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Parrot with mental disability

MrsPapiga

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For reference - My flock of green cheeks:
Main bird of interest: Callisto (3 or 4mo.)
The rest of the flock: Merlin (10yo.)Hera (7yo.), and Ruto (1yo.).

Callisto - square photo.jpg
Callisto came home with us 7 weeks ago and is now right between 15-16 weeks old. I noted that he still had many baby-like qualities that Merlin and Ruto did not exhibit when they came home. Hera I got this year as an adult bird, so I don't know how she was as a baby. I took Callisto in for his first checkup the other day and my CAV commented on the fact that his eyes are slightly offset and asked if I'd noticed anything abnormal about his behaviors. I then told my vet about the various odd habits Callisto has and he confirmed my suspicion, that my baby GCC likely has a developmental disability. I've tried to read about other birds who have something similar, but I haven't really found that much on birds who are born with a disability. All of Callisto's tests came back clean, so any feather issues are just cosmetic and should be helped, at least a little, after his first molt.

Good habits of Callisto:
1. He is excellent at recall and always eager to fly. With him currently, the fact that I ask him to fly is plenty enough of a reward that he'll just go nuts flying around and chirping happily.
2. He eats really well. He was only 58 grams when he got home, so that concerned me, but he eats more than my other three adult GCCs. He actually eats more than two of them combined. They always have access to a pellet/seed mix I combine: 80% Tops pellets to 20% safflower gold. I also feed 10-12 grams of chop daily. Callisto generally has just a little bit of leftovers each day, and it's usually different parts of his diet, so it's not just that he's ignoring the broccoli or kale specifically or anything like that. He stops eating when he gets full. There have been a couple of days throughout the last seven weeks where he's eaten every drop of food in his bowls, and I make sure that's when I increase his daily portion sizes. He's currently at 63 grams in the morning and 65.5 grams when he has a full belly.
3. He's very vocal, even when myself or the rest of my GCCs aren't talking to him. From what I've read so far, it should be more likely for a disabled bird to be quiet, but that isn't his case at all. He chirps and chitters back and forth constantly with me, and is kind of always just chirping about unless my birds are taking their afternoon nap.
4. He's super active. He's always flying around and running places, both inside and outside of his cage. He has a specific posture when he lands, and I can tell when he's been flying in his cage. When I enter the room though, he just hops to the ground to run back and forth.
5. He's very lovey and sweet.
Callisto napping - square photo.jpg
These are some of the things Callisto does that my other birds didn't do, and they don't always appear to be the safest habits:
1. Callisto sometimes struggles with balance and in general isn't graceful. He did come to me without a tail due to play-fighting with his sibling and is only now starting to regrow it, so I thought that and the fact he is a baby could be why he's clumsy initially. It is fully coming back in, however, it's just been slow getting here. Any time I hear a "thud" from the other room, it's definitely him. It happens usually once or twice a week, and there's always flapping accompanied with it. He never has any sign of injury, and I suspect that he just lands hard on the bottom of the cage, but on his feet after flapping frantically down, which is why there's not injuries from it.
2. Callisto generally only uses the bottom half of his cage. I try to make the entirety of my bird's cages engaging, so there's perches and toys all throughout the cage, but he only spends about 5% of his time that I'm aware of in the top half of the cage. He does fly around from perch to perch, and to the swing I have for him sometimes. He doesn't usually play with the toys at the bottom of his cage. The only toy of his that has visual wear is a pinata toy at the top, and it's been in the same state for the past couple weeks so I'm thinking he hasn't been playing with it recently. When I'm out in my living room, (where the birds are housed), Callisto usually just runs back and forth at the bottom of the cage, so it's hard for me to gage his activity in the cage. He is, however, always at the bottom half of the cage when I walk into the living room, which is why I assume he doesn't use the top half much. I don't want to cater to his needs to the extent that I'm stunting him even farther, but I also don't want him to continually be a hazard to himself. All my birds have the Prevue flight cage, which is a cage with all vertical bars. I think he struggles navigating over the big strip of metal in the mid-section of the cage, which is why he's most frequently at the bottom, so I've considered putting him in a King cage I used for Merlin for a while. It's a tall cage, but it isn't very wide. I don't feel like that's the correct change to make since Callisto uses a lot of the width of his cage to fly in, but it might help teach him how to navigate more safely, so I thought I might use it for a few weeks to see if he handles navigating things better. Again, I don't want to stunt his growth, so if I should just leave him in the flight cage, that's great, too.
3. He grabs onto the bars of his cage and does one of two things quite frequently... he'll either shove his head down between his legs so he's upside-down with his back on the bars, or he'll let go with one foot and flip around backward so he's upright, but still with his back on the bars. When he flips around this way, he'll usually rub his head on the bars, and he does this enough that he has a bald spot now. My CAV said it's just a cosmetic thing, and there's not an underlying disease there. For the first few weeks, Callisto would do this whenever my husband or I would even look at him. Callisto initially didn't have the bald spot, but when it started becoming apparent, my husband and I would immediately stop interacting with him and turn our back on him until we could hear him running around in the cage instead, then we'd either start that cycle over again or we'd immediately take him out of the cage and play/train with him. He doesn't do the flips when we look at him anymore, but sometime's I'll walk in on Callisto just chilling in his cage that way. My CAV said it might be an early hormonal manifestation, but it could also just be that new feathers are itchy and it's the best way Callisto has figured out how to handle the itches.
Callisto backward - square photo.jpg
4. I don't think of this as a hazard to his health, but Callisto still has the baby green cheek chirp. His voice isn't "growing up." I don't mind this, but it does strike me as an odd thing.
5. He doesn't preen very well, or clean off his beak after meal time. I'm thinking this should change as he ages, but I am curious to know if anyone else has experience with their developmentally disabled birds cleaning/preening well or not.

Are there any other behaviors I should be on the lookout for or anything else I need to be aware of? Also, are there any accommodations I need to make early on, rather than later?
 
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fashionfobie

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This is a valuable story. I don't have an experience that is like your little Castillo. I do have a few birds with medical conditions two chickens (one has sever scoliosis and the other is narcoleptic) and a zebra finch who has a wing injury that recovered but did change his life.

My advice pertains to cage set up. If Castillo is struggling with perching or prefers the bottom of the cage I would change the cage considerably to support Castillo's needs. Falling could be dangerous, a soft surface could help protect him from falls. You could also make the bottom of his cage the place where food/water/toys are located. In this a subforum there are setups for disabled birds that may give you some ideas.

It sounds like Castillo was lucky to have found your caring and supportive hands. Thank you for working with him! I hope someone has advice that will help your care for his unique capabilities.
 

MrsPapiga

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Thanks for your response!
With each of my conures I've kept the food low until they explore the top of their cages and are up there frequently, so Callisto's stuff is all still in the lower half (the low part of the low half) until he's comfortable being higher.
Do you have any suggestions on something safe to pad his falls? I don't want to invoke any hormones or territorial issues with him (which shouldn't be an issue yet, but it could be soon enough) and I also don't want to come home and discover he's been eating fiber off anything if I was to use a towel or something of that nature. I've considered something like a sea grass mat, but I've not used them with my other birds and I don't know how useful (at padding a fall) something like that could be. Any thoughts?
 

fashionfobie

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Maybe you could place an old towel folded in a few layers at the bottom, one that you can rotate/ wash often, and use the seagrass mat over top the towel as a barrier? I am unsure seagrass would be soft enough on its own. Though I understand the want to create a natural barrier between towel fibers and Callisto. I too have a bird who could chew fibers, and that is always scary! I think layers will help you here. You could even layer towel/paper cage liner/ seagrass.
 

Shannan

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For Walter I just use a lot of paper towels over some newspapers for padding. As far as the bump in the middle you may consider a couple of flat perches. I would watch him and just look for the trouble spots and then adapt as needed. With Walter I have to be careful not to block his pathways. Also with him being a baby just give him extra time to figure things out. You might try teaching him how to safely self scratch. Walter used his favorite toy which he had learned to swing and then tuck his head underneath it so it just scratched the itchy spot. Wide is definitely better for the birds who play on the floor. He is so lucky to have you. Having worked with special needs students for a long time. I know they adapt well. I’m sure your special bird will too.
 

Wardy

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That is interesting to read my KiKi isnt the best at climbing around her cage i keep moving perches and adding perches to try and facilitate her to easier get around the cage, i reckon she only uses about 50% of her cage.
Initially her flight was really poor but has improved over time the more she is out and flying.

@webchirp Has a lot of cheekies so might have some insight.

I think you have a lot more positives than negatives and i think Calisto is lucky to have someone who clearly is prepared to adjust things.
Have you considered a cage that is more wide than high ?

KiKi didnt touch a toy for a long time now i have discovered toys she enjoys she plays with them intermitently, maybe try different things to see if there is anything that engages Calisto.

Does Calisto interact with your other conures ?

Lovely bird and again lucky to have someone who wants to do the best for him.
 

macawpower58

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You might consider fleece as a bottom padding. Good fleece doesn't shred, you just need to watch for holes that get chewed in it. It is often used for dangley's and sleep huts.
 

MrsPapiga

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fashionfobie, sounds good! So far, he isn't excessively chewy with things, and still has the little "baby teeth" ridges on his beak. He does enjoy my planet pleasures pinata toys, but those are the only toys that get noticeable wear.... so the concern for him chewing through things is also more directed at future. I'll shop around and find seagrass for the base of the cage. I know my local bird stores are waaay overpriced on that sort of thing. I have some spare towels that can be used underneath, and I'll look into the pee pads that Shannan suggested as well.

Shannan, do you have any suggestions on how to teach him to scratch safely? He isn't even fond of getting scritches from me. I have a couple toys that I thought he might be inclined to use to scratch with, that'd be better than his cage bars, but he hasn't caught on to those being nice to scratch against yet. Merlin uses his bells to scratch his head, so Callisto has a couple bell toys.. but won't have anything to do with them.

Wardy, I'm working on sorting out perches, too. I have a couple of swinging wood bridges, and a couple that are the stationary "bridge" type things that can attach to the side of the cage and don't swing. Callisto does really well with both type of bridge, so I've reworked his cage so those provide more intentional mobility for him. As far as my branch perches, he kind of uses those... but not that much. I have a big swinging grapevine "wreath" in the lower part of his cage, and that's where he does most of his perching.

Interestingly enough, Callisto's flight skills were what made me think I was crazy to think he might be disabled a bit. He's absolutely amazing with flight, and my other three conures just didn't have that much natural ability with it.

I have thought about a short, wide cage, even one that might just be a temporary use thing until he understands his body a bit better. He uses his wings as "arms" a lot which isn't the best for his feathers, and it makes getting places awkward for him. I haven't committed to a short cage for him yet, but I'm not at all opposed to it. I just really strongly don't want to take away something that he can learn to do *safely* with time. I've also thought about trying to find a cage that is at least partly horizontal bars, but is still wide. I personally want to believe Callisto will just learn to navigate the big cage with time, but I do understand that may not be our reality, and that a short cage could be what is best for him, as a permanent setup. Merlin used the horizontal bars on his old King cage to climb way more than the vertical ones, and I was a bit concerned when I first got their flight cages that he might not use the bars very well, but Merlin was fine with it in the end. Callisto, on the other hand, struggles a fair bit with climbing up the spacing of the vertical bars, and the metal strip is something I've not seen him successfully climb over yet.

As far as interacting with my other birds, he loves Ruto and hates Merlin. I think he views Merlin as a threat for my affection because initially I'd interact with Merlin first, then Callisto. I noted that behavior a few weeks ago and have now been interacting with Callisto first. Merlin hasn't ever been jealous of the other birds, and most often, Merlin doesn't think he's a bird. Merlin mimics my bird handling methods when he interacts with the other birds and he doesn't respond to their flock calls when I take him in a room by himself :roflmao: I haven't had Callisto and Merlin out together over the past few weeks, because Callisto is just a lot to handle in that situation. Merlin just ignores it. I also thought it could just be a dominance issue since they are both males :shrug: Hera and Ruto had a massive dominance battle that lasted a few months. Callisto doesn't really care about the fact that Merlin exists outside of when they've been out together. Merlin and Ruto both -very clearly- tolerate him. Their mannerisms almost come off as siblings interacting with each other, and Callisto is the obnoxious youngest child they tolerate, but don't want to be around that much. Hera came to me recently as a retired breeder bird, and she's not yet at a stage where we're all comfortable with her interacting with the other birds safely outside of her cage. She's very much so a part of our flock and they all know she belongs with them, but she wants to rule everything when she's outside of her cage, so she's only allowed out when it's just her and the rest are safely in their cages.

macawpower58, any suggestions on how to identify "good fleece?" Is most fleece just acceptable by default or are there certain parameters that can be visually identified in fleece?

Thanks so much for all the input guys! This has helped my nerves immensely.
 

Shannan

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As far as teaching him to learn to use his toys, you might try using an item that he tolerates to scratch first, like one of his molted feathers then vary the object you use to gently skritch his head. Once you find one that he likes, then hang it or place it in a location that makes it easy to use, Hopefully he will get the idea. As far as the cage goes, you might consider temporarily dividing it in half. For my cage, I just took the grate and hooked it half way up to create two floors. I added trays to the top so that his cage is now two levels. You could do that and then slowly raise it as he becomes more adept.
tempImagero62dR.jpg tempImagebBNB4G.jpg These pictures were before my platform perches and toys came in but you get the idea. The toy in the back that is made of stainless steel is the one he uses to scratch his own head.
 

Kassiani

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Thank you for providing such a wonderful home for your little Callisto and the rest of your flock, and for sharing his story. I've learned quite a bit from reading it!
 
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