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What is Broken Leg?

Domestic and wild birds have tiny, often hollow bones, that are prone to sprains and breakage. It is a mistake, however, to perceive the avian skeletal system as weak. Just as any living thing, the bird’s anatomy is adapted and refined to meet its primary life functions. The anatomy of a flying bird is built around an intricate skeletal system that enables takeoff, the soaring and gliding of flight and a safe, sturdy landing. While the wings are regarded as the powerhouse of a bird, a bird’s legs are just as significant. The leg bones of a bird are the heaviest, contributing to the low center of gravity that aids in flight. The legs must be durable enough to withstand take off, to bear its weight for landing, as well as to allow balanced perching whether in nature or in a cage.

Birds also depend upon their legs as humans do their hands. The thin, weak-looking legs execute food searches, and grasp, lift and assemble materials to build nests and care for their offspring. Though their legs appear straight and “sticklike” in appearance, they are divided into three sections: the femur (upper leg), the tibiotarsus (shin) and the fibula (sides of the lower legs). The tibiotarsus, the shin bone, is the most commonly fractured.

For these reasons, a broken leg in a bird is cause for great concern. Though they are stronger than we think, their legs are small enough that they are easily fractured from trauma, falls and animal attacks. Birds typically sprain or break a leg after a fall from a tree or a perch, or when attacked by an animal such as a cat. Aside from their minute size, a bird may also have an underlying condition, such as a nutritional deficiency, that contributes to weakness and a susceptible to sprain or fracture. 

Bird owners will be able to quickly spot a fracture, or even a sprain, in the leg. What a terrible sight it is to find your beloved bird unable to balance on its favorite perch. The bird will likely be standing on one foot, and trying to shift its stance to no avail. As soon as you notice this behavior, it’s imperative to seek immediate veterinary care. Not only is the bird in pain, but the sooner the bone is set, the better chance it should heal and return to normal function. If an immediate veterinary appointment is not possible, you can try to take some protective steps until you can visit the vet later that day.

Ideally, try to find another person to help you. Relocate the bird to a cage or tank without any other animals. A heating lamp helps to keep the bird more comfortable and discourage shock. In the case of bleeding, one tip is to use baking soda, corn flour (or, if available, styptic powder) to slow the bleed. Use a gauze pad and apply pressure to slow the bleeding. Antibiotic ointment can be used around the leg or foot, as well as a loose bandage. Restrain the bird by wrapping it in a towel. If the bleeding has slowed a bit, wrap the gauze around the injured area on the leg. The gauze can slightly extend above or below the break. While the gauze should be wrapped around in a few layers, watch for tightness. Do not make it so tight that you cut off circulation to the leg. If you feel a splint will be helpful, use a cotton swab, a piece of cardboard or even a Popsicle-type stick. The splint should reach the length of the leg; be sure it does not extend above or below the leg to prevent further injury. Use some kind of wrap (Vet wrap – sold as “Hurt Free” wrap in regular pharmacies or gauze) around the splint to keep it in place.

However, there is no substitute for immediate veterinary care, particularly an avian veterinary specialist. A break will not heal on its own, no matter how timely at-home first-aid care. Your pet bird must be seen when a leg is fractured.

Sprains and fractures in the legs of birds are often treatable with immediate veterinary care.

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Symptoms of Broken Leg in Birds

  • Obvious breakage/bend in the leg
  • Standing on one leg
  • Trying to shift balance
  • Unsteadiness
  • Stress

Causes of Broken Leg in Birds

The most common cause of a broken leg in a bird is a fall from a tree or a perch. Another cause is an animal attack. In rare cases, underlying skeletal conditions or nutritional deficits may weaken the bones.

Diagnosis of Broken Leg in Birds

A broken or sprained leg is easy to diagnose because it is unable to bear weight on one leg. A break is easily identifiable by a vet. An x-ray will identify and isolate a potential fracture.

Along with the diagnostic process of viewing clinical signs, the veterinarian may want to discuss your bird's environment, his typical diet, exercise habits, and whether your bird has cage mates.

 

Treatment of Broken Leg in Birds

The veterinarian will stabilize and treat the break. Your bird will likely have a cast, and might be kept one night for observation. If the bird is in significant pain, the vet will treat the discomfort. 

Some fractures may benefit from surgery, especially if located in the femur. In fact, some breaks can be set with pins; however, due to the size of a bird’s leg, stabilizing plates are unrealistic. Depending on severity and location, some breaks will not be healable. In this case, the vet may suggest humane euthanasia.

Recovery of Broken Leg in Birds

Once the fracture is stabilized by the vet, improvement can be noticeable in as few as 1-2 days. Weight bearing may take 5-7 days. The vet will send you home with necessary materials to take care of the bandaging. At first, weekly or biweekly checks will be necessary to look for signs of bruising and progress. Keep the bird quiet and away from other animals.

An important take-away lesson is to keep a first-aid kit in the household in case of such injuries. Keep gauze wrap, vet wrap, cotton swabs, Popsicle sticks, styptic powder, etc. in an easily locatable place. A heat lamp is a worthwhile purchase. If you have more than one bird, be sure to keep an extra cage for separation. 

Be sure to discuss your bird’s nutrition with the vet. Fruits and green, leafy vegetables are essential to provide the vitamins needed for health and longevity. Make sure the bird (especially a female) is getting the calcium it needs for bone growth and protection.

Broken Leg Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Blue
Amazon parrots
2 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Standsfor only on 1 leg

What should i do... found her a few hours ago holding her leg up,she cant use at all. She flys fine but is quieter than usual.. i was thinking she got her leg caught in her cage but freed herself, there is no bleeding at all.. she was fine a few hours b4 this

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
277 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Blue, I can't determine the reason for her not being able to use her leg - it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian - they can determine if the leg is broken, strained, or if there is an infection or other cause. I hope that she is okay.

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Mynah
Common myna
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

broken leg

Hi, I have a mynah whose left leg is broken in femur area. I visit the avian hospital near us and they take some pictures from his legs. The vet said my bird should be operated but he probably can't make it and he will die during the surgery.
photo: https://www.photobox.co.uk/my/photo/full?photo_id=500509483201

He put his broken foot on the ground, He talks and flies with no problem but he can't put his weight on his broken leg.

What should I do?

Thank You,
Hossein

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
277 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without seeing Mynah, I cannot comment on possible treatments. If your veterinarian suggested surgery, they may be able to suggest other treatments for him since he is apparently a high risk for surgery - I'm not sure what other conditions are going on with him that make him high risk, but maybe you can resolve those things and consider surgery? It would be a good conversation to have with your veterinarian. I hope that Mynah is okay.

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Yaya
Green-Cheeked Amazon
2 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

No obvious symptoms

Hi my 2 month green cheek conure had several fall from my table or shoulder. Her flight feathers have been very badly clipped by an unprofessional vet. Around 2 or 3 secondary feathers have been clipped. She has been able to perch and move around with no problem. Although sometimes she did stand on one foot but she seemed to be doing it only as a sign of relaxation. Is she likely to have any injury from the falls?

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
277 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. Yes, it is possible that she injured herself if she fell from any great height. If she seems to be acting normally, she should be kept at low levels until her feathers grow back, and if you think that she has injured that leg and can't use it or put weight on it, she should see her veterinarian.

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Ocean
Parakeet
3 or 4 months
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

What do I do when my bird broke her leg?

She had broke her leg and she does fly but when she lands her legs are sticking out and when she hold on her bars she can't move.. what can I do to make her recover?

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1815 Recommendations
If Ocean’s leg’s are as you’ve described you should visit an Avian Veterinarian for an examination to determine whether splinting or another form of treatment is required. Leg injuries can be difficult and it isn’t something you should be attempting to fix at home. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Please tell me my male lovebird leg is injured what should I do ?

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Brian
Lovebird Species
9 years old
Moderate condition
-1 found helpful
Moderate condition

I woke up today to play with my lovebird and noticed it's limping. It avoids baring weight on its right leg and I don't know how I got injured. I don't know if it's a sprain or a break but his reaction to perching on my finger is close to none on that leg as well as it's reflexes. I have him wrapped in a blanket and and not home all day. When having to stand he is strictly on one leg. That's why he is now resting in the blanket. I've tried making him walk on a flat surface and the poor thing is limping :(( he's also not chirping and doesn't seem himself. Idk how to treat this or what else to do. Nor do I know how long the healing process is.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1815 Recommendations
It is difficult to know what caused this or the severity of the limp (sprain or fracture) without examining Brian. I would allow him to rest and observe him to ensure that he is still drinking and eating; if he isn’t visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Also, ensure that Brian is eating a suitable diet which is supplemented with some fresh fruits and vegetables. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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