Senegal debeaked by aggressive mate

sassy2STonight while I was feeding birds, my senegal hen, Sassy Girl, had her upper mandible ripped off by her mate. I heard the fight from another room and found Sassy on her back with the male on top of her. He had ripped off the beak, injured an eye, and bit a hole in her tongue. They had 2 1/2 week old babies in the nest. I pulled the babies, put them in an incubator and rushed Sassy to the vet.

Except for cleaning and trimming, there wasn’t much she could do. She knows I don’t want to use antibiotics so left the decision up to me, but said that because the sinuses  are exposed, that Sassy has a very high risk of infection until it heals over. I let her give Sassy a shot and took the rest of the drugs home so I can ‘play it by ear’. My decision will be based on what kind of food I can get her to eat.

We’ll be starting with handfeeding formula. Sassy was a hand reared baby and has always been tame except when taking care of eggs and babies.

She was a real trooper at the vet’s office. She did very polite step-ups onto and off of the scale, despite her injuries. She cuddled into the vet’s neck or into mine, depending on who was doing what at the time.

Right now she is in an incubator on heat in my computer room. She is chirping and clicking at me from across the room. Actually, now she is starting to fight the glass. I don’t want her to injure herself more, so I think I’ll move her into a cage with a heating panel.


Hi All, I thought I would update you on Sassy. I am tube-feeding Sassy because she can’t eat on her own and won’t take formula from a syringe. When we first weighed her at the vets office, she weighed 138 grams. This probably included the weight of food in her crop because she had been eating to feed the babies just prior to the male’s attack. Her actual weight was probably closer to 130 grams.

Over the next couple of days she continued to lose weight as I attempted to get food into her. She bottomed out at 122 grams. That’s when I started feeding her four times a day instead of three. Then her weight gradually climbed to 130.

I tried a number of different foods for her to eat by herself, but it was taking time for her to retrain herself to get food into her mouth without an upper beak. She also needed time for the injury to heal. She started to show some success with cheerios. Nothing else: Corn, peas, whole or pureed, baby food, etc was successful.

Sometime last week I noticed that her droppings were large and voluminous. However, they looked like the healthy droppings of a hen who after spending a lot of time in the nest box, voids upon leaving it. My attention was distracted by some other serious and distasteful issues that I’m having to deal with right now, so it didn’t ‘connect’ in my mind that those droppings were not appropriate for Sassy.

Large voluminous droppings are a sign that droppings are being retained. A bird not staying in a nestbox normally produces droppings at least every half hour. Sassy wasn’t doing that. She was expelling droppings only five or six times a day, hence the large volume at one time.

I had been weighing her every day, and her weight was good. However, because of my distraction, it didn’t occur to me that the good weight being registered was because she was not passing her droppings normally.

Sunday morning when I went to feed her, I noticed that there were no droppings on her newspaper at all. I had changed them before I went to bed. I fed her and waited to see a dropping. When she finally did, it had been over 12 hours since the last one sometime the day before. It was large, mucosy, and watery. I weighed her immediately and her weight once she had passed feces was 120 grams.

Sassy was hungry and trying to eat. Her crop was full but her stomach and intestines were empty. Sassy’s digestive system had almost shut down. It was very slow. She was starving to death.

There are several reasons for a digestive tract to shut down: 1. bacterial infection 2. yeast infection 3. bad nutrition 4. PDD 5. parasites 6. metal toxicity. My first thought, because it had been on my mind, is that an adult bird should not be on handfeeding formula for an extended period of time. The sustained high nutrient load can cause problems.

I immediately took her completely off of handfeeding formula. Instead, I started feeding her gerber baby vegetables along with some herbs to stimulate the digestive tract. I also called my vet, who suspects yeast, but wants me to bring her in, which I’ll be doing tomorrow.

In addition to the baby food vegetables, I’m adding baby food banana. Banana is an ayurvedic treatment for digestive tract problems. The herbs I’m using are slippery elm, to soothe the digestive tract, Nature’s way Digestion to stimulate it(contains gentian, capsicum, digestive enzymes, dandelion, barberry, beet, angelica), probiotics, and I also alternate between echinacea, astraglaus, and garlic in case of a bacterial problem.

Yesterday her droppings firmed up, the mucosy look disppeared, and she produced about 6 of them again. This is an improvement over Monday, when she produced only 3 bad ones all day. Monday when I weighed her after she voided and before I fed her, she was down to 112 grams.

I talked to the vet about propulsid, which is supposed to get the digestive tract going, but I didn’t discuss side-effects with her. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. This morning before I fed Sassy, she weighed 124 grams, but she did not make a dropping last night again. I’m waiting for her to do that and then I’ll weigh her again….not that it will do much good, because she still has food in her crop.

On a positive note, Sassy has found something she can eat on her own. Rex, from another list, suggested soaked monkey chow, and Sassy adores it. She has no problem eating it at all. It has to be Zupreem monkey chow, though, because the other kinds fall apart the same as pellets do when wet. Zupreem stays together with a spongey texture that Sassy can pull off and work into her mouth.



I have had good success with Gentian and Capsicum on birds that were crashing on weight and not utilizing the nutrients in the food.

The ratio I was using was 1 drop of each to 30cc of formula or water.

Aside from my previous posting on the gentian and capsicum I really think SubQ fluids are needed…ASAP

The slimeyness/mucous you are seeing is also a sign of severe dehydration. At least the SubQ fluids will get her hydrated. But *more importantly* they will get the digestive tract moving. As long as it is slow there is harmful bacteria building up, and it can get absorbed through the intestinal walls and create a septic situation. The SubQ fluids are very benefical in moving this build-up out.

Without moving out of her system she is in serious danger of septicemia. When actual septicemia occurs the center of the eyes will reflect back a silvery flat color…it is hard to describe. I call it shark eyes.

The SubQ fluids are about the only way I know to getting the GI tract moving. Susanne


Hi Susanne, Thanks for your suggestions re: capsicum and gentian. I will purchase the liquid in addition to what is in the digestion formula.

Sassy doesn’t actually show signs of dehydration other than the mucosy droppings. Her eyes aren’t sunken and when I pull on her nape, the skin pops back quickly rather than slowly. Unlike a baby bird, she does have access to her water cup, which she bathes in despite my admonitions to stay warm and dry.

I do agree with you that the potential for the proliferation of pathogens in the digestive tract is serious since her gut transit time is so slow. I started to give her some of the meds that the vet gave me when she was first injured.

Her beak injury has not diminished her vocal ablilities. Even though she is ill, she is very demanding and abusive toward me when the babies start stirring near feeding time. She screams shrill and loud repeatedly until I obey her and come to feed them. It is most annoying…but better than sitting around fluffed up.

I fed her 10cc of sweet potatoes and banana mixed with instant ounces at six this morning and she has not yet passed a dropping. She also ate a whole monkey chow biscuit. I don’t know where she puts it. What goes in should come out.


Gloria, I don’t know if birds can have rhubarb. If so, this is a very good  for a number of things, including the colon, spleen, liver, and gallbladder.  Good for constipation, malabsorption, and parasitic infection. Also has  antibiotic properties, and can stimulate the appetite. Linda

Dr. McCluggage uses a lot of Ultra Clear Sustain for numerous intestinal problems. Two of my birds are or have been on it & it definitely made a difference for them. He would add additional herbs & nutrients for their specific problem. He says it heals the gastrointestinal system and mentions it in his book. Dr. McCluggage’s wife said they also use it on other pets. She said when he gets a website up, he will be selling it over the internet so pet owners have easy access to it. Normally, it’s only available through doctors, but someone on this list sent this link a long time ago, to a website by a doctor that sells it. I thought you might be interested in this for Sassy. http://www.thewayup.com/products/0280.htm

Scenic makes a handweaning pellet, meaning you soak it & feed it by hand to simulate what a parent bird would do to transition a baby to more solid food. Phoebe Linden helped them develop this product because she had been using Scenic’s regular cheeto shape pellets to do this with many, many babies. Where the handweaning pellet might be formulated for a baby, the regular pellets are formulated for adults. I thought you might want to try this with Sassy, since they retain their shape when moist. Scenic pellets are really made to be fed with fruits and veggies (higher content of nutrients not in fruits & veggies), at a 1:1 ratio. Although they claim they can also be a sole diet, I still think they would be best used as part of the diet. And hopefully to help Sassy learn to eat on her own.

You can get nutritional and ingredient info here: http://www.rosespet.com/scenic.html The JUNGLE pellets (corn, apple, cheese, or all of these mixed, and chillispice) are a 3/4″ long by 1/3″ wide ‘cheeto’ like shape (not as big as a cheeto though) and I think Sassy could easily hold these in her foot.

Phoebe recommends soaking them in water and apple juice, I say soak them in fresh carrot juice or reconstituted green food juice for extra nutrition. Also, depending on what type of juicer you have, you may be able to make fresh baby food to feed her with the juicer.

If she can handle the monkey biscuit, she can handle these, too. Leanne


Hi, I won’t keep boring you folks with this all day, but Sassy finally made a dropping at 11:30 this morning. It was about 10cc worth, more on the liquid side and had some mucus in it. The color was pale green and the urates swirled in it were white. It looked like a fairly healthy dropping except for the mucus. I guess if a bird retains a dropping for such a long period of time there would be mucus, because there is mucosal tissue lining the intestinal tract. It didn’t have an odor, which I would expect if yeast or bacteria was an issue.

I gave her a banana slice, which she also can eat, and another monkey chow biscuit, after I tube fed her lunch of sweet potatoe, green beans, antibiotics, and instant ounces. She was full so she isn’t interested in eating anything more right now. I weighed her immediately after her dropping and she weighed 124 grams, but I don’t know how much food is in her. Her breast bone protrudes slightly.

Hi all, I was absolutely thrilled when I came home from class to find that Sassy had deposited 4 piles in her cage while I was gone. This is much better gut transit time than I’ve seen since Sunday. She had three that were the consistency of cowpies, and they weren’t loaded with mucus. The other one she put in her food dish. That one was better formed and smaller. All were of good color.

I really think it was the handfeeding formula that shut her down. I also believe it is the herbs and banana that started her back up again. I weighed her when I saw she had done such a good job of emptying herself. She was 126 grams. I think she is putting on weight. I’m so relieved.



Hi, Sassy and i just returned from the vet. When I put her in the coleman cooler with a little hot water bottle to keep her warm, she hadn’t made a dropping again since last night. However, right after I put her in the cooler, she voided…a lot. So I put that newspaper in a plastic bag for the vet and gave Sassy a fresh liner. Sassy produced two more droppings on the way to the vet.

The vet looked at the big dropping (I noticed her eyes widened a bit at the sheer amount of it) and her exclamation was that it looked exactly like a dropping produced by a laying hen. There was no odor. She said if the problem is yeast, you can smell it. If the problem is bacteria, you can smell it.

Sassy’s crop wasn’t bulging or gassy, so she doesn’t think Sassy’s problem is gut stasis. She thinks Sassy’s problem is behavioral.

I asked her about dehydration and questioned her about the mucus in the droppings. She didn’t think Sassy is dehydrated and the mucus is probably because Sassy is holding her droppings, which irritates the intestines a bit. She did say that this behavior could bring on septicemia.

She did some gram stains and found a few gram negs and a tiny amount of yeast. The gram neg bacteria could be from the monkey chow, which she says is often contaminated with e. coli. She would like me to find some other things for Sassy to eat. (I’ll be trying the Scenic weaning food that Margie and Leanne both suggested to me.) I’ll also see how she does with my birdie bread. So far, she is not having much luck with the fruits and veggies I’ve offered her, and she refuses to lap up anything that resembles gruel, oatmeal, baby food, etc. She wants to pick up her food.

Overall, the vet thought Sassy was in good shape, except for the weight loss. She was 122 grams at the vet’s office. Breast bone is protruding slightly but not bad. My vet thinks that Sassy is a pretty nice little bird (she is) and says she can tell why I”m attached to her.

Sassy has been in a suspended wire flight cage for most of her life. Dropping do not fall a short distance onto newspapers in my flight cages. They fall about 3-6 feet to the floor. When she was first injured and I put her in a regular cage, her droppings were normal in size and frequency. Now that she is feeling better, I wonder if she thinks this small cage (19″ square) is really a nestbox that shouldn’t be pooped in until she can’t help herself? Is it possible that the cage is causing her to hold her droppings? gloria

I think this is very likely, actually. Pam

Gloria – I also think it very likely that the small cage may seem like a nest  to Sassy – this is a good observation.  Lainey

This is really likely considering being from the a large cage with no droppings near. Birds train from babies where to go. It definitely isn’t a confined area. So glad she is doing better and that it is all making sense. Georgia

That sounds like a logical conclusion. A lot of my female budgies treat their cages as nest boxes in that same respect–I guess because for the most part (except at nighttime) they’re free flighted.

You might want to consider moving Sassy into something larger to see if she’s goes back to normal with her droppings. Good luck! Bobbett

I don’t know if this will help or make things worse, but maybe if all else fails (since it is really important for her to be where there are people, scenery, etc.) then how about putting a nest box on the cage, it may make her feel comfortable but again it may not, you know your bird gloria, just trying to think of things here. Helena

Hi Gloria, I would not worry too much about Sassy retaining her droppings overnight. My pet Senegal has always held his and so do the Sennies of two of my friends. African Greys do the same thing. It must have something to do with being a prey animal in Africa. As long as you can get her to go during the day,that particular problem should be solved. I’m happy to hear that she is beginning to eat some things. Corry.

That is a very interesting thought and observation.

Several months ago when I was worming my babies that were weaning (in the cage) I had learned they held in the poop until daylight. Since the medication was given during the last handfeeding I would get up during the night and turn on the lights to do a poop check for parsites. Once the lights were on everybird would let loose. For the first minute all I heard was a steady plopping sound from all the cages. Susanne


Sassy is doing well and maintaining weight. I am tube feeding her three times a day and she is no longer fighting the tube. She actually opens her mouth for it. However, she does fight it when I get close to 10cc of food. It seems to be uncomfortable for her to hold that much. 6cc is better. She is eating sliced apple, cheerios, puffed kashi, and soaked monkey chow on her own. She also enjoys an occasional piece of cheese. She can’t eat even hulled seeds or nuts. Bread would probably work for her, but it isn’t very nutritious.

I tube feed baby vegetables with handfeeding formula to cut the intense nutrition inappropriate for an adult. Sometimes I tube feed instant ounces and baby food vegetables. Occasionally I will add herbs like slippery elm, garlic, or probiotics, depending on how her droppings look. gloria


I soak monkey biscuit till very soft. I remove all trace of soaking liquid and I mash in a little bit of smooth almond butter or hazelnut,just a pinch of this to one cup of mashed peanut butter with 1/4 banana.  The bird will go for this. Also, my herbs are mixed in this mixture. My little birds love this mixture when they are feeding babies too. Helen


Update on Sassy:

Sassy has been eating on her own for several months and maintaining her weight well. None of her beak has re-grown, so she cannot crack seeds or grind any of her food. She must be given food that she can break into small pieces with her feet or which can be broken between her tongue and the part of her face where the upper mandible was once attached. This food she shoves onto the back of her tongue so she can swallow it. Her main dry diet is cheerios, bread sprinkled with a green food supplement, and dehulled seeds or nuts that have been shaved into tiny pieces. She also likes apples and fruit of similar texture that is cut into thin slices. She can’t manage raw carrots, greens, or most fruits or vegetables, nor can she deal with pellets.

I am concerned about her nutrition, but she appears to be doing well on this diet so far. Her droppings look good and she has good energy and activity levels.

Update July 2002

sassyThis is a photo of Sassy today, a year and a half after her injury. She is doing very well and her feathers are in much better condition since she has no mate nibbling on them. She feeds herself, but obviously cannot crack seeds since she never regrew a beak. To insure that she has adequate vitamin intake, I mix finch pellets together with sunflower fines in her dry dish. This is available all day and the major part of her diet. Except for soft, tiny pieces of fruit and some vegetables, she is unable to enjoy produce as she did before the debeaking. The only food she can eat is that which will stick to her tongue and which she then pushes to the back of her throat so she can swallow it.

Update July 2007

Sassy is still doing well. Her diet is pretty much the same as in the July 2002 message above. She loves bananas as a treat and also small peieces of fruit cut very thin. She does not like baby food, although I did try a few different varieties to round out her diet. She dips the pellets in water to make them more slippery so they will slide down her throat. Needless to say, she loses many of them in the water, so it needs to be changed often. She is a great little bird with a friendly and outgoing personality. She loves to cuddle.


Sassy died in the summer of 2014. She is missed.