Friday, January 15, 2010

Aging - The Old Bird

The average normal life expectancy for a male canary is eight years with a rare maximum of twenty years. Hens, however, are more likely to live just four to six years with a maximum of eight or ten years. Inbreeding and resulting genetic weakness can decrease life expectancy in some case from 20 to 30% or more.

Chronological bird aging assume a noninfectious environment and result from normal aging of organs as well as chronic causes such as chronic malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, nutritional excesses, and genetic weakness. Clinical manifestations of nutritional and aging include such observations as overgrowth of beak and nails, dry flaky skin especially on legs and feet, feather problems, egg binding, endocrine gland malfunctions-diabetes, obesity, fatty liver degeneration, fatty tumors-lipomas and other tumors, polyuria, neuropathies, congestive heart disease, and reproductive diseases.

So what can you do for your aging bird? First provide a good diet which is neither deficient nor excessive in fats, carbohydrates, phosphorus or proteins. Avoid obesity and complications from excessive calories. Avoid protein excess and keep an eye out for redness in the feet which causes swelling and favoring a foot. (In neonates, with protein toxicity, the skin is red and if not treated they die at banding age.)

Monitor and address beak and feet issues. Make sure to trim the beak so that it does not overgrow and make eating difficult. Loosen feet and leg scales by putting some oil on your finger and then transferring a small amount to the bird. Remove excessive scales gently being careful not to cause bleeding. Watch for scale build up under the band which can result in restriction of blood flow to the feet. If a bird has fringe-like scaling on the feet, treat with ivomec or scatt for mites.

Provide a minimal stress environment. Many breeders, like myself, have some cages that we call retirement cages where our old breeders live a good life till natural death.

All this visiting about bird aging makes me think of human aging and a few favorite ideas and quotes. Myself, I have learned that in people and birds there are three kinds of aging. Chronological which most people associate with aging is only one kind of aging. Second is biological aging and the third which is most associated with biological aging is psychological aging. Look around you and you quickly notice that not everyone with the same chronological age are really the same age in body or mind. Keeping this in mind, my advice to you is "Don't Let An Old Person Move In!!", or "Pick An Age You Really Like And Stick To It!!

Another favorite thought is that "Aging is the privilege granted to the few." Another lesson from my late 93 year old mother-in-law who lived with us from the time she was 89 till death said "only one person wants to be 94, that's the one that is 93!" She died at 96!

A dear friend Gary Tiller, a hospital administrator, who has survived lung cancer for over ten years, says "my momma told me and its definitely true, Aging is not for Sissies!!!!!!"

Take time to enjoy your journey!!

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