I really shouldn’t make “stop spending money” pledges to myself out loud… because then something comes up to derail that train of thought. And my mind has been largely derailed the whole weekend. I’m about to fall asleep sitting here after days of worrying and trying to get situated. At least I know I’ll sleep tonight.
That Jerry Springer-worthy situation has come to a head in the parakeet cage. One bird (momma #2, the 2nd one the Baby Daddy expressed interest in) has become not just the little queen, but is going on full tyrant mode. I had errands to run Friday and I got a horrible scare when I got home and checked on them that afternoon. #2 likes to fight Momma #1 and since the Baby Daddy has expressed interest in a third bird to be Momma #3… let’s just say it’s gotten tense. Both these ladies have had eggs and babies already once and it wasn’t bad. But not anymore.
I had tried to use a squirt bottle to break them up before (worked maybe twice), thinking the shock of the water would distract them from trying to kill each other. Kinda hard to use it, though, when the damage has been done in your absence. I looked in and noticed some blood on #2’s face. When I went looking for #1, I couldn’t believe it. #2 tends to go for the eyes, and has plucked quite a few feathers from the area when attacking #1.
That’s about how it looks, with awful noises to go with it.
But in this case she succeeded.
I couldn’t even tell if the poor thing HAD an eye left on that side anymore.
I felt sick, and started moving everything around so I could get a temporary cage set up for her, because I knew if she stayed in that cage longer than necessary, the other bird was going to kill her. I used the carrying cage that I’d used for the babies before when giving them to the new owner, and it still had perches in there and some shavings to get the poop. And it was across from the main cage so she wasn’t left out of conversations.
And then came the hard part: getting her out of there.
In this case, her only having one eye working helped me out a bit. I got a microfiber cleaning towel over my hand that I could drop on her if needed to protect her and hold her still (and not let me get bitten too bad, if possible). It took some doing, and I was in a hurry just because I didn’t want her panic to make her bleed more. But I guess she was worn out from the fight, because it wasn’t as hard as I feared it would be. I put her in the temporary cage and then started getting some food and water to put in it.
And then I went calling around. As much as I love birds, it drives me nuts that there are so few avian vets around where I’m at. And I was really trying not to panic (because birds can sense it and THEY’LL start to panic), because of course this had to happen on a Friday afternoon, and odds are even if I got someone right away, they wouldn’t be there to take care of an injured bird much longer, and maybe not til Monday, in which case she might die. But a referral gave me the number for a place that took drop-off emergencies on Saturday mornings, so I took it. And I moved her nesting box to the smaller cage so she could take care of her babies. I figured giving her that to do and a dark, quiet corner would help her calm down and save her energy.
I knew I wasn’t gonna get much sleep, and I didn’t, waking up and listening for signs of pain or distress half the night.
I was up by 3:30 Saturday morning and even took the dogs out early because I had no idea how long it was gonna take. The appointment was an hour away, but thankfully in an area I knew pretty well. Traffic was nice and I got there right on time. The hard part was making sure I didn’t jostle the cage and attached box. The place was nice and the staff very nice, and so I went to go get breakfast at a diner while waiting for the local pet supply store to open up so I could get a flight cage and some other stuff.
I was up half the night trying to figure out what I could do to make things easier on the birds. Multiple females in a cage aren’t recommended, generally, but mostly if they’re breeding because they’ll become territorial (and in this case with one Baby Daddy, that’s augmented big time). Well, Momma #2 was staking her claim on all nesting boxes attached to the big cage other than the one for Momma #1 (and she might’ve been going for that one, too). At least, that’s what I discovered this morning.
But I digress.
I figured that when it came to breeding time, once I see a pair engaged in their bow-chicka-wow-wow, it’s time to put them in a cage together with a nesting box on the side. But with multiple females, how the hell was I gonna swing that? I went online and looked for a big enough adjustable shelving unit that would let me stack multiple cages with nesting boxes attached. So my idea is let them mate (and be close enough to verbally socialize with the others), lay their eggs, have their babies, and then when done they can go back to the main population.
I’m hoping this works, because I’ve spent quite a bit on multiple cages. I know they have stackable ones that are meant for breeding couples, but I didn’t want to do that. Flight cages mean they have room to maneuver, fly around, play, and be normal while waiting for the hard work of ‘keet raising to be over.
So, that idea came into my head, and I got some supplies. I was about to head to another store when I got the call (about 3.5 hours after I dropped her off) to come in and they’d tell me what was going on.
Well, we’re not sure about the eye yet, and considering the crusted blood and apparent damage, it could be anything. Damage or gone entirely, not sure. But she’s not really in pain or anything (but she makes me cringe when she rubs her head on something). They gave me antibiotics and pain meds to help and she’s gotta go back for a checkup in a week. They figure the swelling and outer damage will be a little cleared up and make it better for them to see how it’s going to go, and it’ll give time for the meds to work.
So, that was that, and I was on my way home. But I quickly remembered why I HATE leaving the house on Saturdays, especially when it comes to Houston traffic.
It had taken only an hour to get from home to the vet. It took 3 hours for me to get back home, and I was fretting every minute.
I couldn’t believe that my path back meant I was gonna hit every construction zone, road closure and detour, and hell, even a jackknifed 18-wheeler for good measure. My little birdie on the seat next to me, still in it’s cage, was probably as warm as I was getting in the intense midday heat, just sitting in traffic and creeping along for miles. I worried because unless they gave her something at the vet to go with antibiotics, she hadn’t had any water or food since the evening before, and I figured she must be parched. I was getting so myself, so I can only imagine her.
That was the closest I came to breaking down. Not wanting to scare the ‘keet is probably the only thing that kept me from screaming in frustration. I just wanted to get home. I can’t even remember the last time I wanted to just get home so badly. It was awful, and took entirely too long. All my animals were itching for clean food, more water, and time to go out and pee again (the dogs, of course) by the time I got in. My day was shot because it took so long to get home, and I got so little done. I looked at the disaster area kitchen and just said “fuck it, I’ll clean tomorrow.” I was too tired to try and do more.
This morning went a bit better, though trying to capture Momma #1 to give her her meds was tricky as hell. It made me nervous all over, but I got it in her mouth eventually and just put her back in the cage with fresh food. The trouble was gonna really be Momma #2, and the Baby Daddy… and I was not looking forward to that.
The cage I house them all in is really big, and I’ve got lots of toys hanging everywhere. So nabbing them was going to be hard.
I made the decision that if Momma #2 picked another fight with another bird, I was going to put her in that flight cage I’d just bought and put together. I cleared a spot where my kitchen plants went (I’m making space for ’em on the deck) and set up a table for it. I’d seen her sticking her head out of a box that wasn’t hers, and she was acting very pissed off. It didn’t take long for her to start jabbing at one of the newer birds I got and I got the towel and went to work. I actually had to unscrew a few toys and get them out of the way so I could get her. It took several minutes but it worked.
I wasn’t originally gonna get the daddy bird, but when I saw them feeding each other and doing their bonding ritual, I figured I’d better. That way, he could support her (and he tended to give her the most overt affection of the ladies he was with). In a way, this was a shotgun wedding. I put her in her own home and he was gonna settle down and marry her (at least for this breeding cycle).
What concerned me most, though, is in her greedy pursuit of another–“better”–nesting box in the main cage, she was neglecting her eggs. There were 3 in her original box and I hadn’t seen her go in and out of it in a few days.
I was afraid this was an abandoned nest and hoped she’d get back to it, but I wasn’t sure. So, I took those eggs out and put them in the new box for her (I knew she went in there earlier because I saw pine shavings thrown out the door… I always put a little too much in as a way to tell them “make yourselves at home.” I figured she wasn’t gonna turn into a deadbeat mom on my watch, so I better MAKE her raise her babies.
I just hope they were warm enough she can just pick up the slack now.
After the initial craziness of getting them all separated out and settled, things went rather well. Momma #2 calmed down and started acting more curious, like she used to be, and rather more affectionate with her man. I tried not to disrupt them too much, but considering I had to do a ton of laundry and walk right by ’em… it still got a bit less scary for them. They’re caddy corner to the main cage, so they can see and hear the other birds fine.
And they’re in the spot that shelf will go once I get it in and put together.
Just thinking about how the weekend has gone has just drained me. I couldn’t believe the highs and lows of emotion these little birds could put me through. I just hope my new plan to help them out during the breeding cycles will benefit each one in the cage. I feel so bad for Momma #1, because she can’t go in the main cage for a while. It’s gonna take time for her to heal… but at least she still has her box of eggs. She’s a good mom. I am just afraid for her in case there’s another scrape in the future, because if she only has one eye, it’s gonna make her an easier target to get picked on by an aggressor.
Of course, there aren’t bad-ass eye patches for parakeets out there to make others stay away, either.
It’s been a roller-coaster, and the cages have been quiet for the past couple of hours. No freaking out or worried chirps from in there, so I guess it’s time for me to sleep, too… finally.