Little Birds and Broken Bones

Kinako loves apples.
Kinako loves apples.

I have two small parrots, Yomogi and Kinako. We, my wife and I, have had Yomogi for a little over two years and Kinako for about a year and a half. They are both conures, Yomogi is a Rock Conure and Kinako is a green cheeked. They are both about three years old. The Mrs. and I love having the birds. We get that not everyone understands the appeal of having pet birds. That’s cool. I’m sure most people have had a dog or cat or hamster that they have been attached to and that they feel are full of personality. That’s how we feel about our little birds.

With the coming of spring they started laying eggs. A lot of eggs. Between the two of them they produced fifteen. Our vet, who we visited over the weekend, tells us that is a touch over the average. It is during that visit that our story begins.


One of the side effects of having a lot of eggs is that birds, which are not known for having the thickest bones in the animal kingdom, can get develop even more fragile bones. Which, when you bring a bird to a vet to make sure they are still healthy and haven’t developed any health issues from laying too many eggs is something you would expect the nurses to keep in mind when handling little birds. For example, when opening a travel cage, which out of necessity are tough to open, you would expect a nurse to have better sense than to open such a cage with one hand while holding a delicate bird in the other. Because, it is pretty natural that when you grip with one hand you might unthinkingly grip with the other. If that other hand is holding a bird, whose bones are thinner than usually due to laying several eggs, the result could be breaking a bone. Say, a leg bone near the base of the body, a place we’ve since been told is a very unusual place for a bird to suffer a break.

That is what happened to Kinako.

A vet staff, who is the vet version of a nurse, broke our bird’s leg.

I wasn’t there at the time. My wife was and immediately noticed something was wrong when Kinako was place din the now opened travel cage. At her request the vey gave a perfunctory look. The vet said there was no problem and sent her on her way. The vet said any pain was the result of clipping too close to the quick when trimming Kinako’s claws. That night my wife asked me to keep an eye out for Kinako having problems with her leg. Kinako was having a little mid day snooze. When she woke up it only took a moment to see something was wrong. She couldn’t use that leg. She could barely climb. Eating from the normal dish, which requires gripping and leaning in to get at the food, was impossible. She couldn’t keep her balance. Something was definitely wrong.

Early the next morning we went back to the vet. The vet took a look. Then made excuses about how it didn’t seem this made yesterday. Then the vet said if we wonted more information we would need to go the branch that had an x-ray machine. Then the vet charged us for the visit.

Tokyo is a huge city. But even for being so huge it does not have a large amount of vets who will examine birds. We really had no choice but to visit the other branch, which in the end was for the best. Vet number two was a much better source of information, very good at listening to and answering questions, and on behalf of the clinic chain took responsibility. Vet number two also had the common curtesy to not charge us for treatment that was a result of bad handling by a staff member.

There isn’t much we can do to help Kinako. Our choice was between surgery, which could result in death, or keeping her in the small traveling cage for a month and limiting her movement until the leg heals. It won’t heal in the original place, but the vet tells us that she will regain high use of the leg. That she will basically be the same as before the break.

That Kinako will get back to full health is great news. I am relieved. But I am also exhausted from being worried and from having to rush around one of the largest cities in the world to find care for our little bird.

And I am angry. Just under the surface. As great as the second vet was I am still angry that there has not been, and likely will not be, any formal apology from the first vet or from the nurse how inflicted the injury. I am angry that more than likely this issue is considered to be resolved by that vet office. We have an appointment for a check up with vet number two a the end of this week to see how the leg is doing, but I doubt there will be any mention making amends besides (hopefully) not charging us for the check up. By amends I am not referring to money, although if they wanted to offer us some free bird boarding next time we go out of town I would be happy to take them up on the offer. I want a sincere apology and an admittance of responsibility by bet number one and the nurse. I don’t think that will happen.

So, for the next month whenever I look at my sweet little bird, who loves to fly around the apartment and has only recently begun to enjoy exploring our bird play areas, when I look at Kinako, just under the surface, I will be angry.

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