Pulling Feathers and Styptic Powder

Updated on May 7, 2016
A blood feather (unbroken; plucked from the follicle)
A blood feather (unbroken; plucked from the follicle)

What is a "blood feather"?

A blood, or "pin" feather, is a newly growing feather that tends to be very painful. They can be identified by the bulbous, thick shape and the blood that is visibly flowing within it. It is entirely normal for any bird to have these feathers, especially during molting seasons. They are also very fragile and break easily, like if a bird bumps into the cage, or a toy, or has a night fright. This is where the problem comes in with most bird owners. When blood feathers break, they bleed profusely. Like lethal, profusely. It's essential that the bleeding is stopped before the bird is in danger.

African Grey
African Grey

Identifying blood feathers

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 these pictures are gross, it might come in handy to know what that looks like.

Pulling vs Styptic

Styptic powder is a cornstarch mix (which you could substitute for flour) that is made to stop bleeding in animals. When pressed firmly against a wound, it clots the blood and the bleeding is stopped. Styptic powder is not my preferred method when it comes to blood feathers for a few reasons. The first one being the obvious: when your bird is in pain and you're holding it upside down it is going to struggle and it is going to be very upset, possibly in a lot of pain because of the pressure you have to use to stop the active bleeding. Secondly, the bleeding may start again if the bird bumps into something. Styptic powder is not a definite solution to this problem in particular, however, it's some people's preferred method because plucking can be very hard to do, and failing to do it properly could result in injuring the bird further.

Plucking, on the other hand, is harder, but the results if done correctly are much more finite. You must find the feather and grip it from the end of the shaft and pulling from the direction the feather grows in. This should remove the entire feather from the follicle of the skin and the bleeding will stop. If you've done this correctly, the feather should be intact except for the original break, with a rounded stem where the most blood is gathered.

Taylor Peca is a contributing writer for Hubpages Pets. Follow her on Instagram @taylor _petacc

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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