Caring For A Permanently Handicapped Bird

By IamCemini · Nov 16, 2017 ·
  1. IamCemini
    I am an experienced caretaker of both temporarily injured chickens and ducks, but that road COMPLETELY derailed 6 months ago when I hatched an Ayam Cemani chick who had a hip/leg malformation. She couldn't walk or move when I found her. Her broodmates were beating her up and I pulled her out. I later took her to the vet (NC State Veterinary Campus) and discovered that her condition was permanent. They wanted to put her down at only 2 months old. I refused because she was gaining strength and there were no inherent health issues with her internal organs. That's when I was set on the road of creating the best life for her possible. IMG_20170813_192356_366.jpg

    The first thing I did was to make sure she had a good place to live. Something that is just longer than her wingspan. Something too big didn't give her enough support to pull herself up/leaves her thrashing, and something too small beats up her wings. I found that a fifty-gallon clear storage tub did the trick. Fortunately, she just grew out of needing a heat lamp. Do avoid heating your bird, as if the power goes out, the temperature change could kill them. Then, I needed a good, soft, clean bedding for her. I found ultra soft pine shavings at Tractor Supply that work great. I change out her tub 3 times a week, because she is so clean.

    Next came food and water. I still suffer with this issue with my bird. I use glass bowls nestled in the shavings for food and water, but she has a habit of pooping and kicking shavings into her food and water. I change her food and water out a max of 7 times a day. I am currently designing a type of PVC pipe feeder/waterer that will keep out shavings with wire mesh, but still allow for drinking and eating. Every month on her birthday, I drop in a special treat or I melt honey in her water and take her outside to not only make her happy, but to make sure she has a varied diet. Any time that you can, chop up a favorite veggie or scramble an egg to give to your bird. Even a piece of raw, thawed fish is a good, occasional treat.

    After that is special needs. I struggle with this as well, as my bird can't walk well. There are many products on the market to assist blind chickens and chickens with minor leg problems, but none to help with the severity of my issue. I have to assist her whenever she walks. I also identified that my bird can't scratch the right side of her face, because her leg is bent back so far. She would get itches on that side of her face ALL the time (especially in the middle of the night). She would thump around trying to reach her face. I put a piece of fine grained pumice on the side of her habitat, and she took to it pretty well. Sometimes, she still can't scratch it and needs me to do it. She also stops eating on occasion, because she is too heavy. Since she is handicapped, she developed a little small. A general healthy weight for a pullet her size (A normal 4 month old pullet) is approximately 3.5 lbs. Her healthy weight (A six month old pullet at almost her full size) is 3 lbs. She is aware that if she gains too much weight, she can't pull herself up. As soon as she gets too heavy, she stops eating for a day or two. Its okay, just watch to make sure there aren't any other odd behaviors, such as not drinking. But the big pet peeve for ALL physically deformed birds is that they can't preen properly. That's right; they get pretty stinky. I bathe my hen once every two weeks to avoid drying out her skin. Also, I'm quite lucky that she's pretty clean. I use Castile soap (The rose scent is my preference) to soap her up because it doesn't irritate her eyes. I also use plain Epsom salts to loosen up any knots and aches in her muscles from time to time. It is normal and OKAY if your bird throws up after a bath because they have a poor habit of swallowing bath water. Make sure that after a bath, they have easy access to food and water. After a bath, they also need to be dried and heated. Wrap up your bird in a big, thick towel or two and then wrap a heating pad around that. Set the heat pad on medium and be sure to monitor your bird. Let them sleep after a bath though. It's stressful.

    Finally, socialization. In my case, my bird does not interact well with ANY animals. She managed to beat up her 6 month old hatch brother (Yes, a rooster. With spurs.) And leave him a bit bloody. She used to hang out with my cat all the time when she was small, but now her big flapping and staggering scares the cat. I also took her to the park to meet a dog, to see if that would be a good option. Nope. She pecked a Pit Bull's nose open to bleeding and it went running. She also isn't too fond of other people. She adores me and my boyfriend, is okay with my grandmother and mother, but hates my neighbors and my friends. She also hates the vets, until they feed her. My point is that it's important to observe how your bird interacts with the world around it. If she only gets along with you, then spend time with them. In that case, and in most cases, you are their entire world. Leaving them alone for too long can leave them depressed. This will make them stop altogether eating and will kill them.

    Warning signs of illnesses and depression are a lack of appetite, a lack of thirst, reduced movement, increased movement, unusual sounds, discolored droppings, mucus, and coughing. Of course, warning signs vary from bird to bird, and I can't list all the signs out there.

    Feel free to share your story in the comments, and please share any resources you may know about with us.

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