Healthcare


Gouldian finches are prone to a vast array of infectious and genetic diseases. Illness plagued my aviary for about ten years before I developed a system for maintaining a disease-free flock. I use a multitude of tools to ward off illness. The most important foundation for

health in Gouldians is strong genes. I never breed birds that have any suspicious physical weaknesses: I’ve never gotten away with this so I finally gave up trying! After genetic health is achieved, I rely on nutritional strategies for health maintenance (see “Feeding”), strict quarantine protocols, and good hygiene practices (see “Cleaning”). This takes me most of the way in terms of preventing disease, but I also rely on herbal medicine when disease actually strikes.



Quarantine:

I have learned the importance of stringent quarantine practices the hard way. In 1993, I lost my entire flock of two hundred Gouldian finches to the Gouldian herpesvirus, which came into my flock through some parrot finches from Belgium. I did quarantine the parrot finches, but not correctly. Again, not many years ago, I set off a six month long outbreak of air sac mites among my entire Gouldian flock due to carelessness in quarantine. It’s simply not worth it to risk these types of consequences in order to forego a few months of trouble with incoming birds.

All my incoming birds go directly into a quarantine cage on the second floor of my house where there are no other birds. Within 24 hours I place the new birds on an antimicrobial neem leaf tea as their sole water source. Neem leaf tea is wonderful to use for Gouldians because while non-toxic to birds, it eradicates air sac mites, bacteria, fungus and parasites simultaneously. The eggs of air sac mites

(and other parasites) are rendered unable to hatch by the neem tea, which substantially reduces the likelihood that mites will persist as a chronic, long-term condition. I honestly don’t know how I managed before I discovered this tea. I generally use the neem tea for anywhere from three to six weeks, five days a week, with plain water offered on the weekends. For more information on neem leaf tea, please feel free to join my yahoogroups email list essentialbird where all types of natural remedies for birds are discussed (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/essentialbird). There are a number of other herbal remedies that I may add to my quarantine protocol, depending on the condition of the birds. I have written several articles about natural treatments for quarantine and specific avian diseases which can be found in the files section of the email group essentialbird at the address listed above. 


If new birds are visibly or audibly infected with air sac mites, I may use a drop of Scatt on the back between the shoulder blades to speed things along. One drop of Scatt will last three weeks in a bird’s system, which means three less weeks of neem tea. However, I feel that the neem tea is infinitely safer. I have had numerous fatalities and close calls using Scatt: it is a serious medication. For an active air sac mite infestation, I have found that six to eight weeks of treatment is necessary in order to completely eliminate the problem.

Disease Treatments:

When disease does strike one of my Gouldians, I immediately treat the individual bird in isolation, and if I suspect contagious disease, I treat every other finch in the house. Because I rely on herbal medicine, this is not harmful to the flock, and is fairly easy to administer as most of the time I use airborne remedies or teas. As the administration of these remedies varies from case to case it is difficult to elaborate on


Sunlight:

Despite my best efforts, some Gouldians simply fail to thrive. In these cases, as a last resort, I always try placing the birds outdoors in direct sunlight. When all else fails, this technique has often worked miracles for me. Captive Gouldians are meant to live outdoors in sunlight,

and their optimal health can be restored by providing them with access to the sun. Outdoor living has tremendous challenges in the way of predators, fungal exposure, parasite exposure, etc., but with stubborn cases, it has always been worth the effort for me to set these birds up outdoors, even in winter! 


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specific treatment protocols; however, again, please feel free to join the yahoogroup essentialbird to learn more about these amazing natural remedies. One of the most convenient and exciting features of herbal medicine is the fact that antimicrobial plants tend to cover broad spectrums of pathogens and do not require prior lab testing to determine the specific pathogen to be treated. Since we rarely know whether we are dealing with a bacterial, parasitic or fungal infection in a sick Gouldian, it has been a godsend to me to be able to apply a safe, broad spectrum antimicrobial in these situations and effect a cure. Additionally, plant remedies will not produce resistant strains of pathogens the way conventional medicines can; therefore frequent or long term use will not lead to the development of superbugs in our flocks. Natural medicine really works well in Gouldians: I don’t know where I would be without it.

With visibly healthy newcomers, I might quarantine for only four weeks, which is the minimum length of quarantine I use. With sick birds, I will generally medicate them with natural remedies for up to six weeks, and then continue observing them in quarantine

for several additional weeks until I am certain that it is safe to incorporate them into my flock. This long quarantine period, coupled with aggressive antimicrobial treatments, ensures that I rarely have problems with contagious disease.