For the health of your already established flock, biosecurity is a must. It is imperative you quarantine new arrivals away from your established birds. It's so very important that you run your flock through preventive maintenance to ensure parasites like air sac mites and worms don't harm them. Here, I call this "Quarterly Quarantine" because it is run every 3 months like clockwork and goes through much the same procedure as when I bring new birds into the aviary.
IMPORTANT!!! This probably won't go over well, but it is what it is. I realize that many folks who have a LOT of birds will scoff at this and feel this is far too much work. But when you decided to keep those birds, you also took on the responsibility of good stewardship. It is your DUTY to care for your birds properly.
If you have too many to treat and feed properly, it may be time to reduce your flock. It may take me 3 whole days of non-stop work to Scatt every bird in my aviary, but because it is SO important, I suck it up and just do it. I MAKE time because I took on the responsibility that goes along with keeping birds - no matter how large my flock becomes - and I take that responsibility seriously. They cannot treat themselves. We are here as their protectors. We have to do what must be done to keep them healthy. Taking them in hand regularly is the best method of determining their overall health. Treating with Scatt forces us to take them in hand.
It is also important to ALTERNATE the type of treatment you use for each type of parasite so the birds AND bugs don't build up immunity. In most cases, we don't have much choice and have to use what is available to us. But there are alternatives for a few of these treatments. Be sure to read and understand all directions on the label for any treatment you choose!
While most INDOOR aviaries will see very few issues if well maintained and given proper nutrition to keep their immune systems in tip top shape, there is still the potential for some "bugs" to arrive whether through dormancy in the birds or from the seed. Regardless of where you've purchased your seed, there is always the potential for host insects that carry worms and other fun nasties. I have crushed many pounds of seed to view the contents and have located host insects WITHIN the seed. Like a Mexican Jumping Bean, there was no outward sign there was an insect inside the seed, but upon crushing, they were found. I typically find small beetle-like critters. These host insects burrow into the seed while it is still forming on the stalk. Once the seed is fully formed, there is no way to know the insect is in there. IF they are present, they can be hosts to worms, some mites, and an array of bad bacteria.
A typical Quarterly Quarantine here consists of Scatt topically, S76 (Ivermectin) or Abba Ivermectin in the drinking & bath water, wormer and an antiprotozoal (dependent on what I find in the droppings).
As always, because I personally prefer not to medicate unless absolutely necessary, I scope the droppings for signs of worms and/or protozoa BEFORE treating for these parasites. Air sac mites are microscopic, insidious and tricky. They remain dormant in the posterior air sacs of the birds and only come out to feed in the vascular areas of the bird's upper respiratory system when the immune system is compromised.
I treat for air sac mites regardless of the fact that I have never once seen them in my own birds. If while scoping I see no signs of protozoa or worms (there are signs other than the actual organisms, too complex to explain), I will not treat. I only medicate for the specific disease process I see in the bird(s). However, I have many years of training. If you do not have access to the equipment necessary to test for these issues, I recommend having your bird tested by your Avian Veterinarian and/or running the birds through the full quarterly quarantine as laid out below. In other words, if you are not certain about your skills in reading the birds health, follow ALL of the steps!
The ENTIRE Quarterly Quarantine should take no more than 3 weeks plus a day as long as no protozoa is present. Full individual day schedule at the end of this article.
STEP ONE - External Parasite Control
NOTE: Because I handle my birds so frequently and check every square inch of the aviary with a jeweler's loop, I know I do not have any external parasites in my aviary. If you are CERTAIN you do not have feather mites or red mites, you are free to skip this step. If you are unsure, it is always best to treat them. You do not want a mite infestation in your aviary, trust me on this one! Once established, external mites are very difficult to eradicate. Even if you THINK you've gotten them all, I can assure you, you have not! The eggs are not affected by the medication or sprays (regardless of what the manufacturers claim) and can remain dormant for long periods of time. Just when you think you have them gone, the circumstances will be right and the dormant eggs will hatch. If you've ever had an infestation, you should follow this procedure.
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 allow the birds to warm themselves under the heat lamps attached to each cage 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 they get too warm!
STEP TWO - Internal Mite Control
Once the birds are thoroughly dry, I then take each bird in hand and apply Scatt topically. On the same day, I begin treatment IN THE DRINKING WATER with Abba Ivermectin or S76. Remember, Ivermectin - the active ingredient in S76 - only remains stable once mixed with water for up to 6 hours. It MUST be mixed fresh each day to be effective. It cannot be mixed and kept in the refrigerator.
On the second day, I offer the S76 or Abba Ivermectin again in the drinking water, and use any remaining mixed solution in the bath water.
Scatt may be repeated after 3 WEEKS - it should NOT be given sooner, and should NOT be used on birds less than 6 weeks of age.
S76 or Abba Ivermectin is given 2 consecutive days per week for an additional 2 more weeks.
STEP THREE - Wormer
I choose not to worm unless I see signs of worms or eggs in the droppings. I check droppings 3 times per day for three days, and only treat if I see signs of worms. I use both a fecal float method AND check under the microscope. The important thing to remember is eggs may not always be present, nor may adult worms. It is also important to note that worm eggs go through several stages. They don't always appear crisp and clear as shown in the many books on avian parasitology or microscopy. They start out looking like those photos, but as they mature, begin to degrade and bubble on the outer edges as they near hatching. Very rarely do they even resemble worm eggs at that point. There are also other "signs" that tell me if there is a potential infestation, but they are far too complex to get into here. Again, if you do not have access to the equipment necessary to test for worms, I recommend contacting your Avian Veterinarian to have tests run, and/or running the birds through this process.
After testing and if warranted, I administer a wormer. I use Worm Away. It is mixed into the bird's water and is typically a one day treatment (always read the directions to be sure!). It can be used a second day if necessary or if I think the birds did not get the full dose (it doesn't taste good, so 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. Because it doesn't taste good, and the birds will turn their little birdy beaks up at it, 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 Worm Away back up about an hour after they have had enough time to eat. This ensures they are good and thirsty and actually drink the wormer!
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, regardless of manufacturer's claims.
STEP FOUR - Protozoa Control
Protozoa are microscopic "bugs" that swim around in your birds' intestines and crops 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 infections, hence masking the initial problem. There are 3 types of protozoa you may 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.
I DO NOT TREAT FOR COCCIDIA UNLESS FOUND PRESENT IN THEIR SYSTEM IN LARGE NUMBERS!!!
Coccidia is often found in small numbers in healthy birds. Due to over-medication and misuse of coccidiostats, we are almost to the point where they are to be expected in every bird in small numbers. Contrary to popular belief, coccidia is VERY rare in a well maintained Gouldian flock unless it was brought in via carrier from another aviary. After 20yrs and literally thousands of birds, I've rarely seen it. There are, however, some birds that DO require regular treatment for Coccidia. European Goldfinches, Homing Pigeons, and some others are notorious for heavy burdens of Coccidia. But unless I see signs - and there should BE no signs in a well maintained aviary - I will not treat proactively for Coccidia. The birds must be allowed to build up immunity. If they are receiving proper nutrition and kept in a relatively clean environment, Coccidia should not be a problem in your aviary.
Again, it is important to read labels and get a good understanding of what you are administering before doing so!
THE BREAK DOWN BY DAY…
QUARTERLY MEANS EVERY 3 MONTHS
KRISTEN REEVES, MEADOWLARK FARMS AVIAN SUPPLY, INC.
When I run them through a Quarterly Quarantine, I do not pause between treatments to give them a day or more off. On day 7 of each week, I run the birds through a dose of KD Cleanser. I typically start my procedures on a Monday, which keeps my regular KD day as Sunday. I run them back to back, day to day, as described below:
Week 1, Day 1 - External Parasite Spray (Scalex)
Week 1, Day 2 - Scatt topically AND Ivermectin (S76 or Abba Ivermectin) in the drinking water
Week 1, Day 3 – Ivermectin (S76 or Abba Ivermectin) in the drinking water AND bath water
Week 1, Day 4 – Wormer (Wormer Deluxe or Worm Away)
Week 1, Day 5 - A second day of Wormer if warranted OR plain drinking water - this may be a "regular supplement day" if you so choose. I typically run regular supplements at this time.
Week 2, Day 1 - External Parasite Spray (exactly 1 week from previous dose – Scalex)
Week 2, Day 2 – Ivermectin (S76 or Abba Ivermectin) in the drinking water AND the bath water
Week 2, Day 3 – Ivermectin (S76 or Ivermectin) in the drinking water AND the bath water
Week 2, Day 4 - Wormer (Wormer Deluxe or Worm Away)
Week 3, Day 1 – Ivermectin (S76 or Abba Ivermectin) in the drinking water AND the bath water (exactly 1 week from previous dose)
Week 3, Day 2 - Ivermectin (S76 or Abba Ivermectin) in the drinking water AND bath water
Week 3, Day 3 - Begin antiprotozoal treatment if necessary (Ronex), run for 5 full days (7 if birds are infected)
Week 3, Day 4 - Ronex
Week 3, Day 5 - Ronex
Week 3, Day 6 - Ronex
Week 3, Day 7 - Ronex (under normal circumstances, this should be the end of Quarterly Quarantine)
Week 4, Day 1 - If birds are infected, continue Ronex for the full 7 days.
Week 4, Day 2 - Last treatment of Ronex, and the end of the Quarterly Quarantine Procedures.
If you have a known case of Air Sac Mites, you may now repeat the Scatt (at 21 days), but it should NOT be necessary unless you have a full blown infection going on.
Rinse & repeat in 3 months - QUARTERLY!!!
NOTE: Be sure to 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 for products we do not sell in our store.