JJ is at the Hospital
As proper Birdhists, we all try to do what's best for our birds - get them toys, healthy food, lots of love, be it from a bird companion, or from us. I always feel torn between what's too much and what's not enough when it comes to bird-spoiling.
I prefer birds having more natural toys vs. plastic or metal because of concern over ingesting metal and having metal toxicity issues, and I've been starting to avoid plastic toys because there's just too much of it in the world, so I've been trying to use natural wood and bamboo toys, but those have a problem too...
JJ hasn't laid eggs with me since I've had her for a few years. Her original/co-Mama said she laid 14 in the past, but was able to calm her down with hormone calming techniques. Since she wasn't really showing signs of nesting behavior with me, I gave her natural toys to happily murder. Recently she started to make them into a nest (no nest box, just in the bottom of the cage). She laid about 4 eggs over the past 2 months, I left them there, hoping she would chill out after seeing it was a fruitless endeavor (she's bonded to Hilda, so no babies). She did take a break from laying, then I notice she's got what seems to be a mega-egg that just doesn't look like it wants to come out on it's own.
She's acting like her normal, goofy self. Perching, eating, booping Hilda's beak, but birds don't show signs of illness until they get REALLY bad. I had a feeling this could go into emergency mode real easy.
Avian Vet Tech friend gave me some pointers: To increase humidity, I put her in a hospital cage in the bathroom, ran the warm shower for a little, and turned it off until there was a light bit of humidity happening. Make the hospital cage nesty-like; dark and calm. Then I figured, lemme send her a picture. She said it's big and might need to have more done, so get on the phone with local vets.
I knew the egg could become attached to her inside bits. I knew if the egg cracked, yolk could cause infection, she could even end up with a prolapse, and that's always heck to correct. I knew better than to mess with it.
It was 12:00pm on a Saturday. Figures I would have issue on the day of the week that most vets close early. I'm also in a new state, so I don't have an official avian vet yet, and they had wellness exams before I left.
I called about 10 different places, and they were either on vacation, out for the day, or booked. Vets are entitled to their off time. They have the right to say when enough is enough or else they can succumb to compassion fatigue. I'm not mad at them, they do important and difficult work. I'm frustrated at the situation.
After I kept hitting walls, I started to beg, bargain, and cry.
They receptionists were as helpful as humanly possible. They offered numbers of other clinics. One called up the Animal Hospital in Houston for me to confirm they had someone who was available to tend to birds. I'm near Austin now, so we hopped in the car and drove 2.5 hours east to Houston to Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists. We gotta do what we gotta do for our birb childrems .
Everyone there was caring and kind. JJ was seen quickly. They explained the costs (ouch), and she's currently there, having to have a sleepover for observation. We all hope she'll pass the egg naturally, and if not, they'll proceed with doing what they need to done.
Got a call from them this morning, no eggy yet, but it moved down, so there's still hope she'll pass it on her own, before they have to do anything more invasive. They gave her a Lupron shot to calm her hormones down so she won't make another egg, causing more complications. I don't like having to give her such a shot, neither does her Co-mama who've I've been updating, but when it gets to egg-binding stage, you gotta figure out what would cause the worse scenario.
I'm frustrated thinking about what could I have done different? I was spoiled by having a 24 hours vet in FL, but they sacrifice a lot to meet the demands of birds at all hours. I know better to be grateful rather than entitled to a service like this. I'm grateful there was a place, although far, that was able to look at my nugget in an emergency.
She had a cuttle bone, wasn't a huge fan of it. Friend recommended to bake and crumble eggshell into their food for boosted calcium... Gonna start doing that.
I start to wonder, what about people who don't have access to this service at all? What about the people that give up? What about the people that don't have an "Oh Shit Fund" or a generous online social circle to get a decent gofundme? It makes me sad, and I wish I could do more to prevent that situation. For now, I can just make people aware of my struggle in order to prevent their own.
Birds are not easy companions. I so very much want to do a massive PSA to all corners of the world, to let everyone knows this before bringing one into their family.
I'm eliminating shredable/nestable toys, rearrange her cage to make it less familar-ish. I will likely move to stainless steel and observe behavior. They both like to rattle things for fun, so she won't be terribly deprived.
Hilda and JJ are lesbians in love. You'd figure this wouldn't encourage nesting behavior, but it did. Do we give them no partner? That doesn't seem ok. There's no one-size-fits-all answers. There's trial and error and varying circumstances. After the first round of eggs, I DID take the shreddies away, but then Hilda started to use her tummy feathers as nesting material. I feel very, "damned if I do, damned if I don't."
It's just so frustrating trying to do right by companion birds. They're wild animals and their instincts can be STRONG.
I ramble here, and admit my faults to give folks a heads up. Learn from my story and make changes, be aware, and prepare.
Do it for the birbs.