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Need recommendations for wing physical therapy exercise

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
3/7/19
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575
Hi All,

This is going to be a bit long, but I want to make sure I cover the details.

My TAG came to me fully feathered, but overweight and unable to fly. She's been checked out by a vet, and has no physical issues (apart from severe muscle atrophy) that would prevent her from learning to fly.

Thanks to lots of climbing over the past year, she's lost the flab, but her wing condition has barely improved at all, because she only flaps when she's falling and/or terrified. In the time I've had her, she's managed to maintain height for a few feet before fluttering to the floor, but that appears to have been a fluke. She did it three times over the course of a couple weeks, but appears to have backslid ever since. She NEVER uses her wings in her daily activities, not as a little boost to gain that last inch climbing, not clinging to/dangling from something and flapping for fun, even when she bathes, she may hold them a bit out from her body, but nothing more. I don't think I've ever even seen her do that thing where they stretch their wings straight out from their back (she does do the sideways "one wing, one leg" stretches). If I had to guess, I'd say she was probably clipped before she ever learned how to fly, and after 11 years her wings are so weak and thin that flapping actually makes the feathers get all jostled and poke out weird, because they're basically sitting on skin and bone.

I've tried flapping exercises with her (putting her on a perch or my hand and moving her up and down/forward to encourage the behavior). It never ends well. If I move her around in a way that keeps her stable, she refuses to flap. If I move her her in such a way that it destabilized her, it works once because she gets frightened, but she'll (quite understandably) do anything to avoid repeating the experience.

Now the GREAT news.

I've recently earned her trust enough that she'll actually let me handle her wings. I can lift them up and stretch them out and place them back down, and she's cool with it.

This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for physical therapy that might help her reach a point where flapping itself becomes easier for her. I can do stretches, maybe wing massage, whatever might help her slowly build her wings back up to a minimally healthy condition.

It appears that the next step after stretching and range of motion exercises would be exercises with gentle resistance... but that's where I'm kind of stumped. I might finally be able, with a bit more training and stretching, to teach her to spread her wings on command, but that will only exercise the muscles used for outward and upward motion, not the ones used for downward/closing motions.

What's the flight equivalent of "push against my hand," or assisted standing, or water therapy? How do I cross that gap between "can barely move wings" and "flaps comfortably enough to move forward with more advanced exercises?"
 

dollfish

Jogging around the block
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Zeynep Dollfish
What is usually advised for birds that have lived flightless for some time therefore unwilling to use flight as a means of transport is to start with having food and water on different ends of two play stands placed next to each other. The bird starts out by having to travel from one end to another to get to each, and you slowly increase the distance between the two playstands.

The first step would be to put them just a little further apart, just enough for the bird to take a bigger step to the next plat stand. Next you aim for a tiny hop, then a big one, and soon a little wing flap. You increase the distance until your bird does a big hop with wing flaps and go as far as your bird feels comfortable but go slow and always at your bird's pace. It can be weeks until you increase the distance.

Another thing when doing this is to make sure that your bird does not see you pulling the stands apart. You want to be out of the equation so that no aversion is associated with you. If the distance feels too much and your bird remains hesitant for a long time, you may want to go back to the last step your bird was succesful at.
 

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
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Messages
575
Ooh, that's a great idea!

Any particular kind of play stand? (e.g. does it matter if they're climbing/hopping from perch to perch, or flat surface to flat surface, straight or curved edges, parallel or perpendicular, etc?).
 

dollfish

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Istanbul
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Zeynep Dollfish
It is always easier for birds to take flight from flat surfaces as it eliminates the extra intimidating need to let go of a perch but in this case I would work with whatever that your bird is comfortable with. This can be the top of the cage and a playstand.
 

dollfish

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Istanbul
Real Name
Zeynep Dollfish
I hope it works, take it slow! Also, group toys on both sides of the set up as well! Keep us updated please. I'm very curious to see how your bird will progress. How long have you had your bird?
 

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
3/7/19
Messages
575
I've had her about a year now. I feel bad that we haven't progressed further with the flying by now, but there were so many other things to work on that it ended up taking a back seat. Getting her to climb and play and chew. Helping her gain the independence to move around the house on her own. Finding treats she liked that were actually good for her. Convincing her that training was worth her time. Teaching her that it feels nice to be clean and showers aren't horrible (she's still not a big fan, but if I bribe her, she'll come hang out in the steam).

All that while trying to gain the trust of a bird with an unknown number of rehomes, who had every reason to believe we'd vanish after a while, too (the lady I got her from had only had her about a year, and didn't give any details about the previous home). I have no idea what her life was like in the ten years prior to that, but her uncanny skill at demanding scritches, tendency to seek shoulders when she's frightened, and just general ability to interact politely with humans, makes me think that, at least once in her past, someone loved her dearly.

She'd basically forgotten how to bird.
 

Ulis_Beast

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A parrots life can be so.. urgh.. I don't know how to put it...
She is (what is her name, sorry if i missed it) lucky to have you now!:heart:

Loki can't fly. His "breeder" butchered his left wing. I use wing-assisted incline run to build his muscles. There is a blanket and a couple of pillows at the bottom he climbs/flaps with wings to get on the top of the sofa. I place him on the couch (where you sit) and target him to the top. Nowadays I don't even need to do it much as he flaps his wings like a madman when on top of his cage :D...Any day now he'll have all of his primaries and he'll be able to fly. I can see it he wants to. He knows it in his heart he should.
I got the idea when watching a documentary on evolution of flight.
They placed chiken(s) and pigeon(s) infront of a ramp and trained them to run upwrds. Without fail all began to flap wings at 75° incline... Even the little chicks, not even feathered.
This is a similar research on the topic;

Maybe you could build a similar ramp...
First just make her walk the plank:)roflmao:)when flat on the ground or any other chosen surface, and then you could maybe gradually increase the incline?

I understand you'd like to give her phisycal therapy, but I really wouldn't feel too comfortable touching under her wings too much, she might get the wrong message.

Anyways;
:needpics:
 

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
3/7/19
Messages
575
A parrots life can be so.. urgh.. I don't know how to put it...
She is (what is her name, sorry if i missed it) lucky to have you now!:heart:

Loki can't fly. His "breeder" butchered his left wing. I use wing-assisted incline run to build his muscles. There is a blanket and a couple of pillows at the bottom he climbs/flaps with wings to get on the top of the sofa. I place him on the couch (where you sit) and target him to the top. Nowadays I don't even need to do it much as he flaps his wings like a madman when on top of his cage :D...Any day now he'll have all of his primaries and he'll be able to fly. I can see it he wants to. He knows it in his heart he should.
I got the idea when watching a documentary on evolution of flight.
They placed chiken(s) and pigeon(s) infront of a ramp and trained them to run upwrds. Without fail all began to flap wings at 75° incline... Even the little chicks, not even feathered.
This is a similar research on the topic;

Maybe you could build a similar ramp...
First just make her walk the plank:)roflmao:)when flat on the ground or any other chosen surface, and then you could maybe gradually increase the incline?

I understand you'd like to give her phisycal therapy, but I really wouldn't feel too comfortable touching under her wings too much, she might get the wrong message.

Anyways;
:needpics:
 

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
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Messages
575
Oops! Can't believe I didn't put in her name! This is Boo, in her wet and dry forms.

Boo 2.jpg Boo 1.jpg



I'm very intrigued by the incline idea! I'll definitely have to experiment with that.

No worries on the wing-touching front. The only reason I even did the training was to work toward harness-training, since you need to lift the wings briefly to slip the loop over them. I keep all wing contact (including stretches) brief and clinical (for the stretching, I count out loud, as if she's doing aerobics - I'll see if I can get a video).
 
Last edited:

Kiwi's Mom

Rollerblading along the road
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A parrots life can be so.. urgh.. I don't know how to put it...
She is (what is her name, sorry if i missed it) lucky to have you now!:heart:

Loki can't fly. His "breeder" butchered his left wing. I use wing-assisted incline run to build his muscles. There is a blanket and a couple of pillows at the bottom he climbs/flaps with wings to get on the top of the sofa. I place him on the couch (where you sit) and target him to the top. Nowadays I don't even need to do it much as he flaps his wings like a madman when on top of his cage :D...Any day now he'll have all of his primaries and he'll be able to fly. I can see it he wants to. He knows it in his heart he should.
I got the idea when watching a documentary on evolution of flight.
They placed chiken(s) and pigeon(s) infront of a ramp and trained them to run upwrds. Without fail all began to flap wings at 75° incline... Even the little chicks, not even feathered.
This is a similar research on the topic;

Maybe you could build a similar ramp...
First just make her walk the plank:)roflmao:)when flat on the ground or any other chosen surface, and then you could maybe gradually increase the incline?

I understand you'd like to give her phisycal therapy, but I really wouldn't feel too comfortable touching under her wings too much, she might get the wrong message.

Anyways;
:needpics:
Wow! That’s a very interesting study!
 

Hankmacaw

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Tossing on the bed works well. That's how I got Jasper to start flying. Just stand back from the bed and toss her in the air. Increase the distance from the bed as she gets stronger and stronger.

Second step - toss her back and forth between two people, again increasing the distance as she improves.

It takes many weeks - and keep up the stretching exercises.
 

Monica

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If she's target trained, you could target her to jump from your hand to your bed or the couch. You could target her to jump between the backs of two chairs (or the seats themselves if it's easier). Do use @dollfish's suggestion of starting small and slowly building up confidence. Any time she balks, go back a step and repeat until she's more confident and you can move on.
 

peggopanic

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Peggy Wang
Any updates here? My YNA is similar except she’s only been overweight at times with me. She never flew with her previous owner and hence can’t get very far. For the past few years I’ve been randomly putting her down on the floor, grabbing her by the body, and tossing her. She maybe goes 15-20 feet. Once, she was spooked and when I went to look for her, she’d flown across two rooms! I’d asked some folks and they said if she’s never flown, her muscles are very weak and not sure she’d really fly fly (she’s almost 40). Even so, I still want to get her flying a little for at least a workout. She’s learned to fly from the chair in my room to my bed which is only 3 feet or so but when it comes to flying to my arm, she’s too scared. It’s a very long work in progress.
 

Tazlima

Sprinting down the street
Joined
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Messages
575
Minimal progress so far, but twice now she's voluntarily flapped to climb up to my shoulder (I don't generally allow her to sit up there, but habits from previous homes die hard, so I let her flap her way up and then bribe her back onto my hand).

I've set up her food so she has two options: 1) Cross a gap to get to her bowl, or 2) dangle upside-down and shake the bejeebers out of a foraging toy. She prefers the foraging toy, which is fine, because it's all building muscle, but sometimes I let it sit empty for a couple days so she alternates between the two. The gap is still small enough for her to step across, because she was initially nervous simply about the new location of the food bowl. She's gained some confidence on that front, but she still seems uneasy going to her bowl, so I'm waiting for her to be more comfortable with the location itself before I make access more challenging.

Now the exciting part! So I finally managed to get her to accept a harness and took her for a few walks outside. When we're walking and a breeze kicks up, she actually flaps a little bit! No encouragement or anything, she just does it. My best guess is that it's triggered by the sensation of movement combined with air flowing over her body, much as a dog lowered into water, even if supported, will instinctively start moving its legs in a swimming motion.

It's the first time I've ever seen her flap voluntarily, and it's beautiful. The first walk, I think she flapped more than in the previous two months combined. It wasn't much, but at least her wings weren't glued to her sides, and she wasn't just flapping to break a fall.

Progress is agonizingly slow, but it's better than nothing, and the breeze thing... I can use that!

This was her first time outside on the harness. Those eyes were pinned the whooooole time. The 2nd walk, she actually relaxed a teeny bit and began to show interest in her surroundings beyond "holy crap what's literally everything?"

20200905_102412.jpg
 

peggopanic

Meeting neighbors
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Peggy Wang
Minimal progress so far, but twice now she's voluntarily flapped to climb up to my shoulder (I don't generally allow her to sit up there, but habits from previous homes die hard, so I let her flap her way up and then bribe her back onto my hand).

I've set up her food so she has two options: 1) Cross a gap to get to her bowl, or 2) dangle upside-down and shake the bejeebers out of a foraging toy. She prefers the foraging toy, which is fine, because it's all building muscle, but sometimes I let it sit empty for a couple days so she alternates between the two. The gap is still small enough for her to step across, because she was initially nervous simply about the new location of the food bowl. She's gained some confidence on that front, but she still seems uneasy going to her bowl, so I'm waiting for her to be more comfortable with the location itself before I make access more challenging.

Now the exciting part! So I finally managed to get her to accept a harness and took her for a few walks outside. When we're walking and a breeze kicks up, she actually flaps a little bit! No encouragement or anything, she just does it. My best guess is that it's triggered by the sensation of movement combined with air flowing over her body, much as a dog lowered into water, even if supported, will instinctively start moving its legs in a swimming motion.

It's the first time I've ever seen her flap voluntarily, and it's beautiful. The first walk, I think she flapped more than in the previous two months combined. It wasn't much, but at least her wings weren't glued to her sides, and she wasn't just flapping to break a fall.

Progress is agonizingly slow, but it's better than nothing, and the breeze thing... I can use that!

This was her first time outside on the harness. Those eyes were pinned the whooooole time. The 2nd walk, she actually relaxed a teeny bit and began to show interest in her surroundings beyond "holy crap what's literally everything?"

View attachment 354845
Process is slow but still happening, happy that she’s progressing. I have to remind myself that these babies can live as long as humans, imagine us having to overcome our fears and learning how to do things we’ve been untaught. I’ve learned patience is key in everything. Mine love going outside. My YNA even walks up to the backdoor screen sometimes and waits for me to let her out! I feel like they feel more comfortable and they enjoy watching other birds too, rather than stare at paint and a tv all day.
I’ve always read that CAG in general can be nervous and skittish, my friends have had to spend much time to gain trust and form a bond. They used to be my dream bird but now every bird is my dream bird I want them all, big and small :) Anyway, please keep us posted! I’ve been working on mine for some years now but I kind of figured it would take a long long time for her perhaps never. My goal is to get her to fly 10 feet comfortably and I’ll feel like huge success lol! And btw, she’s gorgeous :heart:
 

dollfish

Jogging around the block
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999
Location
Istanbul
Real Name
Zeynep Dollfish
Wooow I'm so happy you got to take your bird outside! I think you are right about the wind because mine does the same outside. If there is wind, she flaps her wings. It is good in a way that she is a bit unsure about the food, it encourages foraging and if not, then it creates a challenge to keep the mind busy! Keep up updates, big or small.

:starshower1:
 
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