By Linda S. Rubin
Parrot owners may hesitate to include cockatiels, budgies (parakeets) and conures in their homes or aviaries, because the latter species can sometimes be carriers of disease. Carriers usually do not show the symptoms of disease; however, when they intermittently shed the virus, other pet birds can become infected.
This does not mean other parrots cannot be carriers, but it suggests that some parrots are more apt to survive an illness and pass it on, which others might succumb to. For example, Chlamydiosis (psittacosis), psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), proventricular dilatation disease (PDD) and Pacheco's disease may all be spread by parrots that initially appear healthy.
To be certain that a new pet cockatiel, pet budgie (parakeet), pet conure, or any other pet bird is not carrying disease, it should automatically be tested before adding it to the home flock or working aviary. Your avian veterinarian will recommend specific tests such as gram stains, cultures and blood work. Discuss the pros and cons of vaccination with your avian veterinarian if a vaccine exists. Some vaccines are safer than others and risks must be weighed in any decision of whether or not to use one.
Any new pet or aviary bird should be set up in a quarantine area that is on a separate air system from existing birds. The quarantine must last a minimum of 30 days — preferably 60 or 90 days if disease is suspected — and until test results come back and all birds are cleared. To keep costs down when purchasing a group of birds, one or two birds (or any sick birds) can be selected as a representative for testing.
Employ strict quarantine guidelines for the safety of any new pet or aviary bird and the safety of existing pet or aviary birds. The time during quarantine can be spent in acclimating new birds to their surroundings, gradually changing over the birds to their new avian diet and getting acquainted. If a pet bird is sick or stressed, training should be postponed. Always feed quarantined pet or aviary birds after feeding and watering existing birds, then change clothes, and wash up and disinfect after servicing the birds under quarantine. These bio-security measures will help to safeguard all your pet birds.