You are bringing home a new bird.
Everyone in the house is interested in “the box”.
Don’t introduce the new arrival to the existing feathered family members just yet – it’s time to quarantine.
Quarantine – “enforced isolation of patients suffering from a contagious disease in order to prevent the spread of disease” or “under forced isolation especially for health reasons“
It’s important to keep new birds separated and isolated from your existing birds to prevent the spread of illness. Even if your new pet appears very healthy there are a number of reasons to enforce a strict quarantine:
- Birds are excellent at masking their symptoms – they have a reputation of suddenly becoming seriously ill when in fact they have been sick for months (sneaky devils!).
- Subclinical illness – a bird may be a little bit sick. The stress of moving into a new household can lower natural defenses and allow a mild illness to become something significant. That’s why you don’t go for a jog in the rain if you have a cold – it could make you sick enough to stay in bed.
- Carrier status – some birds, just like some people, can be carriers of disease without showing any symptoms. They can, however, pass their illness on to others.
A period of isolation allows time for an underlying disease to bubble to the surface and present itself. It allows time to have a bird tested for disease and treated, if necessary.
So – how long? How to do it?
We recommend a minimum of 30 days (4 weeks) but 45 days is better. Disease can travel on the air or be transferred from one pet to another on our hands, clothes and even our feet.
Ideally, keep your new pet in a separate room with a separate air flow. If you’re like me, a city apartment dweller, you can’t do that. Quarantine is all about which risks you are willing to take – there is no one right answer. For example, at a USDA pet bird quarantine facility, caps, masks, coveralls or gown, boots, disposable containers and air filtration with HEPA-filters are used to impose a true quarantine and limit disease transmission. You can’t do that and neither could I. But you could still have an effective quarantine with a few simple steps.
So what can I do?
Keep the birds as far apart as possible. Keep the doors between rooms shut to decrease air flow between rooms. Always move from the “old” birds to the “new” birds – if air blows through your house north to south, put the “old” birds at the north end. Feed, water and clean the cages of the “old” birds before moving to the “new” birds. Always wash your hands after handling either bird or items either bird has encountered. Keep a smock or old shirt and hat in the “new” bird room and put them on when entering. Be sure to take them off before leaving!
Have your new bird examined by a veterinarian prior to introducing to the rest of the household. Even if he or she passes the exam, if you have any concerns about health – talk to your vet. Once a quarantine has been broken, it can’t be reinstated with any effectiveness.
We know that many many times birds are brought home and placed in with the existing pets immediately. This is never a problem if both birds are healthy. But it’s just a few weeks to do your best to ensure that illness doesn’t pass between the two. And it’s never fun to start a relationship with a whole lot of medicating!