Laraine asked me to share my findings that it might help
others who may have experienced a similar problem.
by Jill Leone
I am a first time pet bird owner. I have owned a male and female Lady Gouldian finch for about four months. I rather quickly inherited the birds, so I had to do a lot of really fast research to learn about my beautiful little finches. Thank goodness for Laraine’s LadyGouldianfinch.com Website, as this is where I learned so much about the proper care, health, hygiene, etc. I have been utilizing all of the tremendous supplements that Laraine recommends on her website. They have all worked beautifully. My birds are active, and I haven’t encountered any health problems since I got them.
Leaning on the perch
My male and female bonded almost immediately and within about two months of being together, my female laid her first clutch of five eggs. None of these hatched, and she began to lay her second clutch of five eggs. During this period of time, I began to notice that she had stopped singing and flying. She was having trouble putting weight on her left leg at first and then both of her legs and was just sitting and leaning on the perch with her feathers fluffed. She wasn’t able to curl her toes on that leg around the perch. The color of her leg had darkened considerably. This was creating a pronounced leaning over to rest her body down on the perch instead of being able to stand up on her two legs. I knew these were not very good signs, so I took her to a very well known avian veterinarian in our area (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida), Dr. Karen Zielezienski, known as Dr. Z.
Hypocalcemia-lack of Calcium
I took both my female and my male in together so she could look at them. She said they both had excellent plumage (thank you again, Laraine). She felt my female’s legs and bones and said they felt “smushy” or in other words, soft. Dr. Z said she believed my female was suffering from hypocalcemia, that is, a lack of calcium. Dr. Z said that when the female is laying eggs, sometimes her body will bleach out her body’s calcium to put into the eggshell formation, leaving the body depleted of calcium. Dr. Z took a blood test to confirm her diagnosis. As it turned out, my female’s calcium level was 9.1 and Dr. Z said the preferred calcium level during breeding is 15 in order to prevent the hypocalcemia (low calcium). Dr. Z gave my female a calcium injection and said it would take a week for the calcium to be absorbed and to see an effect.
Exactly one week later, my female began to return more to her normal activities of flying, singing , bathing, interacting with her male. After she received her second calcium shot, she became extremely happy, taking 5 to 6 baths a day and being very active. The flesh tone color returned to her legs and she can curl her toes and stand up straight on her legs again. It is quite miraculous. To have its full effect, Dr.Z felt my bird should get one more follow up injection one week later.
Many side effects of under supplementation
I have read in other birdcare articles that low calcium is often the reason for depression, illness, poor flying habits, sitting on the perch, etc. I may have under supplemented my birds for fear of giving them too much calcium, but I can see now why the dose is increased so much during the breeding cycle. I am going to step that up even more now as Dr. Z said extra calcium will pass through their body for the most part unless you are totally over doing it.
Perfectly normal in a week
Sure enough, one week later to the day, my female was perfectly normal again, standing up straight on both of her legs, chirping and flying, and feeling so much better, it was amazing. I did bring her in for her second shot and she remained quite well. Dr. Z was pleased, as well, because she said that it is not guaranteed in every case that the bird will recover from the effects of the low calcium. I had been using the recommended dosages of Calcium in their water, but I decided that I would also grate cuttlebone into their seeds and soft food as an added supplement. I also put crushed boiled eggshells in a separate cup, which they both enjoy eating. They only drink their water about 5 times a day so perhaps they weren’t drinking enough of it to get the full benefit of the Calcium Plus supplement in just their water.
Third clutch, same symptoms
My female started her third clutch last week and sure enough, she started exhibiting a lower level of the same symptoms, so I took her in for one more shot which erased the symptoms again. This time she did not need a second shot, so I am thinking that the added calcium in her food may be making a contribution to her system now. I am happy to report that my female came though her latest egg laying clutch of 5 eggs in fine shape, very lively at all times, with no low calcium symptoms at all. I grind up cuttlebone right into their seed and soft food and I stepped up the dosage of Calcium. They have been eating boiled eggshells for a couple of months. I believe the extra calcium intake has benefited my female a lot, as well as my male. They are very active and happy little birds with beautiful and plentiful feathers.
Breeding taxing on the females
The woman who gave me my female is strictly a hobbyist and lets nature take its course with her collection of Lady Gouldians. She has 46 males and only 9 females, so it would appear that the breeding cycle can be quite taxing on the females. I looked up avian hypocalcemia on the Internet and there is a lot of additional information regarding this condition.
© lady gouldian finch.com 2011