"If a finch looks healthy, it is healthy"
The truth is a healthy looking bird can carry
pathogens capable of destroying your entire flock!
"Care must be taken to ensure the health
of any new bird before you introduce it to your flock,
or the results can be deadly."
By Joanne McGinnis
How to Select a Healthy Bird
If you can select your new birds in person, select a bird that is "clear eyed" with no discharge from the eyes or nostrils. The bird should have 'tight' feathers. The feathers should lay tightly against the body with absolutely no sign of 'puffiness'. Give the bird time to settle down from your entrance into the bird room before making your selection. Excited birds will display tight feathers. Only when a bird is relaxed will you see whether it has tight or puffy feathers.
Look at the vent feathers for any signs of current soiling. This would be a clear indication of diarrhea and a possible intestinal problem. You will also want to physically hold the bird. Feel the breast area for fullness. You should be "slightly" able to feel the breast bone, but only slightly. Any bird with a pronounced breastbone is 'going light' and wasting away. You definitely want to stay away from this and any and all birds that are in direct contact with this bird.
Purchase Birds Sight Unseen
If you purchase birds that you haven't seen but have had shipped to you, give them several hours after placing them into their new home to settle down before evaluating. Remember that birds that have spent 24 hours inside a shipping box may have soiled vent feathers unless they have had perches on which to stand during shipping. They may also be stressed, so peace and quiet will be greatly appreciated until they acquaint themselves with their new surroundings. If you are at all unsure of the birds' health, make an appointment with an avian vet to have them checked out. All reputable breeders will allow a veterinarian to check their birds.
First Things First
The first thing is to give the new bird is a thorough spraying of AIL (Avian Insect Liquidator.) This product is entirely safe for all birds and will not even injure their eyes. It is used to control any external mites or parasites that may be on the birds. If you bring the bird home in a small cage or carrier, spray them while they are still inside this enclosure. In a small space it is easier to spray the birds and the spraying will kill any parasites that have crawled off the birds and onto the cage. Next step is to wash the cage/carrier with a disinfectant solution Pet Focus and place it in the sun for several days to dry off. If the birds were shipped to you, this step will be slightly more difficult. As long as the birds will not be housed in a large open flight, you can release them into their new cage and spray them there. If they are going to eventually reside in an enclosure that is very large, place them in a smaller cage for the duration of the quarantine. This will allow them to more easily find their food and water sources.
Find a Quiet Corner
Set up the new arrivals in a quiet corner of a room as this procedure will take several weeks to administer. The new birds should remain away from any other birds for 30-45 days. Offer your new arrivals fresh finch seed, egg food, and any other extras you normally feed your other birds. Offer fresh greens, spinach, romaine, lettuce, parsley, turnip greens, beet or carrot tops etc; the darker the green food, the better. Gouldians are notorious for not eating or even trying anything new in their diet. If you have this problem read "Teacher Bird" for helpful hints on this topic.
Gouldians in excellent condition and health
will exhibit colors that border on the unnatural.
Change Treatments Daily
All of the treatments involved in the quarantine procedures are mixed daily. For this reason we suggest you purchase a small water tube or medication tube so that you will not be wasting the medication. Whenever you need to mix anything daily, they are invaluable and cost effective.STRESS-Major Factor in Mortality
Air Sac Mites
After this time period we treat the birds for air-sac mites with Moxidectin. Gouldians and Canaries are mostly infected with this mite. All birds that have air-sac mites left untreated and multiplying will eventually die from a secondary respiratory infection or suffocation.
Coccidiosis and Cochlosomosis Chronic Problems
The most chronic problems that can occur in exotic birds is Coccidiosis and along with this cochlosomosis.
Signs of Coccidiosis
Diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, drooping wings and sudden death are signs of Coccidiosis. Birds may also appear listless and depressed. The Coccidia are protozoan parasites that live in the lining of the bird's intestine. Birds are unable to adsorb nutrients from their food. This will eventually lead to death in some birds. The Coccidiosis is passed between the birds by eating another bird's droppings. These eggs contained in the droppings are quite small. Diagnosis is made by examining the droppings under a microscope.
Juveniles dying at 10-12 weeks of age
If your adult birds are infected during the breeding season, you will most likely start loosing your juveniles at 10 - 12 weeks. The nestlings are infected very early on and degeneration of the liver begins. At 10 - 12 weeks there is so little liver function left, that the juveniles begin to drop weight and "waste away." The treatment of choice is Trimethoprim Sulfa which is baby safe and deals with the infection. Followed up by treatment of Baycox or Endocox. You can have your vet perform a fecal examination to check for both of these problems. If he finds nothing, you may be able to skip this step. However, if your vet is at all doubtful of the presence of Coccidiosis, we would highly suggest that he/she allow you to treat for it. Coccidiosis is sometimes hard to find in a fecal sample, because the "bug" responsible for it has several stages during it's life cycle.
As a preventative measure, Baycox or Endocox can be administered anytime conditions are right for them to become infected. These times would be during rainy weather or the warm temperatures and high humidity situations like those found in the Southern United States. Coccidia need moisture and warmth to survive and multiply. As the birds are hunting around the floor of their cages, they can easily pick up the coccidian parasite.
Your birds do not, however, need to be housed outdoors to become infected with Coccidiosis. Leaking drinkers or water bowls can wet the floor of indoor cages and allow the parasite to multiply there also. Even if your cage is totally dry, Coccidiosis outbreaks may appear secondary to other diseases. Treatment with Enodcox or Baycox would be useful as a preventative anytime they have been exposed to conditions that make them susceptible.
Next we treat for any Protozoal infection. Many of the protozoa will affect one species of bird and have no effect on another. A perfectly healthy looking bird can be carrying a protozoa that will be lethal to other species you have in your flights/aviaries. Cochlosomosis is the most serious protozoal infection we have found in our finches. It is especially a problem in young birds from the age of six weeks until the end of molting. The main signs of the illness are watery droppings which contain undigested seed, molting problems and apathy. RonivetS 12% is the drug of choice for prevention of Cochlosomosis. It is mixed daily for a 7-day period. Ronivet-S can be safely used at any stage in the birds breeding cycle. Cochlosomosis disease will only be controlled and not eradicated by the use of drugs. Eradication can only be achieved by breeding Cochlosoma resistant finches in a well managed aviary.
Treating for any worms present in the bird is our next step. Worm out Gel or Wormer Deluxe kill any internal worms including tapeworms. These are easy treatments administered in the drinking water. If we are not absolutely sure where the birds originated, we always include it in our quarantine period. Worms can cause problems as they interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the intestines. If they build-up to large numbers, they can cause an obstruction in the intestines. Birds housed outdoors are most susceptible to worms.
Limited Use of Antibiotics
We don't like to use antibiotics. However, if during the quarantine process your new birds begins to frump and tuck their heads or seem to be eating large quantities of food constantly, this should be an indication that something isn't right. Particularly check the breast area. If the breastbone begins to protrude, they are wasting away or "going light ". One indication that this is happening is the constant eating that I mentioned above. They are eating huge quantities of food because they are not getting the proper absorption from their food. Therefore, they continue to eat trying to satiate themselves. This symptom of "constant eating" will also happen if the birds are in a continual state of stress because of improper functioning of their digestive processes. If housing and diet are proper, then I would treat with a broad spectrum antibiotic Trimethoprim Sulfa. This will eliminate any bacteria that the bird may be carrying in his gut. Again, the bird may be asymptomatic but the bacteria may be lethal to your flock. Make sure you follow the label directions and give the full course of antibiotic.
Safe to release into the flock
By now you should have had ownership of the birds for around 45 days. Our quarantine procedure covers most avian pathogens with the exception of the viruses. If the birds are suffering from a virus, they should be showing symptoms by now. Watch them for another two weeks, paying particular attention to their droppings. If all seems well after that, introduce them to your other birds. Always remember that if you purchase a number of birds at the same time, but from different breeding sources, you should carry out the above steps in separate cages. If you mix them all together, you could be infecting healthy birds unnecessarily.
Repeat for the breeding season
If necessary repeat the above procedure every year, starting 2 months before breeding season. This will bring the breeders into top form before they experience the stress of raising young. It will also ensure healthy offspring. If you suspect a problem at any time throughout the year, usually judged by the droppings or listlessness, have a fecal test done by your vet and proceed according to the results of the test.
"..I took your suggestion and used your quarantine procedure before I set up for the breeding season and I had the best breeding season in 16 years!
John Walters- Michigan
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