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The bird nursery is perhaps the place where hygiene is most important. Bacteria are common causes of disease in baby psittacines and in other groups. This is partly because these birds lack the mature defense systems of the adults and their homeostatic mechanisms are easily disturbed leading to stress, infection and death.

The general bacterial flora of psittacine guts is essentially gram positive. A variety of gram negative bacteria are particularly problematic in causing disease, these include E.coli, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, and Pseudomonas, a number of which will pass through birds but any stress may lead to an overwhelming infection. Isolation, Identification and treatment based on sensitivity patterns are essential for successful avian medicine. The aviculturist can have a major role to play in prevention of infection.

Artificially incubated chicks can acquire infection in the incubator. Fecal contamination on one egg can be spread by means of the humidifying apparatus soaking bacteria off the affected egg and onto others.

The first precaution is to wipe the eggs gently prior to placing in the incubator, to remove gross contamination. In the washing solution use a suitable disinfectant/cleanser. For this type of use the disinfectant should have certain properties:
> it must be safe and non toxic
> it must have good cleansing properties
> it leaves a biocidal coating on the egg eg.Amprotect EGG WASH

To prevent possible cross contamination from adult birds or other eggs, hands should be either gloved with 'sterile gloves' or treated with a suitable disinfectant. Here the disinfectant may have slightly different properties:
> it should be non-irritant to the skin
> it should be easy to use eg. Amprotect Hand rinse

The water in the humidifier is a great risk as this can be a major means of infecting eggs with Pseudomonas. Regular changes of water help reduce the risk as do the other measures mentioned but the potential value of the eggs within the incubator warrant taking extra care. A suitable disinfectant such as ARK-KLENS can be incorporated in the water.

Infertile eggs and those with non-viable embryos should be removed as soon as possible, otherwise they will act as growth sites for bacteria.  24 hours prior to hatching, the egg may be transferred to a shallow tray in the hatcher which has been previously washed in a disinfectant such as Ark-Klens, this means that the newly hatched chick enters a clean world and that bits of egg shell with
membranes etc don't contaminate the main incubator.

Immediately after hatching, the 'umbilical' region of the chick should be swabbed with a diluted tamed iodine preparation eg. Tamodine to reduce the risks of subsequent infection.

The two major worries of parrot breeders at this stage are Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) caused by a circovirus and Psittacine Polyomavirus/ Budgerigar Fledgling Disease (BFD) caused by a papovavirus. These can both be egg transmitted and chicks usually hatch successfully but may infect others in the same brooder. Both diseases may manifest at Fledging, PBFD mainly with feather lesions and death, Polyomavirus particular with major subcutaneous hemorrhages and deaths.

In the bird room, the cages inevitably become contaminated and harbor infection, nestlings can become infected in nest boxes and so veterinary help in detecting carrier birds may be very important. Some parent birds may carry infections in the crop which are not found on fecal sampling. The risks presented by carrier birds are very great if practicing cross-fostering etc as
some large breeders do, this can be very risky unless top-notch hygiene is practiced and the stock is known to be free of carriers. Warm bird rooms where birds are fed fresh or cooked foods can build up infections very easily, so disinfection by spray to wash down cages and walls is important.

Cooked mash can turn into a culture of Pseudomonas in well under 24 hours! So uneaten mash should be disposed of if not consumed within 6 hours. It is important to remember that bacterial growth can occur in bottled water, particularly that produced in the home by filtration. Its safety of use, combined with its cleansing properties make Ark-Klens a suitable disinfectant in intensive bird rooms. Weekly or monthly use of Tamodine-E as a thorough disinfectant is worthwhile.

Kitchen hygiene is very important, syringes used for feeding birds should be soaked in disinfectant as should all other utensils including bowls and even blenders or food processors. Ark-Klens is ideal for this and should be rinsed off afterwards.

The above information has been taken from the VETARC website (link on the Avian Health & Disease Prevention website) ...

Sibylle Faye