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Flying after injury

Discuss indoor freeflight and managing freeflighted birds around the house. How to live with a flighted parrot.

Flying after injury

Postby pukeko » Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:34 pm

I suppose this is a (long :D) introduction to Mer, my second parrot who unfortunately only got to spend ~four months with Suki. He is a cinnamon green cheeked conure who came from a neglectful first home where he was injured by larger birds (toe broken, beak punctured, but mostly grown out now.) His worst injury was to his right wing a year before I got him, which had a double break with bone exposed in two places and which went undiscovered (?!!) for one to two days, leading to bone loss and months of fighting infections with vet care. My vet, the same one who treated him for his injury, told me that he has healed remarkably well from an injury which could have killed him multiple times.

The situation now is that his elbow is completely frozen and his shoulder is a bit arthritic, and he is undergoing treatment for an enlarged heart which was discovered at his new bird testing. Seven months into treatment and four/five months with me, he has gained four grams of muscle (says the vet and the changing shape of his chest) and is a fighting fit 65 g of madly flapping bird who is absolutely determined to fly. He can flutter down to a safe (barely) but not well-controlled landing from many heights and has no qualms about throwing himself off his tree at me, or at his tree from me, or from branch to spindly, bouncy branch, etc., when he feels the need, even though he does not always make it to where he is aiming if he is startled in any way. He needs to be able to land better and flutter slower for me to be at peace with this behaviour, as the lack of control is not ok - one time he hit is bad wing on landing and that definitely hurt (hurt sound, still for ~5 sec), though it thankfully did no damage (checked and monitored). He seems to be trying different things when he flutters, with varying success, and he is actively working on his fitness and strength and gets some lift when he does flapping practice on my finger, holding on tight. The vet said he could potentially fly again if he can figure out how to equalise his wing span. He has recently made a jump in his wing power and inclination towards jumping farther distances, so it is really time to ask this: do you have any ideas to help me help him figure it out and get the skills he needs?

A note: While he is making enormous progress getting over his fear of hands (he was chased and towelled for years, and his wing break was apparently during towelling), approaching hands freely from a place of safety (tree, perch, spaces he perceives as his) is something that he only started doing recently, and only from certain places or times. He is nervous about hands until he or my hand comes close enough to apparently be within his bubble of trust, at which point he throws himself at them bodily, lately with both feet. He is making even more progress with hands for cuddling up to and preening, and has no problems with faces or shoulders, but is still learning that I listen to gentle beaks (very well!) and is not trustworthy when he is nervous.
He currently lives cage free in an ~ 5'x7'x7' Tree of Many Species (of wood) and while I could cage him to completely prevent him from jumping, my biggest flight cage is much smaller than that and he is completely and utterly in love with the tree. More than me, more than Suki-bird, he adores climbing and jumping and bouncing on the little branches and chewing on most of it. Unless remaining in the tree becomes dangerous for him, I think it would be a cruelty to move him. His former home had him in a cage I would not keep a budgie in, from his first day there to his last. He is also astoundingly skilled at spreading food on every single cage bar, so the tree makes for much easier cleaning with a powerful hose than the toothbrush work which would otherwise be required.

Things I have been doing to make him safe:
- cloth around his tree for softer landings, rugs in the house.. but we have all wooden floors generally.
- holding a hand in front of him when we do flapping practice for the times when he gets ahead of himself and lets go. He is easy to catch, thankfully, and sometimes just lies down in that hand to flap, which is completely adorable.

Ideas for helping him:
- encouraging him to fly short distances from my hand to my bed/soft, wide surfaces.
- branches on the bed for precision training?

Do you have any ideas for easy, daily practice? Converting my bed into a training station seems like a session type of thing, not something simple. I'm also concerned that the couch isn't wide enough and he would just flutter over the edge. I suppose a pallet of towels on the floor would be good, but would possibly be less inspiring for flight. ??
pukeko
Cockatiel
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 54
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Types of Birds Owned: green cheeked conure
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby Wolf » Mon Jan 04, 2016 7:11 am

I am not really sure that anyone could do much more for him than what you are presently doing for him. Maybe placing another tree next to his cage would benefit him, but I can't really say. I don't think that it would do much other than making him more comfortable about coming and going from his cage and maybe help a little with his hand phobia. As long as he is safe in living cage free, I see no problem with it, although I do worry about a bird left free in a human space without a human present in the advent he got trapped in the wrong place and needed help to get out. Also there is nothing to say that you need to close the door of his cage.

As long as he is wanting to fly, I see nothing wrong with allowing him to try, but with the lack of control especially in landing, I, like you am concerned about his safety and agree with all of the padding to reduce the risks to him. I don't know, but since the injury to his right wing is appearing to be permanent, I wonder if clipping his left wing just a little might serve to help balance him enough to provide him with additional control. If this were to be tried you would want to clip just as small of an amount as possible and increase the amount clipped until it gave him a better balance without impairing the lift generated by the wing any more than required. I would think that this trim would still leave the left wing a bit longer than the right one, but I am just guessing about that. I really hope that you can figure this out. Keep us updated on his progress.

I do not know what his current diet is but I would reduce the amount of rice in it if he is getting it as part of his regular diet as it is an inflammatory food and this could help with his artheritis issues some.
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby liz » Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:05 am

You are doing good with his physical therapy. It is similar for Rambo. I aim him at the couch and count to 3 while lifting him to flutter. On 3 he lets go and lands on the couch. Rambo is 30 and just grew his flight feathers for the first time.
He is probably enjoying his contact while you are helping him. Hands are scarey but faces are not.
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby Pajarita » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:27 pm

Hmmm, I also don't think that there is anything else I could suggest. You seem to be doing everything I would do. Sometimes, it's a matter of time and, sometimes, it's a matter of resigning ourselves to what it is.

I would not clip his other wing though... I can see where Wolf is coming from but the issue with his bad wing is not air resistance (which is what clipping would affect) but flexibility and, if he is ever going to compensate for it, he will need his other wing whole. I also don't think his arthritis is really arthritis but more like arthrosis so although you could try anti-inflammatories, I doubt they would make any difference.
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby Wolf » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:44 pm

I am not thinking of resistance so much as lift and balance, but you may still be right.
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby Pajarita » Wed Jan 06, 2016 10:54 am

Well, air resistance is what gives them lift but balance is achieved by movement which is what he is lacking with the stiff joint.
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby liz » Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:21 am

I consider trimming a few feathers on Phoenix. He can fly but not for long. He is the one missing the hand part of his wing.
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby pukeko » Sat Jan 09, 2016 12:52 pm

Ah, running through the house for flapping practice is fun. Your counting idea is good, Liz, as we don't have letting go on any sort of cue.

Wolf, he lives entirely on the large tree with no cage except his sleep cage. The room is fairly bird safe, but admittedly I am relying a little bit on how abjectly he adores that tree and that he has a ring ladder from the floor which I have only ever seen him climb up, not down. It is a worthwhile risk, imo, for his quality of life. His former cage was barely wider than his wingspan and he does not react well to any sort of cornering, even accidental, which is a lot easier to avoid in a tree.

I think clipping would just decrease his still tenuous control. It doesn't seem safe or kind to make him have to relearn his wings all over again when he is working so hard to learn them as they are - and how they will be for the rest of his life. Better to learn to deal with what he has than induce a constantly changing cycle of clipping unless there is some massive benefit to him in doing so, imo.

:gcc:
pukeko
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Gender: This parrot forum member is female
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Re: Flying after injury

Postby Wolf » Sun Jan 10, 2016 1:23 am

As I stated earlier if he is happy in his tree I don't see a problem and it sounds like you have probably made the room about as bird safe as possible, the only thing that you have disagreed with is the clipping of the one wing, which I have no problem with either as I was not sure it would be much help any way. I am not a fan of clipping a birds wings without a valid medical reason for it. This is not something I have ever dealt with before and although I am not disagreeing with you choice to not do it, I would like you to understand why I even suggested that it might help.

You wrote that the vet said he could potentially fly again if he could figure out how to equalize his wing span. The wing that is locked with arthritis, he can not open it fully so it is shorter and it is unlikely that he will not fully open the other wing while trying to fly as it is not a natural movement and would be very taxing to even attempt. Maybe he will figure something out, who knows. Lightly clipping the longest feathers on his good wing would help to equalize his wind span, which is what I was thinking. This would not be constantly be changing as their feathers are not constantly growing so the clip would only have to be done after molting those feathers and would be good for at least a year. It might only have to be done once to give him the feel of a balance flight and allow him to work it out faster.

Those were my thoughts about it and why I even considered it at all. There is a possibility that it might not help at least as much of a chance either direction and so I am not sure that it should be done either. I only offered it based on the words of your vet and am not sure that I would try it myself. It is definitely not a thing to do without considerable thought. I really hope that he can figure it out and be able to fly again, he sounds like he is determined enough and that is a good thing. I just hope that he can do it.
Wolf
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Gender: This parrot forum member is male
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Location: Lansing, NC
Number of Birds Owned: 6
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African Grey (CAG)
Yellow Naped Amazon
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Flight: Yes

Re: Flying after injury

Postby pukeko » Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:32 pm

Thank you, Wolf, it will definitely be a long term consideration. The ine off idea is interesting, but I think I will probably give him a good year or more of trying with his regular wings first. I would be very worried about a clip damaging his confidence, which might be fragile no matter how determined he seems right now. This is probably his first chance to really practice and try that he has had since the injury a year and a half ago.
pukeko
Cockatiel
 
Gender: This parrot forum member is female
Posts: 54
Number of Birds Owned: 1
Types of Birds Owned: green cheeked conure
Flight: Yes

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