Toast: my crippled kakariki

So you think you've had things hard? You think disabilities are impossible to deal with? This isn't just a story for bird people. Everyone can learn from it.

Toast's baby picture

View of right, splayed leg. The Hatch
I was breeding my pair of kakarikis for the first time and wasn't expecting the best parenting skills. I never knew a hen could have such bad instincts. Alicia laid twelve (kaks usually lay nine) eggs. It was impossible for her to incubate so many and several died. Other chicks died during hatch when they were caught in a dry membrane (she wasn't humidifying them, I took care of this from then on). Only two chicks survived, Bob hatched April 4 and Toast hatched April 1. No kidding. She hatched on April Fool's Day.

Problem One
One day I noticed that Toast had splayed legs. Splayed legs is when the legs start doing the splits, a condition which is very easy to correct if found early. I taped the legs together with masking tape and put the baby back in the nest. Momma ripped it off. I put it back on. She ripped it off again and dislocated the leftt leg in the process. I took the Toast to the vet. He taped the legs together and failed to notice the dislocation. I took her to another vet. He said bring her back when she's old enough to handle surgery. I didn't put her back in the nest this time, it was too risky and she wasn't being fed properly. Alicia devoted all her energy to raising Bob. I now had the job of handfeeding a two-week old kakariki that only weighed 11 grams.

View of both legs.  The right is splayed and the left is dislocated.  Note the curled toes. Why Toast?
Handfeeding meant Toast would have to go to high school with me. She was left in my anatomy class and fed at lunch and break. On the way home from school I dropped by a health food store to buy some spirilina, this expensive algae stuff you add to the handfeeding formula to make it more nutritious. I went in, carrier in hand, but I was a few bucks short of the twenty some required for a jar. I ran back outside, plopped my bird and my keys on the seat next to me and started fishing through my ashtray for quarters (I've noticed all non smokers use their ashtrays for this). When I had enough I got out and shut the door, automatically locking it behind be (I'm really anal about keeping my doors locked). I had managed to lock both my keys and my bird in the car. Shot of Toast from above. I have never been more panicked in my life. If it had just been my keys, fine. But no, I had a baby inside. I ran down the row of shops to Home Pet Center to get help. They knew me here and let me use their phone to call a friend who could go to my house and get the spare keys. She wasn't home so I left a panicky message. This nice customer and I got a coathanger but couldn't get the door unlocked after fifteen minutes of trying. I was really freaked by now. It wasn't that hot out but I knew the temperature was rising in the car. The lady suggested I call the fire department and tell them a live animal was in the car. I called info, which gave me the number of the wrong fire department. I finally got a hold of them and they came and opened my car. My chick was hot, but the temperature hadn't risen to lethal levels yet. Rhonda named her Toast after the incident. In my temporary insanity I had forgotton that I belong to the AAA.

More Problems
Toast grew well and was healthy despite the fact that her legs stuck straight out. One day when she was at fledging age I was carrying her when she decided to take a test flight out of my hand. She smacked into a dresser and shattered her left femur. A few weeks later we returned to the vet. He said surgery could bring the legs down under her but: a) she wouldn't be able to use them, b) it would cost over $500, and c) there's a good chance she would die during the operation. We said our thank you's and left.

I let Toast have some supervised time on the aviary floor.  Her dad Alvin is checking her out. Current Health
Toast will be three this April Fool's. I kept her because I knew I could never sell her (Actually, since then I've had some offers from people who think she's really sweet. I turned them down.). She's got a splayed leg, a dislocated leg, a shattered femur, and is stunted from her mother not feeding her enough those first two weeks. She has a small cage with a sock for a hammock and she climbs all over it like a little monkey. Her legs are extreamly flexible and I leave her nails long for better climbing. She's more active than some of my other birds. And some people still pity her. I say she's got it better than them.


Toast died in October 1999 while I was out of town for a few weeks. She was staying with my family and they are not sure why she passed. My sister guesses it was the heat wave that week. Toast was four years old. She is sorely missed.

Feisty Feathers

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