STEP FIVE - Probiotic (if you must, use unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar)


TYPICAL LENGTH OF TREATMENT:  3 - 5 DAYS I don't use Probiotics for finches & canaries, nor do I sell them. I have very specifics reasons why that I won't go into here (it would be a major rant - no need for violence on this lovely day!).  In fact, after years of testing, I feel they are a waste of money. But for the general hobbiest, antibiotics aren't choosy about what kind of bacteria they kill - they take the good with the bad.  Any time you use an antibiotic or give your birds any type of medication, you may want to administer a probiotic afterward.  Pre & Probiotics are created to replace the normal gut flora (tummy bacteria) that may have been killed off by the antibiotics.  There are many probiotics on the market. IF I decide to use a probiotic for my non-passerine birds, I typically prefer to use Acidophilous which I grind from pill form and sprinkle over seed or soft food. Oiling the seed will allow it to stick. If using oil, this mixture must be made up fresh daily and any leftover seed from the day before must be removed. But a better option is to use unpasteurized apple cider vinegar administered in the water. In addition to protecting the gut, it has other health benefits that are great for the birds.

Alternate view on probiotics - Sterile Bowel theory - Dr. Rob Marshall

NOTE:  I have spent many years researching, testing alimentary canal flora, and testing the viability of many types of probiotics, and totally agree with Dr. Rob Marshall's theory. I've also learned that in many cases, if an antibiotic is indeed used in a stressed non-passerine bird (newly arrived, moved around, taken to a show, etc.), Candida will almost always follow. IF I use an antibiotic during quarantine, I will use an anti-fungal (such as Medistatin) immediately following THEN administer unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to balance the system in susceptible birds. 

In addition, instead of automatically administering a probiotic, I choose to lower the pH of my water with citric acid (Dr. Rob Marshall's Mega Mix, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, or citric acid crystals - all at a rate of 1/4 tsp to 1 litre of water) to make the water inhospitable to yeast and bacteria and add my antibiotic of choice to that mixture.  If you choose to use citric acid, or even apple cider vinegar, you will need to test your water to see the exact amount you really need to bring your pH level down to anything less than 6.0, but preferably in the 5.3-5.5 range. I use aquarium test strips to test the pH level of my water before and after adding the citric acid.

Again, it is important to read all labels before mixing medications and administering them to your birds! Veterinary assistance is preferred.

STEP THREE - Protozoa Control


Protozoa are microscopic "bugs" that swim around in your birds' intestines wreaking havoc where they go.  If left untreated, protozoa can cause liver and kidney damage, loss of appetite, quick weight loss and diarrhea.  An infestation can lead to secondary bacterial infections hence masking the initial problem.  There are 3 types of protoza you're most likely to see in your birds - Trichomonas, Giardia, and Hexamita.  I have only seen the first two, and only in birds I acquired elsewhere.  They can be seen under the scope at as little magnification as 400x fairly well.

As far as I can tell, there are only a very few medications that protect against protozoa - Ronidazole (protozoa) and Trimethoprim/Sulfa (coccidia). There are a few antibiotics that also kill some protozoa, but I'm not even going to name them here. I avoid antibiotics at all costs. I do not care to build up an immunity - some day I may actually need them to treat for an infection, and if immunity has been built up, I'll have no recourse! In addition, it has been commonly expressed that once birds are infected they cannot always be cured and will remain carriers the rest of their lives.  Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.  I do not have the answer.  However, it is still extremely important that I protect my birds against protozoal infections.  But I use Ronex or Ronivet because this product is so safe, even if the birds do not harbor the bugs, the medication will do no harm to their system. It is safe to give even during the breeding season and will not harm chicks or render the breeding adults infertile. I use Canker Combo (Dimetridazole 1000mg; Ronidazole 500mg) for tough cases where it appears the protozoa are not being affected by merely Ronidasole. Consult with your Veterinarian before using it. It should not be used with some species.

It must be made clear that while Coccidiosis is a protozoal type infection, Coccicare (Amprolium/Ethopabate) does not cure the ailment but merely slows it down, allowing the bird to build up an immunity against the Coccidia.  If I see large numbers of coccidia in a birds droppings, I try to eliminate the underlying issue first, then use Trimethoprim/Sulfa to control the coccidia - only if needed. I don't just automatically treat for coccidia.

Also, Coccidiosis is typically found in birds that are stressed or ill.  It is an opportunistic bug and is usually only seen in damaging quantities when the birds immune system is compromised.  In an average, healthy aviary, unless there is very high humidity and the birds have underlying issues, you should not see Coccidiosis.  I guess the best way to explain it is most birds have a few Coccidia in their systems.  It only becomes a problem when the bird has something else going on that has suppressed or lowered its immune system!

Again, it is important to read labels and get a good understanding of what you are administering before doing so!

For more severe cases, your Avian Veterinarian may prescribe Doxycycline for secondary infections - but do NOT administer this medication without first seeking the advice of your Veterinarian.  Tetracycline products, if used improperly, can cause severe liver and kidney damage and even kill your bird and must be used with extreme caution!

NEW BIRD QUARANTINE

KRISTEN REEVES, MEADOWLARK FARMS AVIAN SUPPLY, INC.

Quarantine is extremely important for the health and safety of your entire flock.  You should always "quarantine" any new birds you acquire regardless of species. My articles are written to include a wide variety of species. I keep 17 different species here - all of which react differently to every medication - I know them, have tested every medication, and what they can handle.  If you are unsure about using a particular medication with YOUR species, consult your Avian Veterinarian BEFORE using that medication. Be particularly certain to pay attention to high & low temperature instructions.

If your bird looks a little worse for wear after bringing it home, you may choose to wait a day or two for the bird to acclimate before beginning this procedure as the stress of the move can be a bit much for less robust birds and the added stress of quarantine could weaken them further. But PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be sure to follow some kind of quarantine procedure until you are absolutely positive the new birds pose no threat to your existing flock.


Just because a bird looks healthy, doesn't mean it is. In addition, birds from other aviaries may carry "different" strains of bacteria than those in your own aviary.  While that normal aviary bacteria may not affect your birds, it could kill the newly added birds unless they are given time to acclimate - and vice versa - your own birds need time to acclimate to the "new bugs" coming in with the new birds. If you don't quarantine, one new bug could mean disaster for your entire flock. I've watched helplessly as even experienced breeders who KNOW better have released new birds into their established flock - only to lose bird after bird due to the inability of both new birds and established flock being able to acclimate to the "new-to-them" bugs. You can argue with me about the necessity, but I will never change my stance.

Remember, each of these steps must be completed individually.  The medications cannot usually be combined and the entire course for each medication must be completed in order to be effective and not allow the "bugs" to build up immunities. A typical complete quarantine runs between 3 - 5 weeks depending on the "brand" of medications you use and the instructions they give.

Once you become familiar with the normal "look and feel" of your birds, behavior, consistency of normal droppings, etc.  You may choose to skip some of the steps below when quarantining new arrivals.  It is also important to ask the seller what medications your bird has recently received so that you are not giving medications too soon after a previous treatment!

NOTE:  As with Quarterly Quarantine, personally, I prefer not to medicate unless absolutely necessary.  Therefore, instead of immediately medicating new arrivals, I watch them closely for several weeks,  monitoring their poop under the scope, running cultures as I see something off, and paying close attention to their behavior.  I only medicate for the specific disease process I see in the new bird(s).  If after about 90 days I see no signs of illness, I do not medicate at all and may release the birds into my aviary (but usually keep them separate).  If I feel there is a need, I will follow one or more of the steps  described below - but keep in mind...I've been doing this a LOOOOONG time!  If you are not certain about your skills in reading the birds health, follow ALL of the steps and have the birds tested by an Avian Veterinarian.

WHERE TO BEGIN - Setting up your new bird


Hopefully you've set up a cage before you brought your new bird home - this makes for less stress for both you and your new bird! You will want to set your new bird(s) up in a relatively quiet area where they can acclimate to their new surroundings in a somewhat calm environment.  Unless you have no other choice, you should not keep the new arrivals in the same room as any other birds you may be keeping.  Rule of thumb...do not keep new arrivals in the same "air space" as the rest of your flock. A roomy cage is best, but if you are only adding a single bird, a smaller cage will do for this procedure.  Remember, if you have purchased several birds from different sellers, do not place them all in the same cage for quarantine.  You will run the risk of infecting a potentially healthy bird!

STEP TWO - Internal Parasite Control


TYPICAL LENGTH OF TREATMENT:  1 - 2 DAYS - I choose not to worm unless I see signs of worms or eggs in the droppings.  I check 3 times per day (morning, noon & night) for three days, then repeat this procedure 1 week later.

If warranted, I administer an internal parasite control in the form of a wormer.  I use Deluxe Wormer.  It is mixed into the bird's water and is typically a one day treatment (read the directions!).  It can be used a second day if necessary or if I think the birds did not get the full dose (maybe they didn't touch the water in hopes that I'd put fresh in the next day!).  

I mix just enough for one day and eliminate other sources of water or liquid such as bath water, fresh greens, and/or fresh fruit. I typically remove their water source about an hour before lights out the night before I intend to treat.  In the morning, I feed my birds, then put the water containing the wormer back up about an hour after they have had enough time to eat.  This ensures they are good and thirsty and actually drink it!

While many manufacturers put a fruit flavored attractant in worming medications, the birds really won't like it and may not drink.  They will eat anything else that contains liquid instead of the medicated water if these items are available.  Because of this, I usually run the worming medication for two full days THEN again 1 week from the first day of treatment to kill any eggs that may have hatched and been missed the first time around. It has been my experience that NONE of the sprays or wormers will kill the eggs.

STEP ONE - External Parasite Control


The very first thing I do when I get a new bird home is to eliminate the possibility of external parasites - REGARDLESS of how clean the seller's aviary was or how good the bird looks.  A bird-friendly spray, such as Scalex is best for killing potential pests.  I spray the birds down fairly well - not totally soaked, but wet enough that any skin or feather parasites are killed in the process.  I repeat this procedure in 3-5 days to kill any new mites that may have hatched.

I keep the birds warm (about 80 to 85 degrees) until they are thoroughly dry - a small heat lamp like those used for reptiles works well if placed in a corner of the cage where they can come and go as they need to.  It is important that the bird be able to escape the heat if it needs to!

I also use S76 or Abba Ivermectin, both in a bath solution and in the drinking water.  In my humble opinion, it is best to use a spray combined with the Ivermectin to completely eliminate external parasites. Remember, you can use most medications in combination with their usual water based vitamin supplements (calcium, iodine and vitamin supplement), but not with other medications.  Be very cautious when combining meds! See
Morning Bird's Interaction Information Page for an idea of what can be combined and what cannot.  If you do not use Morning Bird products, be sure to check the label for interaction warnings!

Another product, though not without controversy, is Sevin (Carbyl).  To use Sevin, I place a teaspoon of Sevin in a small paper bag.  I place the bird in the bag with the Sevin for a mere few seconds.  The bird won't like the bag and will flop around effectively disbursing the Sevin onto it's feathers and skin.  I prefer not to use Sevin because I'm always concerned the birds will get too large a dose, though many of my breeder friends use it regularly - even swear by it - during breeding season, dusting it into nest boxes before placing nesting hairs in the box.  I will repeat the spray or Sevin procedure in about 3 to 5 days.  This will kill any external parasites that may have hatched after the initial spraying.

NOTE:  Read all directions for the medication you are using and for the actual length of time it is recommended.  Each type or brand of medication has different instructions. I cannot in good conscience give dosing information. This is important for ALL medications & supplements you use.

SCREENING NEW ARRIVALS - Becoming a "Poopologist"


When I bring a new bird home, I set it up with newspaper in the bottom of the cage and spend a few days "screening" its droppings and observing the birds actions closely.  To screen  poo, I pick up a portion of the poo on a cotton swab or toothpick and place it on a glass slide, smearing it until thin enough to see through.  I add a drop or two of sterile saline and a cover slip.  I then view the poo under the microscope.  When I do this, I'm looking for things like worm eggs, protozoa, bad bacteria, large amounts of budding yeast, coccidia, etc.  

Each of these nasties looks very different to the trained eye and helps me to determine if there are any or additional quarantine procedures I should run before allowing the bird into my flock.  Again, it has taken me MANY years to know what is right and what is wrong - and I still misdiagnose from time to time and require the aid of my Avian Vet! Great care is to be taken if you attempt to perform your own smears.  I would not advise treating your bird for something you suspect until you've spoken to an Avian Veterinarian to have them verify your findings!

I want everyone to know that I've been raising birds for many, many years.  It has taken nearly all of these years to get a good understanding of what makes my birds tick, what good poop and bad poop looks like, and how to test for certain health problems myself.  Unless you are comfortable with performing this step yourself and have a solid understanding of how to identify bad bugs, I suggest skipping this step and moving on to STEP ONE of the Quarantine procedures below!

STEP SIX - An Extra Week in the Clink!


Just to be on the safe side, I always keep my new arrivals separate for an additional week after completing the entire quarantine process.  This way if I've missed any nasties, they are bound to show up and I won't have subjected the rest of my flock to the illness! However, in most cases, birds from other breeders never mix with my own lines.  This also ensures fresh bloodlines for my breeding program. Because nutrition is key to a healthy, robust bird, I know any offspring produced from these birds will be stronger than their parents and less likely to succumb to health issues. The offspring will then be combined with my own lines.


Better to be safe than sorry!

STEP FOUR - Broad Spectrum Bacterial Control


TYPICAL LENGTH OF TREATMENT:  5 - 7 DAYS - I ONLY run antibiotics if I get large amounts of bad bacteria (bad bacteria can be both gram negative AND gram positive - you  MUST know the difference before attempting to treat) from either droppings or crop swabs.

There is some controversy about whether we should be using antibiotics unless our birds actually have a bacterial infection.  In the past, I always gave them a full dose of a broad spectrum antibiotic during quarantine and felt that if they have contracted a bacterial infection prior to purchase, the antibiotic will nip it in the bud.  However, I have stopped this procedure unless I determine there is indeed a bacterial issue.  I do not want the bad bacteria to become immune to antibiotics.  If I do find the need for this step, I use Amoxitex (Amoxicillin) if the bacteria is of undetermined nature. However, there are some bacteria that Amoxitex won't kill and require specific medications. I will culture any non-specific bacteria then run sensitivity testing to determine the actual bacterium before treating.  Unless you are trained for this kind of lab work, culturing bacteria is best left to your Avian Veterinarian.