This is sometimes caused by a vitamin deficiency but is usually caused by the hen laying on the babies too heavily. It can also by caused by a too slippery a surface as the chicks get older and cannot get a good foothold and keep slipping and harm their leg muscles and or tendons. You can try and prevent this by placing something in the nest box such as wood shavings to help cushion the mothers weight from the babies but sometimes the hen just removes this. If you kept putting it in she may decide to leave it alone. Some people place a plastic egg or two in the nest box to help cushion the hens weight from the babies. If you notice this has already happened you can try and tape the legs together lightly or use a piece of string above the knees for a day or two and hope this helps. You should only do this if the parents will still feed it or you can hand feed it.

FRACTURES & BREAKS (Skeleton picture at bottom)
See The Muscular-Skeletal System for more info on bone problems.
A fractured leg is usually flexed and held up by the bird; as healing progresses it is gradually lowered onto the perch. Crash landings or panicky flight can often produce fractures of the clavicle or wishbone and the air sacs in this region may be torn in the process. Less frequently, fracture of the skull may occur and this results in concussion which causes in-coordination of the limbs, loss of balance and a dazed appearance. If bleeding occurs into the cranium, death may follow quickly or be delayed for a few hours, depending upon its severity. Fractures of the neck, other areas of the spinal column and bones of the pelvic region are less common. If birds are kept on a wire floor, their legs may become fractured or even amputated should a bird get caught up while in panic.

It is noted here that some breeders have found that splints have been picked off causing more pain and have caused the bird to stop eating and perish. Some prefer just to keep the bird quiet as possible and allow any broken limbs to knit themselves. It may not heal in the proper position but this is preferable to causing additional distress. Remove any high perches and just leave the lower ones in. The bird may soon perch and a leg may heal in a more natural position.

The most common fractures are those of the leg and especially of the tibiotarsus. Fractures of the tarsometatarsus are much less frequent. Both are easy to recognize if the bird is held and examined carefully. A crackling sound or grinding sensation can be located at the site of the fracture when the limb is moved. Abnormal angling of the leg may often occur and, if it is freshly broken, there is exceptional and uncontrolled mobility. A fracture of the femur shows these signs less distinctly because the bone is more protected by muscle. In all fractures, some inflammation occurs and this results in the production of heat due to increased blood supply and loss or impaired use of the limb. Fractured toes or phalanges are often not noticed until the bone heals, usually crookedly; by this time it is too late to treat the deformity satisfactorily. Particularly difficult fractures to treat are those involving the joints. Sometimes it may not be possible to determine without an x-ray examination if the fracture is associated with dislocation. In skilled hands, however, a simple dislocation can sometimes be corrected by slipping the bone back into position under general anesthesia. Wing fractures are less common than those of the legs. In the wild state, a fractured wing usually results in the bird's death from starvation if it lives long enough to escape the attention of a predator.

To release a bird just after nursing it through the healing period of a fractured wing is about as kind as letting a lame fox free in front of a pack of foxhounds! Wing fractures most frequently affect the humerus, ulna and radius, and here they produce the greatest deformity and loss of function of the wing. Although the wrist bones and those beyond, bear the bulk of the flight feathers, limited flying is often still possible even if these bones are quite badly damaged. A fractured wing is usually held low, most noticeably at its tip. Severe fractures to the humerus with angulation at the site of damage sometimes allow the carpal region to drop, but the wing tip to be raised. In all cases of wing fractures, however, diagnosis is relatively simple due to the unusual mobility of the wing, its limpness, an unusual crossing of the wing tips, and any of the other signs already mentioned with fractures of the leg. A word of warning is necessary because certain tumors of bone origin can cause weakness of the shafts of the long bones, cause proliferation of abnormal bone and show signs similar to those of fractures. The main difference is that the swelling is larger than that associated with a simple fracture, the skin shows no sign of damage, and mobility at the level of the swelling may not be accompanied by pain. Sometimes nutritional diseases such as osteomalacia result in fractures of limb bones; in such cases the overlying skin may not show signs of damage. Fractures or dislocations of joint surfaces are more difficult to diagnose because arthritis, gout and perosis (slipped gastrocnemius tendon) can show similar signs--evidence of pain and creaking or grinding sounds in the joints. The joints may also be swollen and lameness is nearly always present. Bone usually heals quite rapidly, but the rate varies with the bone, somewhat with the species, and particularly the size of the bird.

Those bones which are hollow since they contain part of the air sac instead of marrow, heal slowly because of the limited blood supply. The bones of small, passerine birds tend to heal more quickly than those of the larger species where the muscles exert more tension. If the two ends of the broken bone are brought closely together and kept in place, healing is usually rapid. If a gap is left or if there is an overlap, or if muscle lies between the fragments, healing is very slow or may not occur, especially where movement of the bones is possible. When the blood vessels are badly bruised or severed, not only may no bone be formed but it may actually be absorbed; the limb beyond the injury may also die. This is known as necrosis or death of tissue: infection hastens necrosis and if bacteria enter, gangrene may follow.

Fractures where the overlying skin is ruptured are known as "compound". Where the skin is intact the fractures are referred to as "simple", whether the bone is merely cracked in two or a dozen pieces. In the latter case, however, it is also called "comminuted". Several other types of fracture occur in the simple and compound groups. A fractured leg is usually flexed and held up by the bird; as healing progresses it is gradually lowered onto the perch. Often, however, the foot is loosely clenched, the forward and backward pointing toes crossed and the muscles and tendons become set in an abnormal position during healing of the bone. If correct treatment is not given, the leg may remain permanently deformed. In cases of this type there may also be arthritis or damage to the nerves of the leg. As with any serious wound, bathing with a 5 per cent sterile solution of common salt in water cleanses the tissues and helps to remove infection where the skin is broken. Antibiotics or sulphonamides should be given in these cases by mouth or by injection under the skin or into the thigh or breast muscle. The simplest and often the most effective treatment of the actual fracture is to do nothing. The bird should be separated from its companions to prevent persecution and cannibalism and protection from its own frantic fluttering. A smooth-walled box with perches at floor level is best for wing and leg fractures. Wire netting should not be used except as a lid, because this material encourages attempts to climb. So far we have dealt with the more straightforward leg fractures with fragments in contact. Marked inequality in length between each leg suggests over riding of the bones in the shorter limb. Repositioning the bones in these bad cases is painful, but the fragments must be brought as close as possible to their original position. Unless the manipulation can be easily and rapidly carried out, anesthesia is necessary: inhalation of ether being satisfactory, using 1-2 ml., on cotton wool in a suitable sized cardboard funnel or mask.

Repositioning generally consists of stretching the affected leg to the length of the normal one then squeezing the fragments until they appear as one and in a straight line when felt through the layers of skin and muscle. Splints for small birds may be made by padding a split portion of feather quill taken from a larger species or a toothpick cut to size. For larger birds, a splint is applied over the injured area and fastened with in. zinc oxide adhesive plaster strips down to and including the toes. The foot should be fixed in the fully open position with the knee and hock joints half flexed. Alternatively, match sticks, cardboard strips or wire can be used as a splint. Care must be taken in all cases to avoid chafing by the splints. Plaster of Paris casts are too heavy and too cumbersome for any but the largest species. They are extremely difficult to remove safely, and in the experience of the author, seem to encourage chewing of the feet when used for parrots, whether or not the feet are included in the plaster. In some birds a badly healed fracture or a piece of bone projecting from a wound may require an operation by a veterinarian before the bird can use the leg again. The setting of wing fractures is particularly difficult because the position of the wing at rest is in a bent or flexed position. Pulling on the end of the wing in the case of overlapping or twisted fragments, therefore, separates rather than replaces the fractured bones. Even when they can be repositioned correctly, external splintings give little real support. The best that can usually be achieved is to bring the fractured ends as nearly as possible into contact and be content with a reasonable alignment of the bones with the wing in the flexed position. This should be done under general anesthesia.

The tips of each wing, and preferably also the roots of the tail quills, are then fixed to each other with adhesive tape. A second circle of sticky tape around the front of the breast and encircling the shoulder joints prevents movement of the wings, dislodging the fracture and wing tip anchorage. According to the size and strength of the bird, a third circle of tape may be advisable between the first and second, its width depending also on the size of the patient. The third circle of tape must not be tight or it will restrict breathing. The dressings should be carefully removed after 7 to 28 days, depending upon the circumstances and activity of the bird.

Some success has been reported using internal stainless metal pins in fractures of the humerus, ulna and radius, femur, tibio-tarsus and even tarso-metatarsus, but this type of surgery is the province of the specialist veterinarian, and the methods are usually applicable only to larger birds. For fractures involving the elbow, carpus and hock, compression plates of molded aluminum or plastic have been found very effective in immobilizing these vulnerable areas. They should be made specially for the purpose, suitably padded and held in place by thread through holes in the edges.

Fractures of the wings of small birds cannot be set for several reasons: first, human fingers are too large and clumsy to work with such small bones with any chance of success; second, the resentment of these little creatures against any form of restraint is so great that it is usually impossible to even make an examination of a broken wing without the struggles of the bird aggravating the injury; third, there is no way of affixing a splint or cast to the wing of a small bird without doing more harm than good. The best course to follow is to place the bird in a cage from which the high perches have been removed and observe the droop of the injured member. If the wing hangs in a graceful droop, as it would if the bird drooped it intentionally, place food and water within easy reach of the little bird and go on about your business; feed and water at night for the next ten days, so that the bird will not at any time be disturbed or frightened into attempting to use the injured wing. At the end of that period the injury will be healed, . and there is a good chance that the bird will not be crippled. If the wing hangs at an awkward, abnormal angle, it must be folded against the bird's side in as natural a position as possible, and then held in place by passing a narrow strip of adhesive tape twice around the body in such a manner as to leave other wing free. Some breeders have reported good results from fastening the ends of the two wings together with string or a letter clip. This might work all right with larger, heavier birds, but I have found that the small flying birds will fight this form of restraint until the injured wing is damaged beyond repair. In practically all cases where restraint is necessary the bird will be crippled; often, however, they will be able to fly good enough to take care of themselves. I have known some of these broken-winged birds to make wonderful breeders.

We have not tried it, but some have had success by just taping the wing to the birds side for 2 to 3 weeks. (sample picture below) Run the tape over the wing keeping it to the birds side and go under the other wing so it can still move it. The only problem is you may not know if the wing is in the correct position or not to heal and the bird may try and chew the tape off.

Leg fractures located in the femur or tibia cannot be set, since the two upper divisions of the leg are enclosed by the skin of the side. Fractures of the metatarsus can be set and held in place by placing the shank in a tube made from metal foil or stiff paper. The tube must be left loose enough so that the swelling which occurs as part of the healing process will not stop the circulation in the foot, for, should that happen for only a very short time, the foot will be lost. I have found that regardless of the location of the break, a foot sling is one of the best ways of preventing the bird from being crippled. A tube can keep the metatarsus straight, but it cannot keep the foot from being twisted to the right or left, but by means of the foot sling, the foot can be held in the natural, normal position, and the bones will usually fall into their normal position and heal without difficulty. Sometimes it is necessary to make a loop around the bird's foot to keep him from taking it out of the sling. In affixing the sling the wings must be left free-otherwise the bird will be unable to get around and take care of himself. With the wings free, however, he will have little difficulty, even in a large flight. Broken toes often result from permitting the claws to get too long or from keeping the birds in flights screened with fine-mesh wire cloth. The nails hang in the wire, and when the bird struggles to free himself, a toe is broken. Such injuries go undiscovered at the time and heal without treatment. Crippling of one of the front toes is not serious because it does not cause the bird to lose the use of the foot; injuries to one of the back toes, however, often causes the back claw to become stiff. When this happens to a female her usefulness in the breeding room is over. Her eggs will always be infertile because her foot is certain to slip at the critical moment. The situation is almost as bad when it is a male with a crippled back claw. He can no longer grasp the hen's wing with that foot to mate. Anyone who is unsure of what they are doing should never attempt to fix or repair a broken wing, leg or toes without a vets help.



E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca




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