In my flock, I have a number of special needs birds. There’s the blind African gray, the toeless African gray, the sun conure with odd toes, the lovebird with half a top beak and the green cheek conure with no top beak. I have a cockatiel who has never grown back the neck and head feathers his mate plucked off of him. I have two old canaries that are nearly blind and need their toenails trimmed monthly, which usually indicates a liver problem. And there’s Maynard, a special needs bird all of his own. He’s needy and grumpy and emotionally damaged from being passed around to so many homes.
I love them all and also love my orange front conure, Dani. She came to me with a severe case of splayed leg. She usually hangs out in the corner of a cage and lays in her food dish to eat. She manages to get around pretty well and when I first got her, I would take her out and set her on an ottoman with a few sunflower seeds to munch. But when it came time to put her back, she panicked and tried to fly. She couldn’t get far but she came close to injuring herself. These days she doesn’t get out time.
I took in a pair of conures for a friend who became homeless. His partner, the man who matched me up with Maynard, had passed away and he couldn’t afford his apartment any longer. He asked me to take in Mookie and Sunny, then went off to a life of homelessness. Sadly, Mookie, a sun conure, had a stroke a couple years ago, and shortly after that, he died. Sunny, an orange front conure, seemed lost without his longtime buddy.
Little bells went off in my head. Hey, you have two orange front conures! Why not house them together? So I put them together, secure in the knowledge that Sunny was one of the nicest birds around and he wouldn’t pick on Dani. She was a little skittish around him at first, but before long, he won her over.
I give Dani boxes to chew on and hide in for her comfort. A few months after I put them together, I checked in the box and found a few eggs! Dani did not want me to touch them, but she had chewed the bottom out of the box and the eggs were on the cage wire. I carefully put them into a shallow wooden box and returned the box to the covering position.
Sadly, but not totally surprising, the eggs did not hatch. In order to complete fertilization, the two birds would need a moment of complete contact between the two cloacas. With Dan’s leg problem, I don’t think she could have gotten a firm enough position so that Sunny could mount her properly. But that’s okay. I don’t really want more conures at this time.
Once I took out the eggs, I put some brown packing paper in the box for Dani’s entertainment. She chewed away happily on the stuff. One night, as Mike was saying goodnight to the birds, he noticed Dani had a strip of the paper wrapped tightly around her ankle. I mean, tightly! Her foot was swollen and looked pretty ugly. With me holding her, Mike was able to remove the paper. He massaged her leg and foot and we thought we had dodged a real problem.
About this time, our sweet terrier, Tilda, was diagnosed with cancer throughout several organs and we made the painful but necessary decision to euthanize her. The month after that moved at a slow blur, full of tears and despair. I barely managed to take basic care of my flock and wished I didn’t have them all so I could do more crying and mourning. I was a mess.
Slowly, I got back to something like normal, helped along by our adoption of another cute, small, white dog. Astrid is a loving girl and while she has her own psychoses, she’s a more normal dog than sweet Tilda was. I returned to walking, added swimming, and began to clean and care more for my flock.
When I tossed the old box that had become Dani’s refuge, I saw her foot for the first time. She had already lost some toes off it, and the whole leg looked horrid. I knew she would probably lose it. She didn’t have any signs of the infection having spread through her system. But it was only a matter of time.
Our finances were starting to feel the hits from things we had done or had to do over the summer. But Dani, like all my flock, is important. I made the appointment and took her in.
The veterinarian was the same one who had administered the last dosages for Tilda. He looked Dani over and saw how badly her legs were splayed to being with. He listened to my explanation of what happened and said that yes, the leg with the infected foot would need to go. Dani would be better off without a stump that she couldn’t use any more than the bad foot. He prescribed antibiotics and scheduled her for surgery in two days time. Dani was remarkably calm about taking the antibiotics and even about getting back in the carrier on the morning of her surgery.
I dropped her off with positive energy thoughts uppermost in my heart. Later I heard from the vet that the surgery went well, and Dani already had come out of the anesthesia. He remarked on her good overall health and stamina. He said we could pick her up that evening. I asked Mike to do so on the way home.
Dani arrived back to her very worried mate without a cone. She had not been picking at the stitches, but her own energy was causing her wound to bleed a little bit just before she left the vet. They weren’t worried, however. Starting the next morning, I was to continue the antibiotics until they were gone and give her pain medication once a day.
Almost as if she was entertaining me, Dani would try to hide when I reached in to grab her. But when I held her, she turned calm and docile. She took her antibiotics easily, but her pain meds she nearly pulled out of my grasp. I guess they gave her the good stuff. Or she just liked chewing on the plastic syringes.
In a week, she goes back for a follow-up appointment, but I am confident that the wound has healed well and the infection has been kicked out. I have her in a small cage in the living room so I can keep an eye on her and Sunny. There’s a heating pad under it and only finches around them. No threats, real or imagined, from other hookbills.
The moral of this story is, you can’t be too careful. Always check all the items you give your birds to play with. I avoid cloth and strings for them, but now paper is on the short list. Always check your birds, their extremities especially, after playtime. And don’t let life blindside you at the expense of your birds’ health. Thanks for reading, I will be back next Sunday.