Hindsight is 20/20

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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Nov 6, 2021
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Angelo and Zazu’s story: (it’s long)

It’s Sunday morning and I’m exhausted. I’ve been living my life in 2-4 hour intervals for the past 3 weeks. I’m feeding 3 special needs chicks and I barely can even remember what life was like before Hazel, Louie, and Kevin.

Lets start from the beginning. Last year when COVID lockdown started (3/2020) my medical practice came to a halt. As an employed OB/GYN physician I was required to see only only OBs and GYN emergencies. I had a lot of time on my hands. I’ve had birds as pets for 40 years (I’m 46) and have always wanted to rescue parrots. Unfortunately, the closest bird rescues had shut their doors as well due to COVID: With an avid case of “bird fever” I resorted to Craig’s List. I only wanted males as I never wanted to deal with broodiness or egg binding. A beautiful 2 year old Sun Conure, named “Astro” was up for adoption. His current (second) owner had him for 2 months. She had adopted him since her son wanted a pet to cuddle. (We can see how that went). They had never had birds before. Astro was a DNA sexed male by report and per the original adoption papers from the first owner. I later texted the original owner whose number was on the breeder adoption contract. Her comment was that her dad would sing Astro to sleep and the bird did not like being petted. (Seriously, who the hell gives up a pet bird because he doesn’t cuddle?!!)

Astro was completely untrained. Even though I patiently waited outside their apartment (yes, shrieky sun conure in an APARTMENT), they could not catch him, and she asked me to come and assist. I was able to lure Astro in the carrier with the giant bag of open sunflower seeds on the table. We brought him home and the training began. I renamed Astro as well… “Angelo” was much more South American! We learned to step up. We love to dance. We learned to do Peek-a-boo and “wings up!”. We ate every fruit presented and rejected every vegetable. We ate our pellets but would cross heaven and earth for a sunflower seed which was only given as rewards during training. We taught Pistachio, the rescue budgie, to eat oranges (Pistachio would only eat pellets and leafy greens). Life was good.

But then work went back to normal. I did not want Angelo to be lonely during the day and I was worried about feather destructive behavior in the future. I half-heartedly started looking for a friend. Again, a Craig’s list posting came up: a 6 month old sun conure, hand-fed as well, but the owner was having health issues and could no longer care for him. She had gotten him from a breeder that told her he was a red-factor, but she and I both could tell he was normal, wild-type. She had paid well below the going rate for sun conures in our area and had hand-fed him for 6 more weeks when she bought him at 3 months of age. He was on a seed diet.

Incidentally, the source of this owner’s medical issues was in my field. She was not commercially insured and the county hospital clinics had cancelled her appointments after COVID hit. I knew I could help her.

I brought this male sun conure home and training began. I confirmed him to be male by clinical pelvimetry (as we did not have an official DNA report at the time). His name was Zazu and I did not change it since he recognized his name.

As for his owner, I did biopsies on her for free in my office. I was able to get her in with a GYN oncologist closer to her, but in our same hospital system, who agreed to do her surgery without compensation

In the mean time, Angelo and Zazu became fast friends. At some point they decided to stay in the same cage and I was ecstatic. Zazu went through puberty, tested boundaries for several months, and then went back to his normal sweet self.

But for Zazu’s previous owner, things took a turn for the worse. The hospital rescinded her charity funding just prior to her scheduled surgery since that doctor took vacation. They felt if it was truly emergent he would have done it prior to leaving.

We were devastated. I asked my office manager if if I could do her surgery. My hospital (which probably doesn’t have many charity cases) jumped on it. So I did her surgery. She had the highest grade precancerous lesion before turning into cancer, but there was no cancer. We both were relieved. We are both devout in our faith, and felt that God had brought us together. I needed Zazu and she needed that surgery. She recovered well.

I kept her updated on Zazu, but haven’t in several months. 1 month ago I started noticing behavior in Angelo and Zazu (brief episode of mating). I told my daughter we need to check Angelo’s gender again, but 2 days later “he” now SHE laid an egg.

They are in a large flight cage and she had ripped up the newspaper off the bottom and deposited the egg right on the grate. It cracked on the metal bars when she sat on it. I immediately put a wooden platform underneath. The next day the egg was gone, they had opened it up and eaten the contents. I knew more eggs may be coming, and 3 more arrived. She sat on them diligently. Zazu would occasionally feed her, but he is only 1 1/2 years old. Angelo is 3 years old. As my teen daughter put it: “Ewwww, it like a 13 year old boy knocking up his 20-something teacher”. Nice.

We weren’t sure if they were even fertile, but candling confirmed there were viable embryos inside. On so many forums, there are those who would recommend aborting them. I could never do that. I am in the business of promoting life!!

Well, they all hatched. Angelo had no idea how to care for or feed them. I even tried leaving the last one with her for 12 hours, but she never fed him. I already had the syringe and formula on hand, never thinking I would have to use them. My original plan was to co-parent/just handle them at 2 weeks. Things just don’t always go according to plan!

All 3 have a rotational deformity of one leg. (For those who may be wondering…there were no slick surfaces, etc and the defect is not true splaying). We consulted our avian vet who feels this is likely genetic. Now we are suspecting Zazu May have come from an unscrupulous breeder who was allowing inbreeding, but who knows?

They are otherwise developing well. We have them in individual small cups to keep their hips together and have taped their legs to try and train the rotated leg back in a normal position. Avian vet agrees with our plan.

However, it is heart wrenching for me. I had 2 homes lined up to adopt two of them (we were going to keep one). We were giving them away at no cost. One party has backed out due to the leg issue. Not sure the other will be willing to take on a special needs birby.

My family and I are absolutely willing to take on 3 special needs birds. I’m just so EMBARRASSED this happened. Part of my job is providing birth control to people! My intention for bird rescue has blown up in my face a bit.

I know God has a plan for these little guys. I wish I could see what it is!

I have Angelo in a separate cage now. She and Zazu preen and play when out of their cages, but I am watching closely to make sure no hanky-panky is going on. Their cages are abutting so they can still socialize at other times.

SO. My advice to anyone that has more than one of the same monomorphic species in your house: get your own DNA test and confirm with a pelvic bone check (latter not as accurate, but the more info the better!) There are many ways for a breeder to get samples and birds mixed up. ****SIGH****
Hindsight is 20/20.
 

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Littleredbeak

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What a heart warming story! It sounds like you saved that woman's life. And what adorable chicks I'm sure you will find the best families if you do not end up keeping them ♡♡♡ where are you located? I pretty much all special needs and it doesn't limit their love. From what you described and your course of action I think you may have limited their handicap if the ended up with any. I know with splayed leg button quail and chickens - if caught early it can be fixed .
 
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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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What a heart warming story! It sounds like you saved that woman's life. And what adorable chicks I'm sure you will find the best families if you do not end up keeping them ♡♡♡ where are you located? I pretty much all special needs and it doesn't limit their love. From what you described and your course of action I think you may have limited their handicap if the ended up with any. I know with splayed leg button quail and chickens - if caught early it can be fixed .
Hi Littleredbeak, we’re in Texas. Thank you so much for your kind words! 2 months ago I would never have guessed I would have a brooder in my bedroom. Life certainly has a way of throwing some curve balls.
I would love to hear about your experiences with special needs birbs!
 

Littleredbeak

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You have done a wonderful job with keeping them alive! And all those feedings! It's a true miracle they are flourishing. One has fatty liver disease (his beak grows quickly), one who was rescued with leg injury and infection (with alot of therapy she has recovered beautifully) and another who has arthritis and an old injury. With irn who had the injury i think what helped her the most was her heated perch. But she had medication, DSMO gel and espons salt baths for her leg. When we got her she only had 20% percent function of her leg. She now has 80% back. Her vet didn't believe she'd regain any more function in her foot due to the severity of her injury.. Someone I know had a button quail chick who had splayed legs ( I believe it took a week before things where corrected and she didn't need splints) and I follow backyard chickens and they have chick's who are hatch with splayed legs all the time.

If you are looking for homes I'm sure you'll find them. Just becareful of pet flippers. With bird prices what they are now there are individuals who are getting free birds and selling them high. Most of these individuals are not familiar with birds and are just looking to make money. So be very selective on who are giving your wonderful little miracles to. Keep up your good work!
 
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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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Please post lots of photos of your little chicks ! I'd love to see them!

They are super cute now! Eyes have opened. They yawn and chitter a lot. I’m sure they are delayed in growth compared to a parent raised bird, but they are growing on their own curves. They have started getting small pin feathers. I’ve attached a Day of hatch pic for comparison.
 

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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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They are adorable!! I am in love 😍🥰💘
Sad news. This Thanksgiving morning Louie unexpectedly passed away. I am heart-broken. He was growing well and pin feathers were coming in. Hazel and Kevin are fine so far. I am bracing myself for the possibility the other 2 may not survive either. Hoping and praying for them.
 

Laurasea

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Neptune blue quaker (MIA), Ta-dah GCC female, Penny quaker female, Pikachu quaker female!!, Phoebe quaker female, 3 parakeets males, Burt The Burd GCC female RIP
Awww no!!! Oh I'm praying too.
Warmth is most critical, and maintaining warmth of food during feeding.
 
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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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How are your chick's doing?
Thank you for your prayers! They are still chugging along! Now that they are bigger I am using the vet’s suggestion of washcloth bumpers to strengthen their legs (and try to keep the rotated one in a more anatomical position).

They make eye contact with me now and each other. I’ve positioned them so they can look at each other… all day long.

Not sure if they will live 3 days or 30 years. After Louie passed I know I won’t be able part with them and will love and care for them as long as they live.
 

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Beak-Beak-Kiss

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They are still growing and developing! It had been so long, I forgot how wonderful baby birds smell!

I am going to have to transition them to a larger container this weekend as they are outgrowing their current apartment. I am debating between aspen or hemp bedding, so any opinions on this are welcome! I am trying to figure out how to encourage them to start trying to stand. (Each has 1 leg with a rotational deformity, not responding to hobbling. Apparently, hobbling works better with splaying issues). I am wondering if a firmer bedding substrate, like aspen, would be better for learning balance and gaining more strength in the legs. So far they have good muscle development and foot strength in the wonky leg…so hoping to eventually be able to stand…and maybe eventually perch.

Here’s a few pics from lunchtime in Mommy’s office:
 

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Scott

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Goffins: Gabby, Abby, Squeaky, Peanut, Popcorn / Citron: Alice / Eclectus: Angel /Timneh Grey: ET / Blue Fronted Amazon: Gonzo /

RIP Gandalf and Big Bird, you are missed.
So sad Louie passed away, my deepest condolences for tragic loss of one so young. Dearly hope Hazel and Kevin continue thriving.
 
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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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Kevin and Hazel are so much more alert and aware, especially of each other. I had turned them away from one another since Hazel seems to enjoy whacking Kevin in the face. She turned herself back towards him to continue her favorite past-time! Sometimes she feels bad and gives him kisses instead.
 

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Beak-Beak-Kiss

Beak-Beak-Kiss

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Update on Hazel and Kevin: they are still doing well. Norrie our GCC did some pin feather preening on them this morning and was so gentle. This is the first time any adult bird (and not even a parent!) has taken a real interest in them. The solo cup “hobbling” has done nothing for their legs and with their tail feathers developing, not sure I can continue that. They are so alert and interactive. They like watching everyone and are especially fascinated with observing the other birds fly.

I have no idea how breeders are able to give up parrots they hand-feed. These are my babies and I could never part with them!
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kme3388

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How cute! They are so adorable. I could never be a breeder as I'd keep all of the parrots. I'd have a farm, or be a hoarder. I have 2 parrots, and they take up a lot of my time. I have to keep telling myself that adopting another parrot would be too much for me to take on. Others can manage their time better then me. That, and I have a parrot that is extremely time consuming. Please do keep updating the forum on how your babies are doing. I hope both live 30+ years, and win you over with their conure ways (one of my parrots is a conure).
 

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