on the needles

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Holding My Breath

I haven't blogged about it, but I've been pretty much holding my breath since Sunday.

When I went down to feed the finches that day I found Lily on the floor of her cage in obvious distress. She had all the symptoms of the dreaded egg binding.

Female finches will lay eggs pretty much any time - not just when they are making a nest with a male. Usually there is an egg on the floor of the cage every now and then and it's not a big deal.

Egg binding is when the female has produced and egg but can't lay it - basically it means the egg is stuck. It is always an emergency situation and quite often fatal. Once you find the finch in distress you really only have a matter of hours to fix the situation.

I'm not sure exactly why this happened to poor Lily, the usual explanation is that egg binding is due to extreme malnutrition. I don't see how that can be the case with the diet that my finches get - although there is a possibility that I may have been going a bit too light on the calcium supplement. But this is the first time I've ever had this problem with a finch so I think it is more likely due to the fact that Lily is starting to get on the older side for finches. She is at least three years old but since I got her as an adult from someone else I'm not sure exactly how old she is. Since I have her two sons, Ron Weasley and Fawkes, and they were also both adults when I got them, I'm betting Lily is closer to four years old.(Average lifespan for a Gouldian Finch is 6 years.) Plus, Lily had gone on an egg laying spree for the past few days - I had found three eggs in the cage - so I think her distress was more likely due to her age and to laying too many eggs too fast.

This is the best photo I have of Lily. It's too bad she has her back to the camera because you can't see her beautiful lilac breast. It's one of the rarer mutations and her whole family has it.

Anyhow - I snatched Lily up and got her into a hospital cage. It's a very small cage so that the birds can't tire themselves out with flying. I wrapped a heating pad around the cage and covered it with a towel. Heat is the absolute best thing you can give to a sick bird - regardless of the cause of their illness. I gave her a bowl of food and also a flat ceramic dish of water, both for drinking and to provide humidity. The humidity is supposed to help the muscles to relax and allow the egg to come out. The cage set up I devised worked really well!

I also gave Lily a drop of calcium directly into her beak. Then (and this is sort of gross) I gently massaged her little birdie "backside" with vegetable oil. This is supposed to help the stuck egg come out. I thought to myself - "You have reached a new level of insanity woman! Massaging a finch's ass. Nice." But I couldn't just let her die. I was determined to try everything I could to help her.

I went to bed Sunday night thinking I would wake up to find her dead. I had horrible nightmares all night!

But luckily on Monday morning she seemed slightly better. I gave her another drop of calcium and kept my fingers crossed.

On Tuesday when I checked on her, Lily was standing up! Another drop of calcium in her beak.

By Wednesday Lily was moving around the cage and looking alert. She is still a bit weak so I'm keeping her in the hospital cage for probably a week to help her regain strength and give her a rest.

I think, I THINK, I just may have saved her.

It feels good to win some of these battles sometimes!

Please spare a good thought for little Lily. She's a sweetheart, really gentle and mild.

BTW - It doesn't appear that there was actually an egg stuck inside because one hasn't appeared yet (and it would have by now) so that's another reason I concluded she must have just exhausted herself.



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