A Sick Cockatiel: Froley Under the Weather

About two days ago (more by the time you read this post), Froley got really sick.

I first noticed he wasn’t feeling well close to noon. He had spent the morning with me acting completely normal. This was not a case of me not paying any attention to my darling. Since I work from home, I get to spend a lot of time with Froley nearby, so I am accustomed to all of his behaviors based purely on how much uninterrupted time I spend with him.

Plus, I’ll have you know that birds have a tendency to hide their symptoms when they’re sick. As prey animals, birds that look unwell are basically serving themselves up on a silver platter to predators. Domesticated birds have yet to evolutionarily realize that their owners kind of need to know when they feel sickie.

Side note: Sorry if I’m coming across as defensive. I guess I feel guilty for Froley getting sick in the first place, and I’m taking it out on you, my dear readers.

Anyways, after he accompanied me during my mid-morning shower, I noticed he was sitting abnormally on his shower perch. He wasn’t fluffed up and comfortable like he would normally be while waiting for me to step out of the bath. His eyes were bleary, he was swaying, and his feathers were too close to his body.

I worriedly offered him my finger when I was done, and when he stepped up, I could immediately tell that his feet were warm. Too warm.

I placed him back in his cage and observed his behavior for a bit. He continued to stay perched with a wobble, clearly fatigued. That’s when I decided to keep an eye on his poops.

For those of you who don’t own pet birds, you might not be aware of how important their poops are when it comes to gauging their health. Consistency and color are what it’s all about.

A healthy cockatiel’s poop should be brown-ish or green-ish, depending on his or her diet. The more seeds in a cockatiel’s diet, the greener the poops will be. The more pellets in their diet, the browner.

The consistency of a cockatiel’s poop should be like a paste, with some added liquid to boot. Their poop is made up of three things: the feces, the urine, and the uric acid.

Birds poop and pee at the same time, so it makes sense that their feces, the colored portion of their poop, comes out with a bit of liquid. The white stuff that you usually see all over your car’s roof when you park in a bad spot is the uric acid. Uric acid is nitrogenous waste birdies get rid of.

On that day, Froley was hardly pooping, and when he did, it was nothing but liquid.

No feces. No uric acid.

I felt incredibly anxious. Froley is normally such a rambunctious, particular little fella. His lethargic behavior was totally out of character. He seemed so weak. And the worst part was that even though he was clearly ill, he still desperately wanted to be near me. If given the option to sleep in his cage or with me, he’d flap over to my computer desk (where I was halfheartedly attempting to do some work) and sleep next to my keyboard.

Now, Froley has gotten sick before, twice so far in the ten years I’ve had him. Both times I took him to the local vet to get checked out, and both times, the vet told me that he was looking okay and that I should bring him back if he got any worse.

I know, not exactly $140 worth of advice.

So given my past experience, I decided to keep Froley at home and give him what care I could myself.

Side note: This goes against what every cockatiel forum I Googled told me to do.

Sick birds should try to avoid stress, and, the way I figured it, going to the vet would stress Froley out more than it would actually help him.

The first thing I did was replace all of his food. If something in his food had made him sick, it would be best not to continue to expose him to it.

The second thing I did was transform his bedtime cage into a hospital cage. I lowered his perches so that he would not have to climb too much to reach them. I moved his food and water bowls to this smaller cage. I also covered the floor of his cage with towels. These make for soft, comforting surfaces for Froley to step on. As an added bonus, I could better keep an eye on his poops since they stand out so much better on the towels.

After that, it was just watching and waiting. I gave him water, tried hand-feeding him his favorite foods. At around 5:45 p.m., he started throwing up.

When a bird vomits, one of two things can happen. If it comes out as a pasty mess, that means the food got digested a bit before coming back out through your poor bird’s beak. That is definitely not good. If you get whole chunks of food, like seeds and stuff, that means the food only got so far as the bird’s crop. That is not as bad.

Froley was regurgitating whole seeds.

Almost immediately after, I noticed the temperature of his feet went down, and he started behaving a bit more actively than he had been.

We still weren’t out of the woods though.

Froley began pooping goopy poops, with a booger-like consistency. I knew that meant he might be a bit dehydrated, so I offered him more water and leafy greens that were damp. Honestly, I was so glad there was some color to his poops, meaning he was getting some nutrition into his body.

At the end of the day, I put him into his room to sleep.

I have to admit, I had a restless night that night. I fretted about the coming morning. I had fears that I would wake up, greet Froley, only to hear no happy chirp in reply. Instead, I’d find one dead little birdie at the bottom of the cage.

Morbid, I know.

Thank the ever-loving gods that he was as chirpy and as awake as ever. He was clearly doing better, but I kept him in his hospital cage for the whole day to make sure. His poops slowly came back to their usual state, and I breathed a little easier.

As of this writing, Froley is doing much better. He seems normal. However I’m eyeing him like a hawk for a while. (I mean, not as a source of food, but just really closely.)

Never thought I’d be so happy to be smearing bird poop around.