Husbandry and Medical Management of the Nursery


Many of the common disease problems encountered in the nursey are related to improper husbandry. The conditions under which baby birds are kept have a profound influence on their health. Disease prevention is the most economically sound base on which to build a successful nursey management program.

An important aspect in the management of the avian nursey is the veterinarian's relationship with the aviculturist. Through the combined efforts of the avian veterinarian and the aviculturist, specific individual husbandry techniques and preventive measures can be developed.

There are a myriad of problems known and suspected to be related to inadequate management practices in an avian nursery. We now have a better understanding about the etiology of pediatric diseases to prevent many of these problems. This paper will define the majority of these problems as seen in psittacines with an emphasis on preventive medicine.

Diets and Feeding Techniques There are as many formulas as there are people that handfeed babies. Although specific nutritional requirements are not known, many different diets have proven successful for a variety of species. Several of these have been published over the years. There are now several prepared formulas commercially available. Whatever diet is chosen, it is very important not to radically change the ingredients. Every time a new dietary ingredient is added, nutri-

ent ratios change, which can lead to problems such as crop stasis or stunting.

Water content, consistency and temperature of the diet are also important. The diet's proportion of solids-to-liquids and viscosity will affect crop emptying time. Very young birds should receive a more diluted formula. As the birds develop, the formula should be about the consistency of cream of wheat. Because a large number of gramnegative bacteria may be found in tap water, it is best to use Lactated Ringers, Pedialyte ™, or bacteriostatic water (bottled or filtered) as the formula dilutant, The temperature of the formula is critical to its acceptance. The optimum temperature for feedings is 100' - 105° F. Birds may be reluctant to feed or may develop hyperthermia and crop stasis with food that is less than 100° F. Food hotter than 105° F may cause the crop to burn. Mild burns may heal without treatment or surgery. Fistulas with subsequent leakage of formula will require surgical repair. The handfeeding formulas should be prepared fresh for each feeding. Baby formulas that have been mixed and stored improperly commonly grow contaminants of gramnegative bacteria and yeasts. For convenience, one may mix and freeze single portions in ice cube trays. Whichever method is used, strict hygiene is of utmost importance.

Handfeeding can be accomplished by using a variety of utensils. Spoons, syringes, plastic bottles and feeding tubes have all been used successfully. A separate feeding utensil should be used for each bird. Spoons are slow and can


be messy, pipettes and squeeze bottles are difficult to measure the amount fed, and feeding tubes, although quick, can be dangerous. Catheter-tipped syringes in a variety of sizes are the most popular feeding utensil. Syringes can be filled and kept in a hot water bath to maintain formula temperature. Between feedings all utensils should be thoroughly washed and soaked in disinfectant. Syringes and other feeding utensils should never be refilled after feeding a bird until it is cleaned, otherwise this can be a common way to transmit disease by contamination of the formula. All sick and suspected ill birds should be isolated and always fed last with utensils stored separately.

Housing and Bedding

There are many ways to house baby birds. The proper environment can affect the well-being of a chick. Psittacine chicks are altricial and as such require a heat source to regulate their body temperature until they become feathered. Most babies are traditionally raised in thermostatically controlled brooders. Some aviculturists use heating pads under plastic tubs, aquariums or cardboard boxes; however, heating pads are unstable and can be dangerous. The environmental temperature and humidity are critical factors. Birds younger than one week should be kept at 90" - 94° F. As a bird matures the temperature should be gradually decreased until the bird is fully feathered and then maintained at 75° - 80" F. The humidity should be greater than 50%, with an optimum of 55 - 75%.

Heat and cold stresses are a predisposing origin for disease in nurseries. Environmental temperatures too high may cause dehydration, hyperactivity, panting, poor growth rates or death. Too cold of environmental temperatures can result in crop stasis, inactivity, lack of feeding response, pale skin color, shivering or death. When the humidity is too high fungal infections are more prevalent. Humidity that is too low will often cause crop stasis, dehydration, dry flaky skin or constricted toes.

Hatchlings are placed in small plastic containers, one or more birds to a container. One bird per container is preferred to contain the spread of any disease, while two or more birds are placed together for psychological or social benefits. These containers should have solid sides and a flat-bottomed surface. 





Clipsham R: Pediatric management and medicine, .J Assoc Avian Yd 1(1): 10-13, 1989.

Clipsham R: Avicultural medical diagnostics and therapeutics. Proc of Avian Pediatric Seminar, Concord, 1991, pp 61-92.

Clubb SL: Pxittac inc pediatrics, Proc Assoc Avian Yd, Miama, 1986, pp 317-332.

Flammer K: Pediatric medicine. In Harrison G.J, Harrison LR (ed): Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery, Philadelphia, WB Saunders So., 1986, pp 634-650.

Gaskin .J: Considerations in the diagnosis and control of psittacine viral infections, Proc Assoc Avian Yd, Oahu, Hawaii, 1987, pp 1-14. 6.

Harrison G.J, Harrison LR (eds): Clinical Avian Medicine and Surgery, Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co., 1986, pp 85-100.

Joyner K: Avicultural pediatrics, Proc of Avian Pediatric Seminar, Union City, 1988, pp 83- 92