Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday or Happy Hatchday?

Today is my Congo African Grey Parrot's  ( please visit link to learn about this wonderful bird)17th birthday. Melanie has been with us since she was 3 1/2 months old. I am not sure if "birthday" is the correct term because birds are not "birthed".  They are hatched.  So should we sing "Happy Hatchday to You" when we sign to her later? Yes, we do sign to both of our parrots when it is their birthdays and then have a seed party. They get very excited about it and my Pionus Parrot (Kazoo) sings in his own language with us.  Melly usually whistles (why, I don't know, because she can sing words when she wants to...).

Anyway, seed parties are a big deal. Most people erroneously believe that parrots live on sunflower seeds, other seed, and nuts.  They don't.  In fact, when in captivity that is downright harmful.  These foods are high in fat and can cause liver damage when not burned off. Most pet birds have flight feathers trimmed, so they can't fly off the excess fat. Therefore, seeds are candy and given rarely.  Some owners give a few a day, some weekly, etc. But main diet is NOT seeds.  It is healthy greens, veggies, fruits, grains, much like you and me. There are some organic pelleted bird foods that incorporate all of this in the pellets, and that is very handy.  We use a brand of those, but also give some veggies and fruit.  And, of course, at least weekly seed treats.

Anyway, back to Melly.  She was not even supposed to live this long! African Greys can live 75 years but when we got her we found out she was carrying a fatal disease called Beak and Feather Disease.  We were told that it was not yet active, but to put her down.  Well, we couldn't, so we didn't, and we worked with Dr. Richie (a leading bird disease researcher in Atlanta) to see if we could make her have as happy of a life as possible.

We placed her in a warm incubator at night. We prayed and sang with her daily and used organic pellets (mentioned above).  We used echinacia and goldenseal drops.  Faithfully.  Every day.  After a year, she was tested again. (She had been tested 8 times the first time she was positive to make sure it was not false).  When my vet called to give me the news I could hear the surprise in her voice.  She asked me if I was sitting down.  I was, thankfully.  She told me that Melly tested negative to Beak and Feather!  She no longer carried the disease in her.  This was almost unheard of.  I called Dr. Richie and he said she was the first African Grey he knew of to fight it off. 

That year we sent Christmas cards that said "Faith is the bird that sees the light, and sings while the dawn is still dark." We enclosed the story of her recovery.  Was it the herbal drops?  The organic food?  Prayer? Our love and faith? Who knows.  I am willing to bet it was a combination of everything.

The one thing I do know is that Melly was supposed to be "put down" that first year and we chose to give her a fighting chance.  Because of that, she is alive to celebrate her 17th birthday, or hatchday, today. 

Sing to her? You better believe it.  I hope I get to sing Happy Hatchday to her until I am 100 years old.  And after that, my will will state that whoever gets her must do the same. Her middle name is "Miracle" for good reasaon.  Melanie Miracle Rowland.

Happy Birthday, My Beautiful Girl.
"Beautiful Girl"
By Caddy Rowland

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