Written by Nicole, Oh Mowsie
Once upon a time, there was a cockatiel named Apache. She was the only cockatiel in an all human family. Her family loved her, but during work and school hours, Apache seemed lonely. It was decided that Apache might be happier if she had a friend to play with while everyone was away. Along came Neo. Neo was a young cockatiel from a small home breeder. He seemed in perfect feather and his parents looked healthy as well. The day Neo's new mom brought him home, he seemed so scared. Since he was very young, his new owner worried that he may be lonely for his parents, so she placed his cage near Apache's cage in the same room. That way they could call to one another and become acquainted. Apache seemed curious about the new cockatiel, but Neo just sat on his perch and shivered. A day went by and Neo still shivered and looked fluffy. His nares also looked stuffy. Though his mom moved his cage away from Apache's, she worried that it hadn't been soon enough. His mom called the vet, concerned that he may be sick. She was immediately chastised by her Veterinarian for not "Quarantining" her new bird and placing him in a separate room from her existing bird, Apache the moment she brought him home. "But.. he looked healthy at first".. came the bewildered mom's response. After an exam at the Vet Clinic, it was discovered that Neo was indeed ill, an upper respiratory infection that required medication to treat. Luckily, it wasn't infectious, so Apache was safe. BUT.. had it been Psittacosis, or another invisible yet highly contagious illness that doesn't always show up the first time you see a bird, Apache could have been exposed to a highly infectious illness with potentially deadly consequences.
Sound familiar? Have you bought a new bird into your home, only to be chastised for not quarantining it from your existing bird or birds? Have you ever thought of bringing a new bird home and wondered what the big "quarantine issue" is all about? Have you ever brought a bird home and thought.. "Naw... she's FINE! Just look at her!" and been tempted to skimp out on the quarantine? If any of these questions apply to you, or if you are simply curious as to why quarantine is so important, please read on.
The story above is not just a story. This happened to me and Apache and Neo were my first two cockatiels. I now have six and I quarantine each new bird who enters my home. Now I know better, and I feel its important to share what I have learned with others who are just starting out with birds or who may be introducing another bird into their household for the first time.
Birds are masters of disguise. When ill, its part of their instinct to hide their illnesses until they are barely able to stand to prevent being picked off by predators. Because of this, a bird can look healthy when in fact, its masking symptoms that may go unnoticed upon a casual inspection in a store or at a breeders.
Often times, symptoms of illness may even lie dormant in a bird who is not stressed (in its familiar environment), however the stress of moving to a new home and eating new food is enough to flare up a condition LIKE an upper respiratory infection or Psittacosis (for instance) and the bird can begin a downward spiral shortly after arriving in its new home. So many times, you hear "He looked perfectly healthy at the store, but now he looks awful, what happened?" Well.. he had a dormant illness that flared up after the stress of moving. That's what happened. Imagine taking that bird with a dormant illness, assuming its well.. and tossing it in your cage with your well flock and then it goes down hill a day later? Your whole flock is exposed to whatever is wrong with that bird now. THAT is the whole purpose of quarantine: to AVOID that type of thing.
Illnesses like Psittacosis have a three-week incubation period. That means, if a bird is exposed (in a pet store environment for example) to this particular virus, symptoms will usually begin to appear after three weeks. The standard quarantine is 30 days. The theory behind this is that most illnesses will have time to manifest themselves and the birds will have time begin showing symptoms after exposure within that thirty day time period in your home. Some veterinarians even suggest 45 or 60 day quarantines. It is also highly recommended that you obtain a well bird checkup within the initial quarantine time period for your new bird to establish a "base line" of health for your bird. If all is well, you have an established place to work from if your bird ever become ill, meaning, your vet is familiar with your bird in its healthy state and knows what to aim for, and if your bird is ill upon examination, your veterinarian can trouble shoot any potential problems early on, and help your new bird overcome them as well as ward off a potential nightmare if the rest of your flock is exposed to your new bird in its ill state.
NEVER assume your bird is healthy just because a breeder or someone behind the counter at a pet store "says" so. Anyone who says "Don't worry about quarantining your bird, he's had a checkup"... Is a nutcase and not to be trusted. Can they give you the complete history of the bird Can they tell you exactly where the bird has been and what it has been exposed too in its entire life? The lady who sold Neo "said" he was healthy but I had to learn the hard way. Now, the ONLY person who can tell me my bird is healthy, is the bird himself. And I'll only believe him after he's spent his 30 days in quarantine, had his vet check up and all looks well.