First aid

Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: May 13, 2018
Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint

Birds are very sensitive and complex animals. Their legs are particularly fragile, and they can fracture fairly easily from a hit or a bad fall. In this AnimalWised article we will share the first aid steps you should take to help a bird that has suffered a fracture, since it is often difficult to find an emergency vet that can help you.

If you're a bird owner or breeder, it is very important for you to know how to treat various emergency and health problems that can come up to and thus prevent further damage. Keep reading to learn all about healing a fractured bird leg and how to make a splint for birds.

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  1. Identify the type of fracture
  2. Before healing a bird's fractured leg
  3. How to make a splint for a bird's leg: Step by step guide
  4. How to adjust a poorly positioned leg

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.

Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint - Identify the type of fracture

Before healing a bird's fractured leg

Before starting the process, it is really important that you put your bird in quarantine, especially if it could have a disease or some type of fungus. If you think this might be the problem, get hold of some latex gloves to avoid spreading the disease while you work.

If your bird is unable to move, place it in a nest or somewhere it feels safe and comfortable and, if necessary, give it some food and water until it recovers more.

Pick up your bird and wash its legs with cold water and disinfectant, making sure it doesn't harm itself. Before putting the bird's fractured leg in an emergency splint, you should identify what type of fracture it is:

  • Poorly positioned leg: If the leg is healthy and displays no swelling or signs of fracture, it could arise from a poor position in the nest or even growth problems.
  • Open fracture: In this case you'll notice that the bone sticks outwards. Open fractures are very serious because they require surgery and a quick suture within 8 hours of the blow occurring. If not, the leg can become gangrenous and the problem may become irreparable.
  • Closed fracture: In this case, you won't see the bone sticking through the leg's skin, but you will still notice that it is broken. You need to be very careful in order to treat it properly.

How to make a splint for a bird's 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.
Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint - How to make a splint for a bird's leg: Step by step guide

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!

Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint -
Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint -

How to adjust a poorly positioned leg

Poorly positioned legs need to be fixed as soon as possible to avoid more serious problems. For this, it is crucial that you go to a vet as soon as you can.

Treatments, in these cases, are usually very original, since they aren?t generally related to broken legs. Rather, they come down to poor positioning that ends up in a deformity of the leg?s natural position. It might also be caused by malnutrition, twisting the leg or a severe trauma.

We?ll leave you with these fantastic explanatory images from who have done an excellent job on this bird. Congratulations from all of us at Animal Wised!

Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint - How to adjust a poorly positioned leg
Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint -

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint, we recommend you visit our First aid category.

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I treated my blackbird (Fledgling), she got a broken shin bone. I applied a splint. Its been 4 days now. She is healthy but I could see she got a little swollen palm (claw). Is this normal during the healing process? Photos attached.
Hi i recently found a bird with no legs at all it looks like either an attack from a rat or a cat
Both legs were gnawed off but the rest of the body was fine so i would like to know how to treat it and also the bone is showing on both leg and i believe the bird is a dove i used to have one as a pet so if someone could help me i would be thankful
We have a hen Puku.Two days ago while I was carrying her she suddenly got impatient and started flapping her wings.Out of the balance I let her go.And I think she landed harshly on a brick.Since then she is standing on one leg.By the looks of it she seemed to have fractured her leg.Its been two days since and she is in lots of pain.We are clueless as to what to do.We have tried to keep her comfortable with food and water.But due to the pain she breathes rapidly and can't close her beak.Also its hard find a vet who checks on chichekns where we live.Pleaee help.
Paulo Monteiro
My female dove fell on the floor and broke her left wing and leg on the femur. The vet immobilized the wing but not the leg as he said femur fractures in birds are difficult to splint or immobilize.

She has difficulty in moving and eating on her own and the doctors suspect some neurological problems but on the other hand despite not moving they say she was seen as preening her feathers and being more lively,

How long will it take for the wing and femur fracture to heal completely?Can it be that she's not moving due to the bad leg? Please help
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Paulo,

How long it will take for the dove's bones to heal depends on the individual case. Some may never heal, others can take around a month. What did the veterinarian say? With leg fractures some may never heal properly so amputation is used. This isn't always the worst thing and many birds can get along fine afterwards.
Thank you for the information. My children find wounded animals all the time and when we try to look up what to do for the animal everything just says "take it to a professional it is illegal to help wild animals without a permit". Well I can't afford to take every injured critter to a vet or some government official so we are left on our own to figure things out. So I really appreciate you giving some useful information that will actually help. We are going to try to splint a birds leg that was hit by a car.
If you know of any good books or resources for fledgling vets that explains in-depth procedures for emergency animal care. We could really use one. If there are none you should think about writing one.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Noah,

Practical Wildlife Care from Blackwell Publishing is a good introductory book, as is An Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation from Nancy Schwarz. More advanced books would tend to get a little more scientific and be used for animal rehabbers. A good example would be 'Wildlife Rehabilitation: A Comprehensive Approach' from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Hope this helps!
Can i get ur contact no?
Will you kindly tell me the name of the medicine to heel a bird's leg.
Administrador AnimalWised

There isn't a specific medicine to heal fractured bird legs. Infections may require antibiotics, but the main treatment is to set the leg so it fuses back together, something which can be very tricky with smaller birds.
Thank you very much for such informative information.

My friend (who is also a fellow bird enthusiast) found a Cockatoo that was hit by a truck. She picked it up straight away and brought it home.

He has a pretty severe broken leg but nothing short of fixable with a proper bandage and a splint.

The sad thing is, Cockatoo's are agricultural pests. So the vet has made it very clear that if I were to bring it in they would Euthanise it. So I wanted to give him a chance at life and have set him up a temporary recovery cage and some easily accessible water.

I am now hand feeding him and he is very gentle when it comes to grabbing the fruit. He is a very healthy looking bird too. It would be sad to not give him a chance at life.

Thanks again for such informative information.

Kind regards, Andrew.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Andrew,

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We understand that conservation in some areas is a difficult situation. Local ecosystems interact in complicated ways. However, we hate to see a healthy animal harmed and the clever cockatoo is such a magnificent creature. We're glad they had you to be so caring!
Hmmm. not a single word about how long should the splint remain on the bird's leg. How long for a Lovebird's leg, for example, to heal?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Matt,

Creating the splint is what you need to do in an emergency if there is a break which needs immediate attention. Once you have administered this form of first aid, you should take them to the vet and they will be able to carry out a proper assessment. The issue is that the size, breed and age of the bird will mean their recovery times will differ. There are also other variables which make it difficult and irresponsible to give a recovery time for all bird leg breakages.
Hi Everyone
Thanks a lot for your concern and support. & really sorry for a late reply.Your msg did bring a ray of hope to us.
Ws really upset & sad though we had him only for a week.
Wish your team all the best & keep us update with new bird caring technics.
so nice people like you care about this sweet animals that make us life so happy
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Maria

Thank you for your comment and we are glad you care for animals like we do!

Keep posted for more here at AnimalWised
Thank you very much for advice & help.
Unfortunately i couldnt save the tiny bird.may be he was too young (12days)he had not all his feathers & but short wings but trembling legs.there was no vet around.
He died on thursday night.may be some other health issue.he couldnt breath& did not pass on his last feed.
Im very much saddened that i couldnt save him.
Wish u all your team best of luck & keep doing this great job.

Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Saly

We’re so sorry for your loss. Unfortunately baby birds are some of the most vulnerable and even with training and experience can be difficult to care for. You were very kind to give us much time as you did and we here at AnimalWised hope you are okay!

Here to help with any information you may need in the future!
Many thanx for your precious advice.
Have the baby bird since 2days. could i send u a picture as i stil unable to handle the leg.
Read also we should avoid much human contacts but he is so tiny and fragile.
Hoping u will be to able to help.
Waiting for a favourable reply..
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Saly

If the baby bird is very small and fragile, human contact could worsen the break and hurt the bird. Human beings also carry a lot of bacteria which the bird may not yet be immune to. We suggest using a small tube for feeding or consulting a vet about it’s health!

If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask.
Your article is very useful but unfortunately in practice its not same.
Rescue a baby sparrow.think his leg broken .
Plse would appreciate if u could advise for the bandage.the bird so vet nearby.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Saly,

The treatment is the same regardless of the size of the bird. If the bird is very small then they will still need a splint, but you just need one that is equally smaller. If they are very young, you may even be able to use some strong card and tape this round. The other thing to bear in mind is that they will grow more quickly, so you will need to replace the splint once the bird is too big for it.
sofia batilaran
it would be better if it's in video form to clearly demonstrate, helpful somehow..thanks a lot
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sofia,

Thanks for the input, we don't have a video for this just yet (can be difficult to find footage of bird's naturally hurt in this way), but we'll keep you updated when we do.
Peter De Rouck
Visit to the vet was a bit depressing as "Bernie's" foot can't be saved. We are now a few days further and the foot is dangling at his leg. In 1 day or so it will eventually fall off or will be picked off since Bernie seems to want to get rid of the thing. He's getting stronger in the healthy leg and able to keep his balance better. Now we hope gangrene won't kick in.
Alice Tapiol Breeze (AnimalWised editor)
Best wishes to you and Bernie, we hope he gets better soon!
Peter De Rouck
Thanks for the advice. We are going to take the bird to the vet to get a splint. I'm just a bit too scared to hurt "Bernie" the bird and make his leg worse.
Alice Tapiol Breeze (AnimalWised editor)
This is the safest bet Peter! Hope you bird gets better!
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Healing a Fractured Bird Leg: How to Make a Splint