Pin or Blood Feathers in Birds

Feathers on a bird are equivalent or analogous to hair on a mammal. Each feather arises from a feather follicle in the skin. They are arranged over the body in specific patterns or tracts (called pterylae); there are areas of the bird's body that do not have feathers (called apterylae).

What is a blood or pin feather?

pin_or_blood_feathers-1When a feather is pulled out or falls out during a normal moult, a new feather is stimulated to start growing right away. As the new feather (pin or blood feather) emerges from the skins feather follicle, it looks like a spike, quill or much like the feather shaft itself. This new feather has a blood supply flowing through it and is encased by a keratin coating or feather sheath. The base, where the feather is developing and being nourished by blood, is a dark blue color. On smaller feathers such as those around the head, the base may be a red or pink color. Pin feathers are sensitive, and birds may not enjoy being handled while moulting.

As the feather continues to grow, the tip will mature first. The bird will gradually preen off the keratin feather sheath from the maturing feather tip and the newly formed feather will emerge. Some birds love to have a "preening buddy" (perhaps you or another bird) gently roll the tip of the feather as it matures, to help remove the sheath from the mature part of the feather. Once a feather is fully-grown, the blood supply is lost and the feather is simply a dead unit in the skin.

What do I do if a pin feather gets damaged or bleeds?

If a pin feather is damaged, a bird may bleed heavily. The bleeding may stop on its own, but much blood can potentially be lost. To stop bleeding from a pin feather, it is necessary to pluck the feather out of the follicle from its base. To do this, the bird should be securely and safely restrained (perhaps in a towel); then the feather should be firmly grasped with fingers, tweezers, or pliers and pulled out in the same direction as its growth. The bleeding will stop and a new feather will be stimulated to grow. If the damaged feather is on the wing, then the wing itself must be supported securely against the pull of the feather as it is removed.

"To stop bleeding from a pin feather, it is necessary to pluck the feather from its base."

Gentle pressure may have to be applied over the follicle of a larger feather after it has been pulled out to control any bleeding but generally the bleeding will stop with the removal of the damaged feather. It is advised to remove pin feathers that have been damaged and have clotted in the same manner, as they are predisposed to being re-injured.

If you are uncomfortable doing this or cannot manage the procedure then contact a veterinarian familiar with birds.

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