Day 9 – “Kaylan”

In my lifetime thus far there have been very few that touched me to my very soul.  This African Grey is one who not only touched my heart, but everyone hes ever met.

This sweet boy had a battle as soon as he was a few days old.  Once again poor husbandry in his care caused him a life long disability.  The demand for African Grey babies is much higher than the demand for adults.  People are under the misconception that a brand new 4 or 5 month old grey will never develop any behavioral issues, nor will they ever succumb to plucking/screaming or any other undesirable behavior, and further to that belief, they are told that a hand fed baby – so buy it young – will be much stronger bonded to their human.  All of those points are myths and the birds that have come through our rescue and others are testimony to that.

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Meet “Kaylan” – as you can see by the photo, he has no toes.  As a nestling, his toes started to fall off one by one due to poor husbandry – this was NOT a result of genetics.  One of his siblings also lost his toes and sadly the feet turned necrotic and he died.  The other sibling was sold where his toes started to fall off about 2 months after he arrived at his new home.  I believe he has 2 toes left.

With his disability, he would not fetch the breeder top dollar so he elected to sell him for an incredibly low price – the new owner bought the bird without any prior experience (only budgie)and didn’t seek out any help for him until things started going bad.  Kaylan became a bit more vocal and her spouse forbid him upstairs so he was placed in an unfinished basement, where he lived in a cockatiel cage with 2 dowel perches – his forms of entertainment were toilet paper rolls and sheets of sandpaper.  His diet consisted of mostly seeds/peanuts and he was a very lonely and scared bird.

Through a series of events, and transport by one of our reps, we got him back here and realized right away we needed to implement alot of changes for this bird.  It became apparent right away that he had some real issues in climbing and walking and he had literally no balance.  Being underweight, vitamin deficient and some atrophy in his feet, he had alot to overcome.

The first thing we had to do was outfit him with a cage that would not only keep him safer from the falls he had, but to allow his feet a chance to relax and in turn, allow HIM to relax.

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This was the first attempt at a cage for him which we upgraded and changed around – I think we changed things a few times a day – everyday – for about a week until we got just the right fit for him.

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We eventually settled on this.  As the months progressed and he grew stronger, we added a few more rope perches/tree branches but made sure they were comfortable enough for him to grip with his toes – it took awhile for him to learn that technique as they were quite stiff in the beginning and didn’t really bend much at all.

We also modified a play-stand for him so that he could be out of the cage and sitting in a safe place.

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As he got stronger, we let him play on the BIG play-stand to work those feet even more and allow him to climb, flap his wings and just be a bird 🙂

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As you can see in the photo above, his feet are grasping the branch – in the beginning they didn’t, but as they got stronger, they limbered up.  Stepping him up and down was challenging for everyone and he had to learn to allow us to hold his feet – over a short period of time it became very easy to get him around!

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As he continued to progress week by week, month by month, there came one of his most AMAZING days ever – after practicing soooo hard, he learned how to hold food in his feet and eat it from there!!!!!

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From that day forward, there was no stopping him!! He now had the strength to climb up and down his cage, all over the big stand, and not only eat food, but he could hold certain toys now as well.  We knew he was almost ready to make that next journey – his new family.

After a few more months, it was now time.  We interviewed many families and met the perfect match at the Calgary Pet Expo.  Because Kaylan had a few issues to continue working with and the fact he needed to be handled a bit differently, we knew it could prove to be a challenge.  But this new family did everything they needed to do in order to make him a part of their family.  Numerous visits over the course of weeks until they were all comfortable and ready to make that leap.  The day Kaylan left was bittersweet, he had come so far, and had been through so much – he deserved the best – and in his new family – that’s exactly what he got!!

This is Kaylan on a playstand we made for him last year, it fits him perfectly and allows him to sit comfortably where ever the family happens to be.

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And this is Kaylan today!!!!  Imagine our joy when we were sent this photo of him with his brand new BIG BOY cage – he now behaves like any other grey – he still has a few flat perches in his cage, but is now strong enough to get around this new house of his just fine!!

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Kaylan left a lasting memory in our hearts and in our lives.  His sheer determination and strong will allowed him to overcome the disability he had.  I really don’t think he sees himself as disabled at all!  With time and patience and a whole lot of love, he gained the strength he needed which in turn gave him the confidence he deserved.

He will always have a piece of my heart, and while it hurt to let him go, the rewards for him far outweighed my sadness – and the complete joy he has brought to his family is worth every tear I ever shed.  Its about changing lives, not only for the parrots, but for those who love them.  We were blessed to share his journey and will always feel fortunate that he was able to be a part of our life and remind  us that we are all capable of succeeding, if we just try….