The Hospital Cage

When you care for birds, you need to be prepared for the worst that could happen. A first aid kit is certainly a requirement. You can easily put one together for your flock by Googling that. You’ll find the basic to the thorough.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a veterinarian or an animal medical worker. Sick birds are usually very ill by the time they show any symptoms. Consult your qualified avian vet before trying any home solutions. Only resort to home care if a vet cannot be reached quickly.


However, the most important thing to have on hand is a hospital cage. Depending on the size of the bird showing signs of illness, the cage should be only a little larger. Restricting movement can help stabilize the bird. In fact, experts suggest using plastic tubs so the bird cannot climb out of the cage. Birds being prey animals will want to get to a high point and hide their illness as long as possible. So at the first sign of trouble, get the bird into a safe container and apply heat.


You need somewhere quite and away from drafts to put the cage. And you need a source of heat. A heat lamp works well, a heating pad or a hot rock can also be used. Research beforehand to determine the right temperature for your bird. Then use a thermometer to be sure you keep the cage at that temperature.

For hens, the number one issue that will require a hospital cage is being egg-bound. If the hen doesn’t get adequate calcium or enough exercise, she may not be able to pass an egg. Be very careful in handling an egg bound hen. Should the egg break inside her, you have a whole different situation that is even more deadly if not treated immediately by a qualified avian veterinarian.


Putting oil on the hen’s vent is a very bad idea. Oily feathers can’t hold in body heat and make the bird vulnerable. It’s best to use good oils in the bird’s feed before problems arise. Be sure to have liquid calcium on hand, like Calciboost, to administer to the hen as she will take it.


I have had two instances when I used a hospital cage in a hurry. The first time, my sun conure hen, Sunny, at age 16, laid her first egg since she has been with me. The egg passed, but she lay limp and cold on the bottom of the cage. At first, I was sure I found her too late, but she lifted her head when she heard my cry and tried to chirp. She received regular doses of liquid calcium and was put in a cage with a heating pad in the front bathroom. That room was not being used at the time and has no windows, so there were no drafts and no bright light. Sunny recovered in about a week. The day I knew she would make it was when she began answering the urgent calls of her mate, Zazu. At that time I moved the hospital cage out next to his cage so they could see each other.


Sunny on cage
Sunny after her egg incident


Just this week, a cockatiel that I have hand fed, Lucky, became squint-eyed and lethargic. She was cold to the touch all the time. She ate on her own in the small cage I had her in for weaning, but in the big cage with the other adult tiels, she didn’t seem to know where food or water could be found. I moved her back to a small cage on a heating pad, gave her millet, dropped water from my fingers into her beak, and watched her return from the brink. Cockatiels sometimes take a long time to wean and even then can take a long time to be able to regulate their own body temperature. I lost a chick from taking her off the heat too soon, so now I am watchful. Lucky for Lucky, she will make it to adulthood.


Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.


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