Freelance Writer Files: It isn’t easy being a green parakeet mom.

My little feathered companion, Buster the Parakeet, just didn’t look himself last week. Puffed up like a little ball of feathers, his eyelids drooping, he looked miserable. And I didn’t know what to do.

Green parakeet like Buster

A Web search yielded lots of different treatments. Keep him in an 80- or 90-degree environment; cover three sides of his cage, put a 60-watt light bulb right next to him. Make sure the air has at least 40% humidity. Who the heck knows? But I started the humidifier just to be safe.

The old sure-fire cure of antibiotic in his drinking water failed to un-puff him. And he didn’t seem to be eating, so I gave him a millet spray. He went after it like a millet addict. He denuded one spray in a matter of minutes. So I gave him another. The next day, another. Then, last night, hallelujah! his puffiness had mostly receded. Except… doesn’t his chest still look puffy? Yes, he looked like a puffer pigeon. More research. The closest answer to what might be wrong: sour crop. That sounds awful. It’s like a super tummy-ache caused by food getting stuck in the crop instead of going through. And the cause could be — MILLET! Gack! I was killing my little Buster with kindness!

It all brought back traumatic memories of the time I killed a dear cockatiel by feeding him the wrong diet. It didn’t help that the bird vet (a mean woman indeed) told me the bird’s liver was “the size of Cleveland” and went on a rant about how people don’t know how to feed birds. I told her he liked bird seed, and she said, “Of course he does! It’s like popcorn!” Who knew? I shudder to remember how my beloved Jou-Jou died right in the vet’s hand as I watched. It couldn’t possibly be happening again!

So no more millet, and Buster’s chest looks less puffy today. He actually chirped a few times yesterday, which is a good sign, since he’s normally a little chatterbox and operatic singer all day long.

We’ll see what today brings. I long to hear his pleasant chirpings. They create the happy soundtrack for my workday. Now, if I can just quit doing the wrong thing, I expect I’ll hear it again very soon.

You go, Buster!