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When A Bird's Caregiver Needs Care - Page Two

Chronic illness doesn’t always mean you have to give up your birds.

By Linda S. Rubin

Page 2 of 3

Take Short Cuts
When you suffer from pain and fatigue from either a chronic illness or a disability, being aware of bodily movements and the positioning of the spine, legs, feet, arms and hands is key. Changing positions frequently is important, so be prepared in advance by setting up a bird room or aviary where you are able to quickly return a bird to its cage, or leave the aviary so you may rest.

If you are providing partial care for your birds, consider moving daily feed supplies to a storage area you can easily reach, and use a wheel cart to distribute food items from cage to cage or aviary to aviary.

Save time and energy – prepare and package fresh foods in advance to serve for several days. Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables, and store them in refrigerator storage bags, labeled with each bird’s name. Use as needed until the next preparation is necessary. Offer a brand of mixed seeds with added dehydrated fruits and vegetables in an emergency when you are unable to provide fresh.

Table foods, such as pasta, can be stored for several weeks in the freezer. Wrap smaller portions separately, thaw in the refrigerator, warm and serve as needed. By using these short cuts, you will learn to help yourself and prepare meals for your birds too.

Whenever possible, use paper plates and bowls to save time and energy on washing them. Keep extra sets of food and water vessels, toys and perches available to replace dirty items with clean replacements.

Use strips of masking tape to write your bird’s name and species, and tape it to the cart in the exact order in which cages are positioned in your bird room or aviary. This will help you keep track of each bird’s individual water cup so that you can collect and place it on the cart. You can then take the cart to a sink to wash, disinfect, rinse and refill the cups and return them to their original cages. (Always return the same water cup to its original cage to prevent the possibility of spreading disease.)

Attention Arthritis Sufferers
Those with arthritis or arthritic-related diseases may find latex disposable gloves (available at drug stores) a wonderful barrier to water and an effective protection when handling feed vessels, preparing buckets of feed mixes, during routine cleaning and other activities. The gloves act as a “second skin” or shield, protecting tender joints and skin from further harm and abuse. Latex gloves are relatively inexpensive, come in several sizes, including “one-size-fits-all,” and can be thrown away between tasks and replaced with clean ones.

Select the gloves that are dusted with powder, which are much easier to slip on and off. Fortunately, most birds adapt well to these skin-tight gloves and are not frightened by them easily.

Wrist wraps, ankle and knee bandages provide comfort and support while servicing bird cages and aviaries. Wearing knee pads, or kneeling on blocks of foam padding protects the knees while allowing the spine to remain straight if remaining in an upright position.
Changing over to lighter-weight instruments and utensils helps put less stress on the joints. Some helpful items include: plastic measuring scoops to dish feed out of larger bags; plastic spoons to stir seed mixes; and tall, clear plastic, narrow containers (available in some grocery markets) that allow a comfortable grip for arthritic hands.

Other items that reduce pain and contribute to less wear and tear on joints include: light plastic pans and brushes, plastic putty knives, lightweight brooms, cordless vacuum cleaners and automatic floor washers.

The most important improvement to my aviary years ago was removing all the wood. Wood is porous and cannot be completely disinfected. I not only changed to all-wire and aluminum flights and breeding units I also pulled out all wooden shelving and replaced it with a plastic, easy-to-clean floor cabinet to store bird supplies and equipment.
After an unwelcome visit from “Mr. Carpal Tunnel,” I also decided that cutting tree branches was no longer something I could handle. The change to manzanita hardwood perches, “sundeck style” landing platforms, rope perches and lots of large coiled, rope swing toys for birds to perch upon proved to be a workable solution.

Respiratory illness can be aggravated by feather dander and dusty conditions. Medical masks (available at drug stores) are most effective at protecting the nose and mouth from irritating particles, especially while dusting, cleaning or emptying rubbish. Medical masks also protect birds against germs from your unexpected sneezes.

Air cleaners and/or humidifiers can be extremely beneficial in controlling dust and foreign particles. Invest in a good air cleaner as protection for your own health as well as the birds. Humidifiers help retain moisture in the air and aid birds in combating dry skin on feet and legs, especially during winter months.

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