|So you've finally got your finches settled
into their new aviary. Time to sit back and watch them flit around and
produce heaps of youngsters. You've picked the best birds that the
dealers and breeders had to offer, right? Your main jobs are over apart
from water, seed, greens and a little livefood, right? Wrong !! It's
just starting! "Oh, come on. What else is there?" I hear you say. Well,
sit back and let me play devils advocate for you and let's see what can
go wrong if you become complacent.
Quarantine: Did all your new birds spend some time in the isolation cage? "Look, I picked the healthiest stock the dealer/breeder had, they don't need to be separated - do they?" Fraid so, and various people recommend different lengths of time, but the period of 40 days appears in the literature most often - maybe a biblical reason !! Why so long? Well, it is to allow for the symptoms of any illness or parasite to manifest itself BEFORE you let it loose among the rest of your flock. It is often easier to treat one bird than 21. Sure you only selected the fittest looking birds but they still might have been in the early stages of some condition.
It is at this stage that a microscope could prove to be your greatest ally. There are a number of 'do-it-yourself' guides to parasite eggs, fungi and some bacteria available on the book shelves and you don't need to be a biologist to identify many commoner types. However, if the idea of wading about in bird poo doesn't appeal then a good bird vet can help you solve many a problem - money well spent.
I guess the hardest thing about a quarantine program is adhering to
it for EVERY bird we obtain! But, it's often the bird you get from your
mate across town that can carry as much disease as the one from the
crowded dealers cages. Let's move on and examine the two main places
that your birds might come from and the sorts of things we need to be
aware of when making a selection.
So at least find out what he/she has treated them with since their
arrival in the shop. What - nothing at all!! And you were going to put
them straight in with your nice 'clean' birds at home - shame!! Well,
I'm probably starting to scare you by now so I may as well up the ante!
Perhaps a brief mention of some of the commoner 'nasties' might help us
design an effective control program.
Well, I bet by now you're ready to chuck down these ramblings and head for the nearest produce store to purchase the best 'all-in-one' wormer you can get.
"At least if I treat for these in my quarantine program I'll be all right for a long time-won't I?" Sorry, got MORE bad news for you. Wouldn't really matter all that much if one of your birds was infested with these worms it couldn't pass them on in a 'dangerous' form.
"What!!" Well, if I can remember my parasitology notes from long ago it goes a little like this: Both of these worms need what is called an intermediate host - usually an insect or other invertebrate. The bird picks up a worm egg from somewhere. The egg doesn't hatch but is simply 'primed' and passed out in the droppings. Here it lurks about until it is eaten by insects (often slaters, earwigs and beetles) where it hatches and develops into the next stage. Along comes your bird and eats some of these insects which allows the worm to enter the birds system and NOW it is in a form that is capable of wreaking havoc in your birds. That is a pretty abridged version of the process but it does tell you that you must treat the birds AND the creepy-crawly denizens of your aviaries in order to control parasitic worms. So then, in our new aviary how do we stop this problem? A quote from some film about "Eternal vigilance" springs to mind! Basically, no matter how great your aviary is 'they' will get in. "How?" you say. On your shoes, on or in your greenfood and seeding grass heads, through the open section of your roof or simply transported in by the humble ant. "Ants! - no bird eats those horrible things? - Do they?" Sorry, I once thought like you until I had more time to watch my birds and observed 3 species of finches eating the blasted things!! And this doesn't even include the birds that like to rub a little formic acid over their feathers when indulging in the habit of 'anting'.
Ye gods!! And I've only mentioned a few problems that I've encountered during my birdkeeping. That is without things like megabacteria, roundworms, fungal diseases or air sac mites. Here's a bit of disease trivia for you. Did you know that rats, mice and wild birds can give your birds a bacterial disease called Yersiniosis? The bacterium is called Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and is a close relative of the Black Death organism, Y.pestis.
Its symptoms are usually a large number of sudden deaths when your birds are rearing youngsters. On autopsy the liver is swollen and blotchy. Still like that open roof or vermin attracting compost heap!!!
Well, I've no doubt scared a few would be armchair finch keepers by
now so I feel obliged to list a few products that could be helpful to
you in maintaining your stock. PLEASE be warned I am NOT a vet, many of
these products are NOT specifically designed for use in finches but they
are products that have worked - at least I believe they have!- for me.
Most of these have been recommended by vets with extensive bird
experience and to them I am most grateful.
These are the main products that I use on my finches. I alternate the
wormers that I use so as to reduce the possibility that the worms will
develop a resistance to any one particular drug. If you know any serious
livestock farmers you should check to see the various parasite control
programs that they run to keep their animals in top condition. It
certainly made me re-think some of my approaches to the use of
chemicals. Chemicals can be our best or worst friends depending upon HOW
we use them. Make sure you follow the instructions on the container, the
advice of a fellow aviculturalist, or better yet contact your bird vet
before you start your program. A well thought out approach to possible
disease problems will have you sitting back in that lounge chair again
with a clear conscience - well, at least till the first chicks demand
that extra attention!!!
Written by Marcus Pollard - Copyright remains with the author.