so i got a cockatiel almost 2 years ago, from a man who never had time for him, never paid attention to him, always forgot to cover him at night, etc. he had a dog that he brought to work with him everyday, so he just felt it was unfair for the bird to be home alone all day, and decided to give him away. so he brought him over one day, and right out of the little cardboard box he popped out of, he was the sweetest thing!
fast forward a few years and i am totally 100% in love with this little guy, we share mealtimes together, we watch csi together, he is out all the time, every minute that i'm home (unless i'm cooking or something like that).
and fast forward again, i moved out of my mom's place and in with my boyfriend and a couple other roommates. one of the roommates has a cat. no big deal, we will lock the cat away for a few hours while raptor has playtime. it went well at first, but as time went on the roommate started to get really cranky about us locking her cat up (even though it has free run of the house 24/7). so i was a little miffed at that, because it was so unfair for my bird to have to stay locked away in his cage when he was so used to always being out with me. also, the cage had to stay up in our room because every second of everyday, if allowed, the cat would literally be hanging off of the cage bars. i was terrified that one day he would accidentally get the cage open and get to raptor, not to mention it cannot be good for a bird to be in such a stressful situation like that. so needless to say raptor did well for the first little bit here, but after awhile, he started to get really stressed and lonely. our house has 5 people in it, and he could always hear us out and about doing our daily activities, and suddenly he wasn't a part of them.
one day, after raptor had taken a particularly vigorous shower with me, i noticed that he had a few wounds on his back. i thought "hmmm, that's not good, maybe he just had a few itchy feathers that didn't break through the skin correctly." so i started rinsing his back off with a syringe of warm sea salt mixture, and applying aloe vera gel from the health food store to soothe the skin. he was eating, drinking and pooping like normal, but as time went on, the wounds got bigger and redder, and he got less and less perky. i weighed him with the scale i use for my baby snakes, and he had lost a lot of weight. almost 10 grams. i could see his eyes werenít bright anymore, and he was just generally looking lowly and droopy. he began sitting on the bottom of his cage, and i knew something was very, very wrong. i was so confused and shocked at the wounds on his back, but now it all makes sense. i called around to every vet in town asking if they knew anything about birds, and none of them did, but they said he was probably fine as long as his eating and drinking habits were still the same. but i still knew in my heart that he needed medical attention asap. so, i called around, and found an avian vet *sort of* in my area. i took the day off work and had a friend take me and my bird down there. and thank god i got him there when i did, because the vet took one look at him, and told me that he had been self-mutilating, and nearly killed himself with it. this upset me to no end, as i thought maybe he had a case of mites or something (though i seriously doubted it, because i have had mites with my budgies before when i had a rescue). i thougt raptor was gonna get some special cream and weíd be on our way, but she told me that he needed intense medical care, blood tests, the whole works, and that he would need to stay with them for awhile. i immediately burst out crying, feeling like this was all my fault. also i burst out crying because i initially was expecting to pay about $200, but the bill was much, much higher than that. she showed me the estimateÖ$700 dollars. i knew i would do anything it took to help my poor little raptor. the $700 included his hospital care while he was there, blood panel, x-rays, wound culturing, wound cleansing, anti-biotics, omega 3-6-9 with aspirin, avisoother cream, applying a collar, liver testing, etc etc. i walked out of the vet clinic without my best friend, trying to hard not to cry my eyes out while walking down one of the main streets of vancouver.
the next few days were phone call updates, me being absolutely worried sick, and crying my eyes out in my boyfriend arms, completely convinced that this was all my fault, and if i hadnít have moved, everything would have been perfect. though now i know that i could not possibly have foreseen any of this, but i still feel completely awful, because itís true, if i still lived with my mom, he would have been okay.
almost a week after taking raptor there, i went down to get him from the vet clinic, and he did look a lot better. his eyes were happier, his wounds seemed to be healing well, and we were sent on our way with some amoxi-clav, fluconazole, and omegas. and oh boy, getting his medicine straight took a few days to get the hang of which ones to give at which time of day. but iím proud to say we never missed a dose! he most definitely perked up!! he was acting like my little rapty again! and the scabs had healed well, turned yellow, crusted over, and fell off leaving fleshy pink skin underneath. he wasnít allowed to fly for the first week and a half of being home, because the vet was concerned that he would tear open the wounds under his wings. he was in a hospital cage, and was not allowed out for almost a week it drove me nuts to see him so anxious to get out, but i had to follow the vets advice. he was also put on an all-seed/millet/pasta diet to try and add some extra weight. a bit later, i took him in for another checkup, and she said his wounds were looking wonderful, and she was 100% pleased with his he was doing. i was allowed to take his collar off for supervised preening time, and his course of anti-biotics was done. let me tell you, those omegas made him stink to high heaven!! it also didnít help that he hadnít been able to preen his back for near 3 weeks, and the avisoother ointment had built up on his feathers. so he started getting regular showers, and regular preening time without his collar.
he had started talking/masturbating/whistling and following feet (his ďgirlfriendsĒ) around again. but then again after about a week of stopping his anti-biotics, he seemed to go back downhill. so i called the vet back, made yet another appointment, and took him in for another round of anti-biotics, and another blood test. as it turned out he definitely had a blood infection when i first brought him in, and a staph infection to boot.
so we were sent home with another 10-day course of amoxi, and another 14 day course of fluconazole. he is still wearing his collar, and i was told to make his collar about another 2mm around, and apply avisoother again, because there is still 1 or 2 teenie weenie little scabby bits on his back. iím not sure if heís picking again (as in self-mutilation) or if this is just a result of him preening after so long of not being able to. the vet said she thinks he is going at it again, but hopes he isnít. but better safe than sorry! he has since been off the omegas, and is now eating a high seed/millet diet, lots of noodles coated in probiotic/acidophallus powder, roudybush rice diet, and harrisonís pellets. he has went from 82 grams at his worst, back up to 90 grams. a very good sign! i got him a zoomed avisun uvb 5.0 light bulb (i believe thatís full spectrum) and itís supposed to help with feather picking/mutilation. now iím just waiting for the fixture that the bulb goes in to arrive. i had to clip his wings unfortunately, after almost 4 years of him being flighted, but it was utterly impossible to capture him and give him his medicine when he could fully fly. heís kind of miffed about that, but doesnít seem to mind too too much. the roommate with the cat has since moved out, and his cage has been moved into the front living room, which i also think is making a huge difference because thereís always someone around for him to chirp at.
he is beside me right now, pushing my hand away from the keyboard, and demanding scratchies! his amoxi-clav stops today, and the fluconazole in 4 more days. my vet said to prepare myself for long-term use of the collar, and that his self-mutilating behaviour may be a permanent thing. but i really, really hope that she is wrong, i just want my little rapty back!!
i am absolutely broke now, and my boyfriend thinks i am completely out of my mind for spending so much money on raptor (tallying over $1000 now, amazing how a free bird can turn into a very, very expensive bird), but he is a very young cockatiel (only about 4 years old) and i love him more than anything! he is my favourite birdie ever, and i just want whatís best for him, even if it means not being able to do many things that i want to do. i get to stay home and hang out with raptor instead of going out on weekends with my friends.
iím sorry if i jump around a lot, and iím sorry that i subjected all of you to this grand novel, but i just know you guys will be the ones to empathize with me the most, as you know how deep love for our feathered friends can go!!
so, can everyone pretty, pretty please cross their fingers for me, and hope that he makes a full recovery? also, if you have any comments or information about feather picking/self-mutiliation that you would like to share, please do! or anyone with similar experiences, iíd like to know how you got through it. also does anybody else use full-spectrum lighting with their birds, and do you notice a difference? thanks again everybody, this must be the longest post in the history of tailfeathers!!