Just when you think you've got it all figured out, something goes awry!
With great joy, I've been keeping birds for years. My birds live in a draft free room, in clean cages with plenty of room to fly, with clean water to drink, fresh food, the finest seed, mineral grit, a variety of perches and swings, the companionship of other birds, toys...
I'm doing everything right- or so I thought. Turns out, bad stuff happens, even under ideal conditions.
Somehow, while going about his affairs, secure in his cage, Ramon injured his foot.
The most likely reason for a caged bird to hurt his foot is due to nails that are too long. The bird catches his nail on something, panics, tries to pull himself free, fights and flutters, causing injury.
Riddled with guilt for possibly failing in regards to Ramon's pedicure needs, I checked his nails. They were not particularly long. While we're on the subject, trimming a Zebra Finch's nails is pretty easy. (The hardest part is catching the bird). You can use the same type of nail clipper you use on your own nails. Hold the bird firmly but not too tightly. (The Finch Aviary website has a nice instructional video on nail trimming). The nail's quick is usually visible, leaving it unlikely that you will cut into it and cause bleeding. If you do, a little dab of corn starch on the spot stops the bleeding.
Let's talk about catching a Finch. The most common way to do it is to stick your hand in the cage and grab the bird. (Think Silvester and Tweety. But strive to be more gentle about it than Silvester). It may be possible to train a Finch to jump on your finger like a Parakeet. I've never tried. I simply reach in the cage and trap him in my hand. He'll fly around trying to escape being caught. Eventually, he'll tire and the flying becomes slower making it easier to catch him.
As you've guessed, I did catch Ramon to examine his foot. There was some swelling but no blood. Speaking of blood, Sue of Royal Bird Haven advises using diluted peroxide to clean a foot wound. Sue further advises that if the skin on the foot is dry or chapped appearing, apply olive oil. As for Ramon's foot, the precise injury was unclear. Torn nail? Nope. Broken bone? Maybe. Close examination and gently feeling leg and toes suggested that there was probably not a broken bone. It doesn't make sense to slap a split on there just in case. Or does it? I didn't. I kept an eye on Ramon. For the next few days, while at rest, he sometimes held the injured foot aloft. However, he regularly used the stricken foot when perching on the edge of the food bowl, standing on the grit dish or when bathing.
OK, Ramon most likely did not hurt his foot because of over-long nails. Other reasons for a caged bird injury: something in the cage. I took inventory. Any splinters or gouges in the perches? No. Chips or cracks on the grit dish or water bowl? No. (That's right, for my birds's grit and water, I use a bread plate and small side bowl from the beautiful china set I inherited from my grandmother). Any rough spots or dents in the cage bars? No. Problems with the swing, the food bowls, the clothes pin that holds the fresh greens? No. Everything appeared to be in tip top shape.
What else could explain the damage to Ramon's foot? A disagreement with a cage mate that lead to fisticuffs? Let's see, Ramon shares his home with Lupe, a young female. Following the untimely death of his mate, Mary, Lupe was introduced to Ramon. In short order, they were sitting close together grooming each other. Lupe is less demure than Mary was. Even so, it seems unlikely that there was a scrap between Ramon and Lupe. And even less likely that a dustup ended with physical harm to Ramon, the larger of the two.
It's been a few weeks now, since the mystery incident involving Ramon's foot. He no longer holds the foot aloft when at rest. He moves around on both feet like everything is just dandy. There is no denying though, the foot doesn't look the same as it used to. Unable to explain how Ramon came about his unfortunate talipe, I can only shrug and say, Ramon has a clubfoot.
Like the scar on G.I. Joe's face, my mangled foot is a reflection of my manly lifestyle.
Royal Tropical Fish and Bird Haven, Royal Oak, MI