered.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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