SPECIAL CARE FOR LEG INJURED OR IMPAIRED BIRDS
If your bird has incurred, or been diagnosed, with a leg injury or impairment, whether temporary or permanent, there are a few simple changes in the birds environment you can implement that will give it a much safer and enjoyable daily quality of life.
Transitioning Your Impaired Bird
If your bird becomes impaired, you will want to immediately make a few changes to the cage to keep your bird safe—and you might even want to consider purchasing a more suitable cage for the bird, considering its new condition.
- The first thing you will want to do, in any case, is lower the birds perches, so that if it falls, it will not sustain even more injury. If the cage has a substantial interior height, you will certainly need to immediately lower all of the perches and toys. If the grill is adjustable, raise it up to reduce the interior cage height.
- The second thing you will want to do is place a thick layer of cloth toweling on the cage bottom. Cover the toweling with paper to protect it from becoming soiled. Placing layers of bubble wrap under several towels is also helpful in providing a soft landing for your bird, if it should fall.
- Keep all food and water bowls within easy reach of the perches.
- Remove swings and toys that might prove problematic for an impaired bird.
- Observe your impaired bird closely for the first few days, and fine tune the cage setup to make it as comfortable, and safe, as possible for the bird. Pay particular attention to the ease with which it can access food and water, and take note of where it now chooses to roost for sleeping.
Birds enjoy being up high, rather than being down low. If you have a bird that has issues with climbing and/or perching, consider purchasing a cage that isn’t attached to a solid base. Cages with stands tend to have more interior height than cages without stands, and interior height might prove dangerous to an impaired bird, as it can fall. Look for a cage that’s wide, rather than tall, and unattached to a stand.
Cages without stands can be placed atop other cages, or on tables or other pieces of furniture that allow the bird the feeling of being up high, without being unsafe.
If a bird has difficulty climbing, it’s wise to purchase a cage with all horizontal barring, or with a minimum of two sides of horizontal barring at the proper bar spacing for the size of the bird. The will make it much easier for the bird to climb.
Digit, a feet impaired Goffin Cockatoo, enjoys his safe and comfortable cage. He also enjoys outings in his comfy and safe carrier!
The clever placement of perches can make the life of an impaired bird much easier, and certainly, much safer. Select a variety of perches, some with flat sides, so there will be a variety of surface widths. Impaired birds sometimes like to rest flat footed on very wide perches for comfort; sometimes, they need smaller width perches, which they will grip tightly if their balance is impaired. So a variety works well for impaired birds.
It’s also wise to stagger the perches, at least on one side of the cage, so the bird can easily climb from one perch to another. Rope perches work great for this, as you can wind them through the cage. They are also softer on a birds feet.
Make sure you place perches in front of the food and water bowls, so the bird can comfortably perch while eating and drinking.
Platform perches are wonderful accessories for the cage of an impaired bird. These generally hook or screw onto the side of the cage, and allow you to create a small platform on which a bird can very comfortably rest. Platforms generally have a small bar spacing, so the bird can grip, or rest flat footed. Toys, or even water cups, can be affixed in the platform area for easy reach. And, the platforms can be placed near the top of the cage, so the bird can roost with a sense of safety, while the risk of a fall is greatly reduced. If dealing with a larger bird, you can easily construct your own platform, and affix it to the cage.
Swings are generally not a good idea for use with impaired birds.
Ladders come in handy for impaired birds. These can be placed horizontally within the cage to work as a modified platform, and they can be placed at the bottom of cages that fit into plastic bases, so the impaired bird can more easily climb to the lowest perch.
Select toys for your impaired bird with care. The safest toys are those that solidly attach to the cage itself, and don’t swing or shift. Impaired birds can become entangled more easily than unimpaired birds, and toys hung from the top of the cage with quick links can shift across the cage as the bird plays, leaving them with no access to a perch, and inviting a fall. Affixed toys will stay put.
If your bird is impaired, you might want to ask you avian vet for dietary advice. Impaired birds can sometimes be much more inactive than flighted birds, or otherwise healthy birds, and so, their diet should contain less items high in fat. Limit the choices of nuts and seed, and give them only in limited quantities, as a treat. Keeping an impaired bird trim will add years to its life.
Just because a bird is impaired doesn’t mean it can’t have companionship—but be careful. A compromised bird will usually not do well with a very active or aggressive companion; it might be bullied, deprived of food, or if the companion is of the opposite sex, the problem of injurious sexual activity may arise. All of these things must be considered.
Carefully observe the way the birds interact, and be alert to the impaired bird possibly being overwhelmed by its companion—even if the birds previously lived happily together. This observation should be continuous, and if the impaired bird loses weight, or either bird becomes frustrated, it’s probably better to separate them, and add a fuzzy birdie in place of a live, but perhaps harmful, companion.
Companion birds are often impatient when their friend comes back to them impaired. Be alert to this, and carefully monitor whether their relationship will continue to work safely.
Birds that have life changing events need a great deal of understanding and support. Most are game to adjust, but little things can make a great difference to the birds quality of life, and you should be in tune with how each little change affects your bird. And give it plenty of encouragement and support yourself—give it special understanding, touch, time, and care. Newly impaired birds often go through periods of depression as they adjust to their new life, and they need a great deal of comfort and assurance during this critical phase. The bird will not necessarily understand its new limitations; it might be very unhappy with them. Help your bird get through what can be a very difficult transition into a different way of living its life. Always be endlessly patient and encouraging. Your bird may feel vulnerable and insecure—help to heal these wounds by giving it the time and special attention it needs to regain its zest for living.
Continually Monitor Your Impaired Bird
If you have an impaired bird, always be alert to what you can do to make it more comfortable. Check in pet stores for different accessories—some may be designed for other animals—that may work well for your bird. Plastic rabbit feeders, for instance, provide great resting places for leg injured birds, as they come in various sizes and are designed to fit into the corner of a cage. They are easily cleaned, and easy for the bird to get in and out of without effort.
Impaired birds can live long and happy lives, but it’s important that they be monitored closely for related issues that develop, or degradation of their condition, whether the injury be a short term, or long term one.
written by: Linda Brink