Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Bird in The Hand - With an Injured Leg

Of all my finches (I have 14) my favorites are my pair of Golden Breasted. They are the smallest of the finches, weighing at around 7 grams each. They are just a bit larger than a humming bird. To give you some perspective, an empty very small Gladloc container (the 4 x 3 x 3 size) weighs 22.3 grams. The pair are bonded. After their morning bath you will see them preening each other, they nap next to each other, sleep each night together, and often can be found perched on  a branch side by side watching the antics of the other finches.

So one can imagine how distressed I was to find the little hen with her leg caught in a food net hanging in the cage. Once I freed her and gently put her on the bottom of the cage she immediately flew up. I was heartened - she was OK. Then as she went to light on a branch, she faltered and fell. My heart dropped. I watched as she continued to fly about trying to land, albeit unsuccessfully. Immediately her mate joined her, if nothing else to give moral support.

I removed the pair and put them into a smaller cage. Watching the little hen sit there with her right leg stuck out to her side at an awkward angle was painful to me. When she tried to move she would hop around dragging the injured leg.

While I was standing there upset, my DH, naturally was telling me I needed to get the bird to a vet. And, not just any vet - a bird specialist. I considered. Of course the little bird needed help but a bird specialist was going to cost a lot. Yes, I love my birds, but suddenly I was looking at several hundred dollars to fix the leg on a bird that I paid almost nothing for (but does have a fairly decent value - in finch terms) and a life expectancy of maybe 5 years (we were already 18 months into that.) Naturally there was no question what I needed to.

Meanwhile my DH was on the phone with one of the Vets he knew from the UGA Vet school - an exotic specialist. He put her on the speaker phone. I overheard "surgery","anesthetize", "immobilization", "pain meds", and "cast". "Cast? Seriously," I asked. She explained how the leg could immobilized by wrapping it with tape.

She was in Georgia, so we made an appointment with our local exotic Vet who specialized in birds. And off we went, little injured bird in a small box.

I feared the Vet, who my DH had a lot of experience with and I had never met, would be aggressive with his treatment. Visions of surgery, expensive medication, a cast (maybe traction), follow up, and physical therapy ran about in my head. He came in, gently picked up the little hen, felt the leg, and examined her all over. After he put her back in her box, he sat back and smiled.

My DH started asking about surgery, anesthetization, casts, and medication. I looked at the Vet hoping his prognosis would be much kinder.  The gods were looking down. The Vet said, " Well, first I do not think there is a break and if there is one it is in the thigh where it could not be immobilized.  I would not anesthetize something this small - it would kill her and besides there is no need for surgery."

My DH asked about medication. The Vet answered, "I don't think that is necessary and you always run the chance of an overdose and killing the bird. I would take her home, put her in a glass aquarium so she does not have a cage wire or perches to jump up on. Give her several weeks and let's see how she gets along." When I checked out, unlike the hundreds of dollars I feared, the bill was extremely reasonable.

We came home and my DH's question over the vet's lack of aggressive prescribed treatment was quickly superseded by the thought of a need for a new animal enclosure. He went to work on one as soon as we walked in the door. As usual he was very detailed and exact in design and construction - to a point I feared the little bird was going to get a chill being in the box waiting for her gilded cage.

Once the glass enclosure was completed with lights and heat, I put the little hen in it and relocated her mate to join her for moral support. By this time I was exhausted. Very little I needed to do during the day got done due to this avian medical emergency.

The next morning I checked on the birds. To my surprise, the little hen was sitting on the bottom of the "cage" up on both legs. I watched as she hopped over (on both feet) to the food bowl and ate. I thought back that less than 24 hours before "we" were discussing surgery, immobilization (a cast), and medication. Now I had a little bird that I could watch for a week or two, make sure her leg was strong , and hopefully make a safe transition back to the flight.

Was this much ado about nothing or the benefits of a gilded cage? Who knows? Whatever? The bottom line is that it looks as if my little bird is going to recover.

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