When I watched three magnificent sky blue Budgies emerge from their nest to test their wings, I was overjoyed. I went into the nest box knowing there had been four kids.
I discovered the fourth youngster, who was still being fed by his parents but was lying flat in the nest with a limb protruding from either side.
I took this drab little chick inside the house, considerably smaller than her clutchmates, to attempt my home cures on her legs. I quickly recognized that this was more than just a case of spraddle legs and that there was nothing I could do to save this poor little budgie.
She had barely been in her box in my kitchen for a short time when I realized she had a congenital abnormality. During this time, she had such an appealing personality that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the mousy little bird I’d called Minnie. When I approached, she bobbed her body up and down, uttering eager tiny chirps in her squeaky voice. She adored being hugged and caressed, soaking up all the attention I could give her.
I felt split between emotions. I saw no future for this bird, who couldn’t even stand on a perch. But how could I bear the thought of burying such a little little bundle of love and affection?
Bill, a bird-loving buddy, came over and remedied my problem. He fell in love with Minnie right away and was horrified at the notion of her being destroyed. Bill himself, due to a lengthy illness, was unable to move more than a few steps and was confined to a wheelchair. Perhaps it was because of this that his heart went out to Minnie. Minnie peered out from a nest of tissues in his shirt pocket as he rolled away on his wheelchair. He was resolved to help Minnie recover use of her legs, just as he was determined to regain use of his own.
A trip to his avian veterinarian revealed that this was a congenital abnormality. The Vet could only recommend that euthanasia was the most humane thing to do, but Bill refused. He put Minnie in the bedroom he had set aside for his five pet parrots, but she crouched in a corner at the bottom of the cage. She didn’t move at all until he took her out of range of the other birds. He learned that, although Minnie had no fear of humans, she was scared of birds.
Her instincts must have warned her that if she was left to their mercy in her current condition, she would be annihilated. She seems to understand that her destiny was dependent on human kindness.
Minnie’s spirits were renewed when Bill relocated her cage downstairs to the family room. She welcomed him again by bobbing up and down, thrilled in his attentions. In the evening, she ate veggies off his plate and shared his morning bread. She accompanied him around in the protection of his shirt pocket. They became close friends.
Bill designed a number of little platforms for Minnie, knowing that birds are happiest when they can sit high in their cages. With his assistance and encouragement, she was soon able to make her way up to the highest level on her own. When she was in her cage, she spent the most of her time there. She chattered and played joyfully from this vantage point, with food and drink within reach and brightly colored toys strung over her head.
Minnie remained afraid at night, unable to sleep in this exposed location. A toilet paper roll cardboard tube inserted at the bottom of the cage supplied a solution. Because she was so little, she felt this was a secure and pleasant spot for her to sleep. It didn’t take long for her to figure out how to get into and out of this “bed” on her own.
Bill was steadfast in his attempts to strengthen Minnie’s legs. After completing his own set of exercises, he placed Minnie upside down in the palm of one hand and gently worked her weak tiny legs with the other. She leaned back and closed her eyes, contentedly enjoying his attentions.
Minnie was sensible not to try flight, knowing that her landing may be disastrous. Bill worked tirelessly to instill confidence in her. He held her at arm’s length in the palm of his hand and gently hoisted her into the air. She soon found herself flying about the room in ever-increasing circles, returning safely to his extended cupped hands. When asked, “Do you want to fly Minnie?” she bobbed up and down with an enthusiastic cacophony of chirps. “Fly! Fly!” she urged. Those words were unclear to me, but her joy was palpable.
I am pleased to report that Bill’s consistent hard work paid off for him throughout the years. His leg muscles improved, and he graduated from the wheelchair to crutches, then to a cane, and then to walking alone. He now takes satisfaction in cutting his own lawn and refuses to use a riding mower.
Minnie never even learned to stand, yet her quality of life could not have been greater. She is still drab and little, but she is the happiest and cheeriest little bird that ever lived. Bill has finally abandoned her leg workouts in favor of giving her many flights every day. She appreciates the grass mowing as much as Bill does from his shirt pocket.
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