Will a bird be able to fly if its legs are broken?

Identify the type of fracture

There are different causes that can cause a leg fracture in a bird. The most common causes usually come down to a hit or a bad fall, although sometimes a young chick might have a deformity or leg condition due not having enough space in the nest.

The best thing to do in order to heal a fractured bird leg would be to go to a vet as soon as possible, as they would be able to recognize and identify the fracture type and tell you how it should be treated. Not going to the specialist can sometimes lead to the loss of the leg.

If your bird’s leg is broken but you can’t take it to a specialist immediately, you should first identify the source of the fracture:

  • A genetic disease; the bird was born with this deformity.
  • Trauma; a hit, a bad fall.
  • Infectious disease; smallpox, Marek’s disease, salmonellosis, gout, etc.
  • Presence of fungi on the leg.
  • Poisoning.

Fractures of the tibia and fibula are the most common and easiest to mend, as they are in the middle of the bird’s leg. Femur fractures, meanwhile, are very complicated to heal at home, and even more so with the animal being so small.


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Diet Mixes

  • Mince Mix – handful lean mince, two teaspoons insectivore, pinch of calcium powder, two teaspoons ground cat biscuits.  For juveniles, roll into balls appropriate to bird’s size then dip into water before giving.
  • Nectar substitute (1) – 1 cup raw sugar, 2 raw beaten eggs, few drops bird vitamins such as Avi-Vite.  Make up to four cups with water.  This can be batched into daily requirements and frozen.  It can be thickened with High Protein Cereal.
  • Nectar substitute (2) –  use any of the following and interchange regularly – High Protein Cereal, Vitabrits/Weetbix, crushed plain biscuits, rolled oats, semolina, rice flour.  Just prior to feeding, mix the dry ingredients with water and a little honey to a semi-runny consistency.
  • Sugar Nectar – 4 heaped tablespoons brown or raw sugar to 500ml warm water.  Mix till dissolved.
  • Egg and Biscuit Mix – mix with a little water to a crumbly consistency.  For juveniles, roll into small balls appropriate to birds size and dip into water before giving.
  • Pet Food Mix – mix two parts meat variety cat food to one part high protein cereal.
  • Chopped greens – finely chop spinach, silverbeet, lettuce, grass, thistle, dandelion.  Lettuce has little nutrition by itself and cabbage should be avoided.

Diagnosis of Broken Leg in Birds

A broken or sprained leg can be easy to diagnose because it is unable to bear weight on one leg. A break is often easily identifiable by a veterinarian . 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.



When the Bird has recovered from Shock

Visually examine the bird

Stand a short distance away and examine the bird visually.  Look for any deformity, unusual wing positions or lameness.  Note the following:

  • Eyes – should be both open and bright.  Pupils should be equal in size.  Unequal pupil size may indicate head trauma.  If eyes are partly closed then the bird is unwell.  One eye closed may mean an injury or infection.  Check to see if the bird responds to the movement of your hand.
  • Head – head nodding, head tilting and periods of eye closing can indicate severe illness or trauma.
  • Breathing – a healthy bird’s breathing is hard to detect.  Laboured breathing may mean possible respiratory infection.
  • Feathers – missing feathers may indicate an underlying wound.  Feathers fluffed out can mean the bird is unwell and trying to warm itself.
  • Posture – birds that are weak will sit.  A healthy bird will sit only to sleep.  Leg paralysis can be caused by insecticide poisoning, trauma to the head or spine, or fractures in the back, legs or pelvis.  Wings should be similar in the way they hang.  A drooping wing can indicate a fracture.  A broken wing can be immobilised by taping the wing in its natural folded position (not too tightly so as to restrict breathing).  Micropore tape or vet rap tape doesn’t stick to the feathers.  If the bird has obvious injuries such as a broken wing, missing foot or broken leg, then seek veterinary advice.

Physically examine the bird

Begin by examining the head and check for any sign of eye injury, abrasions, beak injury etc.  Check the neck feathers for feather loss or matting which may indicate a wound.  Feel the body, paying attention to the breast (keel) bone and breast (pectoral) muscles.  If the breastbone is prominent and the muscles feel sunken, starvation, parasites such as worms, or a chronic illness may be indicated.  Examine each wing.  Gently hold the wing tip and pull it away from the body, so the bones and joints can be felt for fractures or dislocations.  Examine each of the legs for fractures.  The bones in the legs are easier to feel if the leg is extended.

Cuts and Wounds

Cuts and wounds can be gently cleaned with a dilute solution of antiseptic such as Savlon or Hydrogen Peroxide 1% or a solution of warm salt water.  Don’t remove any clots of blood as this can start the bleeding again.  If a cat or dog has injured the bird, veterinary assistance should be obtained as to the need for antibiotics.  The bacteria in cats and dogs mouths can cause severe infection, so the bird may die in a few days, if not from an actual puncture wound to one of the organs.

First Aid Kit

A few things you can consider getting as a standard first aid kit:-

  • 1 roll micropore – ½ inch or 1 inch or Vetwrap for taping wings
  • 1 roll sticky taped used for taping snapping beaks when examining birds
  • 1 bottle antiseptic powder or liquid such as savlon liquid or hydrogen peroxide 1% for use on open wounds.

Special Note: Avoid the use of antiseptic cream or ointment, as they can contaminate the feathers and cause excessive preening or self-mutilatio

How to make a splint for a birds leg: Step by step guide

  1. Ask someone to help you restrain your bird while you carry out the entire process; it is normal for an injured bird to feel nervous and be restless. Remember that you need to be very delicate and careful.
  2. Apply povidone-iodine – Betadine or similar – to prevent a possible infection.
  3. Get hold of what is going to be the bird’s splint. You can use a drinking straw split in half, some cardboard, a stick, etc.
  4. Being very careful, try to align the bird’s bones so that they regain their original position. It is a very complicated task, and you can seriously worsen the problem if you’re rough or you place it incorrectly. If you don’t think you can manage it, skip the following steps and take it to the specialist as soon as possible.
  5. Once you feel the fractured leg is in a correct position, adjust the splint. A splint for a bird’s leg should always be the exact length of the leg; it can’t stick out. Wrap it in a pain-free bandage as found in any pharmacy. This type of bandage only hooks onto itself, and not onto the animal’s skin. It’s important not to cut off the animal’s circulation by excessively adjusting it, but you also need to ensure that the splint isn’t loose.
  6. Once the process is finished, remove the sticks from the cage and make the bird a comfortable place where it doesn’t move the fractured leg.
  7. Go to the vet as soon as possible so that they can examine the injury and carry out the required treatment. They’ll advise you on the specific course of antibiotics and painkillers within one week.

This is our advice for healing a fractured bird leg by making a splint. Do you have any tips? Tell us in the comments section!

Reader Success Stories

  • Carl Clibbens

May 25, 2017

    Carl Clibbens May 25, 2017

    “After returning a bird back to the nest twice, it was reassuring to know that it needed time on the ground to learn to fly. l have now left it to nature. The mother is around, so I’m hoping all will end well. I will keep a lookout for local cats.” …” more

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