Almost everyone says they quarantine their new birds. However, it is
surprising how many make no attempt at all to keep the new bird separate
from their collection.
To many people, putting a bird in a separate cage from their other
birds for a couple of days is what they consider adequate quarantine
procedure. Many times this cage is not only in the same room as the other
birds, but is placed next to another bird's cage. For a true quarantine
situation, the bird should really be housed in a separate building away
from your other birds.
Although people seem to understand about bacteria, viruses, etc.,
concerning human health, they act as if these things do not exist when it
comes to birds. Since they can't see them, they assume they aren't there.
They seem to feel that nothing bad will happen to them.
One of the biggest downfalls of some owners and breeders is that they
feel they can tell a sick bird just by looking at him. I wish they could
but unfortunately when a bird shows signs of illness, he is very, very
ill. Birds are food for many animals. In the wild, if a bird appears ill,
it will attract predators. Fellow flock members may pick on the sick bird
or chase him from the flock. Instinctively, the bird knows that he will
not survive if he shows any signs of illness. He will try to act normal
for as long as possible.
Recently a breeder purchased a pair of new birds and immediately placed
them with her other birds. Her safety procedure was to remove one of her
birds that looked a little suspicious. Since she bought the pair from a
person that does regular vet checks and blood tests, the woman felt
confident that the new birds were healthy. These birds probably were
healthy but what about her own birds? What disease could they spread to
her new pair? If one of the birds appeared "suspicious", the
rest of her flock may not be up to par as well.
People will get away with lax quarantine procedures for years but
eventually, it will catch up with them. Because their parrots are not
showing illnesses immediately, the person feels his birds are healthy. He
will never understand when a disease suddenly runs through his aviary
killing most of his flock. These people are playing Russian Roulette. It
is not a matter of if their birds will become ill, but rather when their
birds will become ill.
Whenever you purchase a new bird and add it to your collection it must
be vet checked and quarantined. Since the stop of importation we can
no longer be lazy and careless with our present stock.
A person told me that her birds would not pick up any disease as they
were never stressed. She believed that only stressed birds became ill.
What she failed to understand was that stress takes many forms. A change
in food, water, temperature, environment, caretaker or mate as well as
producing young can all stress a bird. Even healthy birds can pick up a
viral, bacterial or fungal infection, just as people can pick up the flu
or a cold by being in contact with a person that is sick with these.
So why don't more people quarantine their new birds? Most of
them do not like the inconvenience of not having all the birds in one room
and of having to wash their hands between handling the birds. Others are
eager to get males and females together so that they can start raising
families. Another big reason is the lack of another building to house the
new birds or even space in their home. Most birds are regulated to a
bathroom or bedroom. Their owners are eager to be able to have those rooms
free again. Incidentally, bathrooms make a very poor quarantine area. Too
many people are coming and going out of the room and it generally exposes
the bird to several types of bacteria. Many people think that a disease
just won't happen to them--that it is something that happens to other
The dictionary defines quarantine as:
"Keep away from others for a time to prevent the spread of an
infectious disease. Detention, isolation, and other measures taken to
prevent the spread of infectious disease." The root quaranta
means forty, with reference to 40 days as the original period of
isolation. Forty is still a good quarantine number with 60 being even
better yet for the number of days that a new bird should be isolated from
your other birds.
Any bird added to your present flock can endanger your birds. Some
people feel that a parakeet is so small and common that it won't hurt
their other birds. Parakeets can carry some terrible diseases that will
kill even the largest parrots. Quarantine rules apply to all birds,
regardless of where they are purchased from, size, type or price.
People who rescue birds from abusive or negligent situations or buy
birds out of pity from a bad environment run a high risk of infecting
their other birds. These birds can easily be ill from poor diets, abuse,
no vet checks, and filthy living conditions. I admire people who try to
help these birds, but they must take precautions not to infect their
present birds. As responsible bird owners, they owe it to their present
birds to protect them against disease. If you are rescuing birds, you must
follow very strict quarantine procedures and be willing to put up with the
extra work and inconvenience that quarantine imposes.
Another area where you must be careful is taking care of a friend's
bird. Even your best friend's bird should be quarantined from your birds.
This is not an insult to your friend, but rather good bird care habits on
your part. One should never be over-sensitive and think that someone has
quarantined your bird because they think you do not take good care of your
birds. Also if you board your bird at a pet store or any other place where
there are other birds, you are again exposing your birds to possible
disease. When you take them to bird shows or meetings where there are
other birds you increase the chance of picking up a disease. When you go
any place where there are birds, you run the risk of bringing a disease
back to your birds. Changing clothes and showering will help to keep down
the odds of transferring a disease to your flock.
People selling or caring for baby birds must also use quarantine
procedures with the babies. Those people that buy babies for resale from
different breeders should not place all the babies together. They
definitely should not use the same feeding utensils unless they disinfect
them between use. They should also be washing their hands between handling
of clutches. Babies are very prone to disease as their immune systems are
not fully developed. The nursery should be kept very clean and strangers
discouraged from going into this area as well as handling the babies.
So what should one do to quarantine a bird? Ideally it should be a
building separate from where your other birds are kept. You do not want
the birds to share the same air from heating and cooling systems as they
would if they are in the same building. Not many people's friends would be
bird free and willing to keep a new bird for 30 days or more. If a
separate building is not possible, then a room with a door that can be
shut and that is away from the rest of your flock will have to do. You do
not want to walk through your quarantine area in order to get to your own
birds. If possible there should be a hall between your quarantine area and
where your other birds are kept.
Slippers or shoes should be left in the quarantine room so that you
will not carry anything on your shoes to your other birds. If you are
going to hold the bird, you should also have a smock or shirt that you
wear only in the quarantine room.Your hands should be washed thoroughly
with an antibacterial soap between handling of the bird in quarantine and
your other birds.
Cages, toys, dishes and perches should not be shared with the bird in
the quarantine area and your other birds. Anything that the bird touches
should not be shared with your other birds. Anything from that room should
not be near your other birds. You should care for and clean your birds
before your new bird.
Daily check the bird's droppings, feed dishes, and general appearance
to see if there are any signs of illness. Feed dishes that remain full
mean that your bird is not eating. Empty water dishes may mean your bird
is bathing in his water dish or that he is drinking a large amount of
water. This could be caused by stress or by illness. The color and
consistency of the droppings may suggest illness or it may reflect what he
has eaten. A bird that is fluffed up and listless may indicate that your
bird is trying to keep warm. If the room is kept at a comfortable
temperature, this may be an indication that the bird is ill.
No new birds should be added to the quaranine room. If another bird is
added, the quarantine times starts all over again for the one already
Keep the new bird in quarantine for at least 30 days and better yet, 60
days or even 90 days. After your observations fail to show any signs of
illness, he has been taken to an avian vet for a complete checkup and all
test results are in, you can put him in the same room as your other birds
(provided your other birds have regular vet checks and have proven to be
Quarantine is time consuming, inconvenient and more work. However, it
also saves the lives of many birds and prevents many others from becoming
ill. It can keep your breeding stock in top health and thus producing many
clutches of strong, beautiful babies. For the pet owner, it ensures that
you and your pets will spend many years of quality time together.
People seldom regret having taken the extra time and effort that
quarantine requires, but many people have said that they wished they would
have taken proper quarantine procedures after a tragedy strikes.