MickaCoo Article:

The Story of Peppermint

by Elizabeth Young

On 7/20, MickaCoo received an e-mail from San Jose Animal Care & Services saying that they had an ink-marked king pigeon they were hoping we could take. I and the few fosters were full up and I asked the shelter to hold him, for two weeks if possible, as there were some adoptions in the works and I was hopeful a spot would be open by then.

At around 3pm on Thursday, 7/23, I received the message that he had an injured leg and had run out of time and, if we couldn't take him, he'd be euthanized.

I posted this desperate news to the Mickaboo Discussion Group and within a few minutes, Mickaboomers had jumped in to help: Sherri said she'd foster him and Gabriella rushed to the shelter to pick him up and race him to For the Birds avian vet before they closed. Gabriella named him Peppermint because of his candy cane coloring.  

He spent the night there, was examined the next day and that night, caught a ride north from San Jose to me with vet tech (and my friend and bird sitter), Jennifer.

Whenever I get a new king, I start out mad at them. I know it's not their fault that they're in dire straits and that I'm overwhelmed with pigeon rescue night and day and I certainly don't take it out on them but let's just say I'm past the point of feeling, "Oh, another pigeon... how nice." Instead it's more like, "Damn."

And so I pulled Peppermint out of his transport box and this poor bird, marked up by some crazy person with permanent magic marker, is really sick (white blood count is 63K), has severe leg injuries (probably from cruel confinement) and is just a baby- about 4 to 5 weeks old. And he's a perfect sweetie. I pet his head and he closes his eyes and relaxes, happy just to have a little comfort from what must have been a pretty crummy world most of his whole, short life. The next day, I have to give him a shot (PMV vaccination), two terrible tasting medicines (wormer & antibiotic), and I bathe the first layer of filth off of him (though it doesn't touch the magic marker). Despite all these traumas, he completely forgives me and welcomes more snuggling after I'm through. Then we were on our way to his foster home.

Peppermint and Friend

Ensconced in the incredibly gentle and dedicated foster care of Sherri and Bill Ness, Pepper, as he is called, has healed. They furnished his crate with new towels and a heating pad, they cuddled him, arranged his food and water dishes to shorten his painful commute on knee bones eaten away by infection, hand fed him extra tidbits, medicated him, cleaned up after his projectile diarrhea. This baby is finally safe, protected and loved.

When I went to visit a month later, he was feeling so much better and doing great. He not only could walk (something the vets weren't sure he'd be able to do) but scampered around following Sherri like a little candy cane shadow. He can even stand with all his weight on the bad leg when he wants to give himself a scratch with his left foot. I was touched by how emotional and babyish he was. When I had him that first day, he was very reserved and stoic. Now that he's safe and comfortable and getting healthy and feeling loved, he's much more expressive. He loves to kiss his reflection in the mirror, gives little baby squeaks and plays nibble games with Sherri's shirt edge. It was as if, even though he was eight or nine weeks old, he was just now safe enough to behave like a four week old. He draws confidence and comfort from Sherri and it was very moving to see how bonded to her he had become.

  • Sherri and Peppermint
  • Sherria nd Peppermint

On my latest visit, Pepper had healed so completely that he runs and jumps and was sturdy enough to try pigeon pants on. He looked incredibly cute in the pirate-themed pants and ran back to his mirror to see them. Seriously. (Scientists include pigeons on the short list of animals- dolphins, elephants, and primates that are known to recognize themselves.) He's getting ready to attend some adoption fairs as a demo pigeon as part of MickaCoo's constant effort to find enough good homes for these sweet birds.

  • Peppermint dressed up
  • peppermint and friends

He's molting in lots of gorgeous new white feathers and his illnesses and injuries are all resolved. At 3 and a half months old, he's getting feisty and has begun to coo and assert his independence. He's going to make somebody an incredible pet. Peppermint has been saved.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to help pay the vet bills for Peppermint by going here. Please include the word "Peppermint" as a message to the recipient. Peppermint is available for adoption and if you'd like more information about fostering or adopting, please contact MickaCoo Pigeon and Dove Coordinator Elizabeth Young AdoptKings@gmail.com

The following is from Peppermint's foster mom, Sherri Ness

Peppermint was my first pigeon experience and little did I know how truly blessed I was to have this little guy come into my life.

When he first arrived he was sick, couldn't walk or move because he couldn't use one of his legs (I we weren't sure he would ever be able to), had scabs and damage to his face, had damage to one of his wings, was red on the top from someone coloring on him, and green on the bottom from being forced to live in his own waste. I was so worried I would do something "wrong" and hurt this poor little baby that I was to the point of tears. Daily I would call Elizabeth, who has the patience of the saint, and supported me through learning what is normal for a pigeon and what is not. She helped put my worries and fears into perspective.

Pigeons are incredibly easy to care for and to medicate. I am in more danger of loosing body parts (or at least chunks of them) from my Tiel than I was from Pepper. You just open the beak and squirt in the medication.

Elizabeth said that baby pigeons are called squeakers. It actually was almost 2 weeks before Pepper "squeaked" at me. I jumped and lost about a year off my life. He was finally starting to feel better to the point where he was letting me know he did not want to take his medicine any more. Of course he still got the medicine, he just got to voice his opinion about it.

He was not demanding, but seemed to like the attention. It's like having a sick child. They want the nearness, warmth, and caring. He would just sit on my lap against me and close his eyes as I petted him. He actually took a nap on me one day. As he became more healthy a sense of curiosity started to take hold.. He started to look around and very slowly started to explore. One day he got really brave and jumped from my lap to the couch (a whole few inches).

Pepper started out his life with us in a dog crate (a good sized one) on a heating pad. His food and water right in front of him so he could eat without moving. As he got better I set up a pen (4 ft by 4 ft) outside of his crate and left the door open. He has a large mirror, a couple toys and a bell, a wood block for perching, and a swimming pool (a large Corning ware pan). I move his food and water around so he doesn't expect it in one place. In the mornings, I put some feed down on the floor, and he comes out to stretch his wings and do some foraging.

Pepper went from squeaking to a honking kind of sound (his voice was changing) to a coo. So for all of you who don't know anything about pigeon coos there are many different ones and I can say that he definitely has one for leave me alone. Pepper is now asserting his independence (he tells me to back off by pecking at me), and as with all my birds, I have let him. When he's done being independent he will climb up onto my arm, lean against me, and just enjoy being loved.

I have had the joy to experience Pepper becoming not only healthy but to watch him grow into the bird he was supposed to be (as a baby) and then to watch him start his journey into adulthood. Pepper is now healthy, sweet, loving, brave, independent, opinionated, and has a piece of my heart that will always belong to him.

For anyone who hasn't given pigeons a thought, you might think about it seriously. They are different from parrots but no less special and they fit in well with a parrot flock, undemanding but as accepting and loving as all the rest.