Parrots in the US and in Australia
My experience with microchipping a parrot is
unique. That's because I've now been through it with birds in the US
and in Australia.
There's something of note that we experienced in
both countries: fear of the anesthetic. We heard many horror
stories about birds that were put "under" and succumbed to
the gas, dying on the vet's procedure table or soon after. At
one time the gas used was inferior, and there certainly was a huge
amount of risk in the early days of avian veterinary practice.
These days, however, there have been advances and the chemicals used
are effective and much less risky. That is not to say that there
is no risk - there is. But with a healthy full-grown bird in the
hands of a knowledgeable and experienced avian vet you can expect a good
Story (our experience in the US, 2005)
Story (our experience in Australia, 2008 - with
Microchipping Story (2005 - in the US)
With each of our bird adoptions in the states, our
American avian vet brought up
the topic of microchipping when we went
for our "new bird checkup" visits. Because most of the birds
allowed outside, and were relatively inexpensive (and therefore not all that
interesting to thieves), I opted not to pursue it.
Jesse was another matter. She's a much greater
attraction for a thief - and we did take her outside (with
her harness on, of course, but accidents do happen).
The decision to have her "chipped" was a no-brainer. The only question
was when (at what age) and whether or not to have the vet use anesthesia.
Dr. Mohan, our vet answered both questions: he recommended doing
the chipping once she was weaned - and he strongly objected to the idea of
performing the procedure without anesthesia.
I was very concerned about having her knocked out for
the chipping - especially since I'd heard a couple of horror stories about
birds that had died as a direct result of the anesthesia. A very
knowledgeable friend had told me that chipping without anesthesia was
perfectly safe and did not involve a great deal of distress for the bird.
She was pretty convincing, so I discussed this openly with our vet. He
provided me with some things to think about:
- There have been advances made in drugs used for
anesthesia - and new ones out are proving to be much safer. Our vet
said that he occasionally has to anesthetize larger birds in order to do
routine procedures (especially parrots that aren't at
- Although the procedure should be quick, an angry
macaw on it's back is unlikely to be cooperative. Struggling during
the insertion would put her at higher risk for injury.
- If there happened to be any unusual bleeding,
taking care of the situation would be much more difficult/hazardous with a
fully awake bird.
- Finally, he showed me the needle used for the
insertion - and it was pretty large; I wouldn't want that stuck in me
without anesthesia, and I'm a lot bigger than Jesse.
I've known Dr. Mohan for nearly 25 years - and I trust
his judgment, so we agreed to do it his way, but I must say I was pretty
tense when the time came.
Jesse's Microchipping Procedure
|We took a large bath towel with us -
one that Jesse knew as her "snuggle towel". When we entered the
vet's examination/procedures room, Jesse tensed up immediately (she'd
been there before and remembered it). The vet put
the towel over her head and back to restrain her and put her on the
table (belly and legs up). She growled a little but didn't really
struggle a lot (and the vet had a firm grip on her).
Just next to the table was the vet assistant and a
fairly good-sized machine which I took to be the anesthesia device.
It had a long hose on it attached to a clear plastic cup. The
assistant slid the cup over Jesse's head and gave her a small amount of
We could see Jesse's expression through the clear
cup. Her body relaxed a bit and her expression was one of ...
surprise. The only thing moving was her eyes - first she looked at
me, then the vet, then she started looking all around as if the room
were spinning (it probably was). Although I was pretty anxious, it
was hard not to laugh out loud at the look on her face.
Once her body went a little slack, the assistant
pulled the cup away and slid a black rubber ring over Jesse's head.
This ring fitted snuggly on her neck and enclosed the clear gas-cup,
creating a sealed space. It looked like Jesse was in a space suit.
Her chest was moving (respiration) and she seemed
to be breathing pretty fast. The anesthesia was coming through now
and her eyes slowly closed - or almost closed. She never
completely shut them, and I had the impression she was peeking at me
through the little slits left.
The vet gave her a quick nail trim and when he
did, she opened her eyes wide and kicked a bit. The assistant gave
her just a tad more "gas" and she relaxed again. Now that the vet
was sure she was "under", he swabbed down the spot he'd selected, picked
up the syringe and carefully inserted the chip. After removing the
needle, he paused and checked to make sure there was no bleeding.
The assistant removed the cup and ring from
Jesse's head, and the vet picked her up and cradled her against his body
(one hand under her back, one under her head). After just a couple
of seconds, Jesse started to wake up - and as she did, she started
"WooHoo wooooOOOoooooo. OOOoooooooo!
HooHoo! Ar Ar Ar.. Hoo HoooooooOOOOOooooo...."
The vet giggled a little and remarked that she
certainly seemed to have something "to say". And we all laughed
speculating what that "something" might be. Then Jesse came awake
enough to start struggling, and the vet set her on the floor facing me.
She looked up at me and tried to move to me, but her legs went out from
under her and she went down head-first. She quickly recovered,
however, and wabbled over to me with a look of "What Happened?" on her
That evening, I could tell that she was a little
"sore". She wanted to sit on my stomach (warmth) and pretty much
stayed put (very unusual for her, she doesn't normally lay still, but
wiggles around, jumps up and climbs all over me). But I cuddled
her and "loved on her", telling her what a good and brave bird she had
been - and she was her usual rambunctious self the next day.
Of course we hope that we'll never have to rely on the
microchip, but it is a comfort knowing it's there.
During Jesse's procedure, our vet chatted with us and related a couple of
stories from his own experience which I think are worth telling here:
- A local restaurant owner had a Blue and Gold macaw
that he kept on premises. Someone stole the bird - but because they were
part of a known theft ring, the bird was recovered by the police.
The owner was thrilled that he would get his bird back, but he had no
way to prove to the police that this macaw was his. He was
fortunate, however. The vet had seen the bird and performed some
kind of corrective procedure on the bird's beak - something which left a
distinct mark. The police asked the vet to make positive
identification, and the vet was able to do that. The owner got back
his bird - and had it microchipped the next day.
- A couple who owned a large parrot went on vacation
and had a pet service coming each day to check the bird's food and water.
One day when the pet service employee came, he walked in to find an empty
apartment! Someone had taken everything - the bird and all the
furniture. The police monitored the newspaper and, sure
enough, someone posted a classified ad to sell a parrot like the stolen
one. The police checked into it - and because the parrot was
microchipped, the owner got him back, plus his missing furniture and other
Microchip Story (2008 - in Australia)
"thank you" to Dr. Walker, who allowed us to photograph the
Laka, when she came to us, was smaller and lighter
than any B&G macaw I'd been around. At 7 months of age she weighed
790 grams (as opposed to Jesse who was considerably heavier at that
age). The breeder we worked with was very experienced and
knowledgeable, and assured me that her weight was normal for that species
here. Our avian vet echoed this, so I did not harbor any concerns
about her overall health, but I felt that we should wait until she was older
and more robust before going ahead with microchipping. So we waited
until a year later, when she was weighing in at close to 900
Laka's "big day" came - and her appointment
was for 10:30 a.m. An empty crop is very important for a bird about to
be anesthetized, so although we did allow her a drink of water at 7:30, we
did not feed her and withheld the water after her initial drink. She
put on quite a show as we waited for the time to take her - she stood over
her empty cups, looked deep into them, then looked at me and bleated
pitifully. She'd never had to wait for brekkies before and she was
clearly very confused and upset about it.
We arrived at the vet's office with a printout of
Laka's weight gains (we weigh her about every 2 weeks and record the
results) and took along her nighttime and first-in-the-morning poo's.
Dr. Walker looked at the weight numbers, inspected the droppings and
generally looked her over to satisfy himself she was ready.
On goes the mask!
|Dr. Walker's assistant held the 'gas
mask' - a cleverly made hood constructed from a plastic beverage
bottle and what looked like surgical tape and spliced rubber
A clean terry towel was spread on the procedure
table and we stood Laka on it. She wasn't terribly happy about
this, and kept scooting over toward me.
Laka is a fairly calm bird, so Dr. Walker only needed
to hold her wings to her side while I held her neck. She struggled a
little, but not enough to need toweling. The assistant slid the gas
mask over her head and very slowly began to administer the anesthetic.
Very soon Laka's body relaxed and Dr. Walker flipped her over onto her back.
Boy... does this look pitiful or
At first her eyes were open, but slowly they
closed. I stood next to her and talked to her soothingly, telling her
what a good girl she was and how brave. Dr. Walker teased me about
that, saying "I'm pretty sure she can't hear you". And he
chuckled when I explained "It may not make any difference to her, but
it makes me feel better."
|She was breathing calmly, but her feet were
trembling a little. I had forgotten that Jesse's feet did this
under the anesthetic, too. With Jesse, I'd been worried, but
having been through it I wasn't as concerned.
But boy... she did look kind-of pitiful lying
Not at all the raucous "thunder beak"
of our lounge room... more like Sleeping Beauty. The only thing
missing was the sound of avian snoring.
Here it is: the moment of truth. The
needle slid in smoothly and the chip was inserted.
The veterinary assistant removed the gas mask
for a moment or two and Dr. Walker took the opportunity, with Laka so
"out of it" to do a very thorough exam, looking carefully at her
vent, at her preening gland, in her nares and deep into her throat. He
also carefully felt over her body, checking for lumps and bumps. Laka,
who normally would object to such handling, lay there limp and unresisting.
The exam over, the assistant popped the mask back on
and began to administer oxygen. Laka began to revive quickly.
Dr. Walker first flipped her onto her tummy (cushioned
by the soft towel, as her legs weren't supporting her yet).
Once she started to wriggle more insistently, he set her down on the floor
so that she could get to her feet (she was flopping
over a lot at first) without the worry that she'd fall off
Here's a video clip of her as she's
As I write this, it's about 5 hours since her
procedure. She's been pretty quiet today - normally she chatters a bit
in the afternoon. I'm quite sure she's a little sore, but she's not
picking at the site where the chip was inserted, and is probably happy to
sit quietly and get over the trauma and insult that took place this morning.
I'm glad I remembered to take my camera with me this
time (was so tense when we did Jesse that it never
occurred to me to do that and I've always regretted it).
And again I thank Dr. Walker for allowing the camera (and us) in his