What to do When Your Parrot's Toe Gets Squished

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Savannah, GA dressing room With a bandaged toe: Galah "Bandit"

I can't tell you how many times I've almost shut the door on my parrot's foot or toes. And then there's the amount of times I actually have done it. C'mon, don't give me that reaction, you've done or almost done it too! Our parrots are fast, they wedge themselves in the unsafest of circumstances and expect nothing to go wrong. The cage door is an often one.... I'm pretty sure I started to shut it on Tusa's toe last, or maybe it was Comet. Either way, they've learned to let me know earlier than normal. It happens anywhere there's a door... a regular door in your house, an aviary door, a cage door, whatever it may be, accidents happen. Most of the time, a quick warning yell from your bird will tell you and you can stop before any serious damage is done, or make it there in time before anything really bad happens other than an uncomfortable squeeze. But once, it might happen where we're not all so lucky, and your bird's toe actually gets squished so bad it's dangling there by a couple threads. Then what do you do? The short answer is get your bird to a veternarian tech or avian specialist as soon as possible. Duh. But the long answer if you can't do that, and need to do SOMETHING to save the toe... is, well, I'm not a vet but here's what I did...   First off, we always keep a parrot first aid kit attached to our stage cages backstage, in our bird trailer, and in our bird room at home. Anywhere there are bird cages with birds living in them... there's an emergency parrot first aid kit. So get yourself one and keep it near your parrot. Without our first aid kit, we would have been screwed and never been able to save our bird's toe.   What we used:
  • This first aid kit from Drs. Foster & Smith
  • Neosporin
  • A sock (as a towel)
  • Gauze pads
  • Cotton swabs
  • Adhesive tape
  • Gauze bandage
  • Antiseptic swabs
  • Scissors
  • Styptic powder (to stop bleeding)

What happened: Bandit, our rose breasted cockatoo, was the one to catch his toe. Once he was free of the hinge he caught it in, we realized his toe was practically entirely disconnected from the rest of his foot. He never lead onto it being this bad of an injury, he acted stuck but never let out a sound, which was the shocking part of the whole thing. Not one yell, scream or cry for help. He just acted stuck. We didn't have a towel on hand, but used a sock and put it over his head as we held him to get a closer look. The bleeding wasn't intense but we immediately examined the damage and worked hard to re-attach the toe in an attempt to save it from falling completely off and Bandit becoming toe-less. As we pushed the hanging part back onto the foot part, which looked something like this drawing...  

Photo by Jamieleigh Drawing by Dave Explanation: The arrow points at the "strings" that held the toe together, that's how disconnected the toe really was by the impact of the squish

We put on the styptic powder to stop any immediate bleeding. It wasn't bleeding a lot, so bleeding out was the least of our worries. Our main concern with this injury was saving the toe.  

Photo by Dave Location: Savannah, GA Shown: Galah's toe covered in styptic powder "Bandit"

We took the antiseptic swabs and cleaned the toe up, wiping away any noticeable dirt or fabrics. We then applied neosporin with a cotton swab (the type of small ones you'd use for the inside of your ears) and wrapped the toe up with the bandage materials, gauze and adhesive tape. We used the scissors to cut small enough pieces for each material.   Luckily, Bandit was very calm and didn't appear to feel much pain. I think the nerves and things were disconnected so fast that he wasn't feeling any immediate trauma and it was as though he knew we were trying to help. He had stopped to look at his toe at one point so he saw its condition.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Somewhere between GA and KY Shown with Dave: Galah "Bandit" (with wet lower feathers, not blood, don't worry!)

We kept him with us day and night to keep an eye on the toe. We changed the bandage daily, toweling him to do so. One day he got the bandage wet and so we took it off for the rest of the day to let the foot dry and keep it clean. We soaked all his perches in hot water to rinse them of anything that might dirty up his wound as at this point, the toe was staying on fine but we were now worried about infection of the open wound and we had days until we could get to a vet still as we were right in the middle of our travel days.   The toe dried, and to my horror, his entire toe nail fell off in my hand. Bandit didn't even notice and was his usual self, full of personality and curiosity, and loving the new spoiled life. (Okay, maybe that part wasn't all that new...)  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Somewhere between GA and KY Shown: The nail of galah "Bandit" (inside is hollow) 

The nail was hollow we realized, and the quick of the nail remained but it was flimsy... soft. We wrapped it but Bandit bit the end of the bandage, where the quick was, and it began to bleed. We took the bandage off as we couldn't get him to leave it alone otherwise and he left the quick alone once it was out in the open. We covered it in styptic powder to stop the bleeding which took a while longer since it's like when you cut their nails too short; you're cutting the quick of the nail. Which was the only part exposed now leaving it very vulnerable. Once it stopped bleeding and began to dry, it began to harden and more and more, Bandit would leave it alone. I was constantly telling him, "Don't touch it, leave it alone." and he would reply in my voice, "Ok." and actually leave it alone.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: On the road from GA to KY Bleeding quick: Galah's toe "Bandit"

We got him into an avian vet in Lexington, Kentucky of all places and had him checked out. Since we were there, we did a full exam. The vet was hardly concerned in person and told me what to expect. She instructed to keep it clean and bandage it for a couple more days if Bandit would tolerate it. If not, just give him Baytril (a perscribed antiobiotic for the swelling of his toe) and to expect to see the top part of the skin eventually come off, but hopefully not until the skin under it was completely healed.   When I saw the vet clean his toe, I thought she was going to pull it right off! We had been so gentle, so nervous it was going to fall right back off at any second... but that's when she said it should be fine and stay on just fine. We had saved it, and I couldn't be more relieved for Bandit's sake. He got to keep his toe! And all he was getting was something for the swelling, not bad, not bad at all.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Corbin, KY Shown: The inside of a bird's toe nail, just the quick "Bandit"

Bandit is off bandage duty and is strictly on his Baytril twice a day (a very tiny amount) his toe seems to be doing really well and healing great. We're just now hoping his toe nail grows in properly as the cuticle could be damaged from the injury. That will take some time to find out though and of course, I will keep you all posted on what happens and how it's handled.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Corbin, KY A bit swollen but dried: The quick next to a normal toe on galah "Bandit"

Overall, I'm really amazed we were able to save his toe with his birdie first aid kit, and at how well Bandit handled everything. He was so, so, so good about it all and I'm so very proud of him. It makes me an avid believer in getting your bird used to being toweled so that it's not traumatic when you really have to make it work. We were able to pull it off with a sock. I always play with Bandit with socks, picking him up with them, swinging him around, throwing blankets and pillows over him to climb in and out of... all those silly games are on you tube and it's doing things like that that makes these type of serious experiences less traumatic for your parrot. So in other words, thank goodness for silly parrot games!  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Savannah, GA Backstage: Galah "Bandit"

After a week off, and a not swollen toe later, Bandit was already back performing and happier than ever. We weren't really sure what to expect... if he may not want to perform, if he would be into it at all, but he's still himself and his audience loving self as well... enjoying the crowd and talking up a storm before going on stage to impress everyone! Turns out this tough galah doesn't want to miss a show! I was really thrilled his injury didn't keep him from the stage, because I love having him performing with me by my side.   To see more pictures, click here to go to our flickr.

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.



this happened today to my conure. I hope he lives


Hi Beautiful, This happened to my budgie yesterday. I am having a hard time wrapping his foot because it is so tiny. Do you happen to know what that “thread” is? Can I clip it, or will there be immense bleeding? The bleeding has stopped, but, I think the detached part can no longer be reattached. Please help. I have yet to come across a vet who says they will help me.


Hi Beautiful, This happened to my budgie yesterday. I am having a hard time wrapping his foot because it is so tiny. Do you happen to know what that “thread” is? Can I clip it, or will there be immense bleeding? The bleeding has stopped, but, I think the detached part can no longer be reattached. Please help. I have yet to come across a vet who says they will help me.


Thank you for sharing. This really calmed my fears.

Kathaleen Jackson

Hi it is a long possibly involved story to go into here however I just want to let you know that I found your article very reassuring.

Kathaleen Jackson

@FEDDUPP. Way to TOTALLY AND COMETELY twist an insanely innocent comment to fit you’re obvious liberal minded sensitivities! You and your ilk are LITERALLY ruining the world. Asshole. I’m glad Bandit is well and healed!!


Just because a vet chooses to practice in Lexington, Kentucky does not mean he is a toothless, braindead twit. That is an insult. My vet is in Louisville and was at the top of her class at Duke. You are a snob my dear.


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