Ask Lafeber


February 23, 2021

Leg Problem

Hi, I had installed a nest box with coconut fiber bedding, for my cockatiel pair. The male had gone in at night, I hadn’t noticed until the next morning. But when he was coming out his leg was stuck in the fiber. I had to cut the fiber to get him free. And I threw it away. But then his leg swoll and he was limping. The female laid her clutch already but I feel like he is forcing himself to incubate the eggs and that is why it’s not healing. The fiber was really tight around his leg so I don’t know if it cut his circulation. The fiber did give him a cut though, but I already applied “blood-stopping” ointment. What do you think it is, and what should I do.


Hi Darwin,

I’m so sorry this has happened. You have learned the hard way that you should never provide any nesting material with long fibers or thread. The best thing to use is Aspen Shavings – it has to be Aspen because other wood shavings have aromatic oils that can be harmful. Cockatiels rarely use nesting material. You can put the shavings in the box but most pairs remove it.

I feel like your male needs to be seen by an Avian Vet as soon as possible. He may just have an infection, but he very likely has some of the fiber embedded in his leg. The fiber is very fine and easy to overlook. Whether it is an infection or a thread, he is going to lose his leg and possibly his life without immediate Veterinary care. If he loses his leg, he can never breed again.

You have a difficult situation because the female can’t care for the eggs on her own. But the male must be treated immediately. If he can’t return to the nest after treatment, the female really should not be left to deal with these eggs alone. I would candle the eggs if you know how to, and if they are not fertile, go ahead and remove the box and discard the eggs. Not only can she end up dying from trying to incubate the eggs alone – she may not come out to eat often enough – if there is any fiber left in the box, she can also get injured or if the chicks do hatch, they may die from getting entangled. Any remaining fiber needs to be removed, however, she may not return to the eggs once you have done this. If this is the first time this pair has had eggs, the clutch is likely to fail anyway. You are going to have to decide between keeping your male & female healthy or taking chances with the female incubating the eggs alone, which may not even yield chicks.

Below is a link to our monthly Ask the Vet webinar, and this link will start at a point when Dr. Tully is discussing thread caught in a bird’s foot. Whether the foot or leg, threads or fiber can be hard to detect, as he explains.

Again, I am sorry you are faced with this situation. The male might be able to be returned to the cage after the Vet sees him. It depends on how serious the injury is, and what treatment he needs. But I wouldn’t wait any longer or as I said he could die or lose the leg, and then there won’t be any future breeding.

Take care,


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