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 Bird Cage Portal's PET BIRD BUZZ Blog - About Pet Birds and Pet Bird Supplies
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A blog dedicated to the companion birds in your life!

Pet Bird BUZZ shares our thoughts and experiences of living with pet birds for over 25 years, along with comments about bird cages, bird supplies and accessories offered at BIRD CAGE PORTAL.  Pet Bird BUZZ is all about having a great relationship with pet birds and providing them with the best envirnoment and a great life!

Sunday, January 17 2010

Debunking of the article "Bird Marts - The single greatest threat to avian health"

There has been an article circulating the internet for some time now, which essentially bashes what is very commonplace in the bird world ... bird marts. This article makes very dangerous claims that have raised the hackles of many avian enthusiasts today. The subjects swabbed eight different events across the country for disease at such bird events. The author claims that the goal of the testing "was to be able to demonstrate these problems exist universally throughout the US" and lists the results of the events. All records listed claim that the events tested yielded positive results for two or more major diseases. The article then goes on to continually bash anyone who participates in such events.  Even going so far to conclude that "The potential for generating and spreading fatal avian diseases is unsurpassed anywhere in the world as it is at 'bird mart' type events. We have not found a single 'bird event' free of these diseases.... it is unconscionable to believe that ...

  • anyone who cares for birds would hold any event where young birds are present for display or sale 
  • anyone would attend any event to purchase items for birds
  • any person would ever attend any event with such a high degree of fatal organisms waiting to be transmitted to healthy birds
  • anyone would support or recommend any such event."

Such bold, brash statements leave me reeling every time I read this article ... and I have gone over it many times! In all fairness to such "'bird events" let’s discuss the many aspects not included in the article, and why such statements should be made with caution.

Issue #1 - "These events have risen to become the single greatest threat to bird health we have ever encountered."

The above statement is bold one. It’s enough to strike fear into any bird owners heart. The last thing we wish to do is track home communicable diseases that could make our birds sick, and potentially transmit to our entire flock. What this statement does not include is several key elements. Who backs this statement that marts are the single greatest threat we have ever encountered? Are there statistics to back up this so called data? How many birds a year are victim of disease brought home from a mart? Why target just marts? Bird marts are not the only places where people can go and interact with birds, food, and supplies in an open area. Bird stores that have live stock are the same, and there are even tourist attractions that mimic the atmosphere of a mart or show. In Miami, Florida, Parrot Jungle comes to mind. One can pay an admission fee (like a mart), walk through the many rows of birds that are out on stands and in habitats (like a mart). You can interact with some of the birds by feeding them, holding them, or even taking a picture with them (like a mart). Parrot Mountain in Tennessee is the same way. So why single out marts? There are many other venues that have the possibility to be just as dangerous, if not more.

Issue #2 - The tests and subsequent results

The article makes the bold claim that "our goal was to be able to demonstrate these problems exist universally”, and presents the results in a tabled fashion. Unfortunately, there are so many holes in the information presented its next to impossible to be able to grasp the entire picture. The article claims that eight events were tested, and swabbed for the following diseases: PBFD, Polyoma, and Chlamydia. In each event, two out of 3 diseases yielded positive results. What the article fails to say is how exactly the areas were tested. Was each area tested multiple times, in case of a false positive? Exact dates and locations are not listed, only month and year. The testing started in 1998, and ended in 2000, according to the so called study. Did the testing method vary at all? Were multiple swabs taken and tested by a panel of certified avian veterinarians, to ensure that a full spectrum study was carried out?

Unfortunately, so much as the text of the article reveals, none of the above questions can be answered. One question that lingers in my mind is if there was such a high case of disease, were the venues notified so they could be properly disinfected? Interestingly, some of the test results report positives from a "reptile exhibitor". Seeing as how reptiles are not birds, and therefore have different diseases that live on them (case in point, salmonella and turtles,) are those results an accurate reflection of true avian diseases? Another burning question I have is where these tests were taken specifically. The claim to "demonstrate these problems exist universally" cannot be supported. Eight tests in eight locations is a small number in comparison to the number of events and locations that take place each year. Because no information was given as to where the tests were conducted, it can only leave us to wonder if all these events happened in the same state or within the same area. If this is true, then the results yielded would be inconclusive as it would be a contained breakout and not one that people nationally must be concerned about.

Issue #3 - The time period

Whenever someone brings this article to my attention (as it is on a semi regular basis ... such is the internet age), the first thing I question is if this information is even relevant anymore. Why do I wonder this? Because all of this information was collected and presented eight years ago. While eight years doesn't appear to be a long time in the past, with the rapid way we are embracing technology to learn more about our avian friends, eight years can be a lifetime. Eight years ago, we knew a lot less about food, diet, nutrition, Vitamin D synthesis, and viruses (just to name a few) then we do today. In this day and age we are armed with information that can overrule previously believed and carried out bird keeping practices. In eight years, great strides have been made with diseases such as Polyoma, PDD, and Aspergilliousis. Case in point is the statement made by the article author "Some exhibitors proudly display signs stating that their birds are protected by a Polyoma vaccine. Whether or not the vaccine offers any protection from Polyoma is still up for debate...". Such a statement is a true sign of the times. Nowadays, it is the norm to vaccinate all chicks for polyoma, and species such as caiques that are more susceptible to the diseases are required to have the vaccination because it is proven to be effective.

Issue #4 - Incomplete study

The statement that winds up the article is one that boldly proclaims "We have not found a single bird event free of these diseases!"  Again, I must reiterate. Only eight events were tested. The testing stopped in the year 2000 and only spanned a period of study lasting two years. How many events occurred during and since the period of testing? One can only guess. I have attended several bird events including actual bird shows, marts (with vendors), and roundtables. Many event curators now are starting to understand the worry of disease, and taking many precautions to prevent the spread of pathogens. The last mart I attended personally, all birds that were in the area had been tested only days before by a certified avian veterinarian, and were given a clean bills of health. Birds that did not vet check well were not allowed on the premises. While this is not the case for every event I have attended, it is certainly becoming more the norm.

Be Smart

Don't let such articles keep you at home, worrying about potential diseases you could bring back to your pet bird. Anytime you enter into a store that carries live stock, go to a friend’s house that has birds, or even attend a bird club meeting, you are entering into a scenario where there would be disease. That doesn't mean you can't take proper precautions. Whenever entering into an event taking the following precautions will help keep your household happy and healthy.

  • Don't buy supplies that are unwrapped or cannot be disinfected (e.g. leather products, edible products) from any source that contains livestock. This goes for stores, educational venues, and marts/shows/etc. Always buy items that are sealed, and/or can be easily disinfected. 
  • If you interact with other animals, be sure to sanitize properly before going and interacting with your animals at home. If going out to an event, wear clothes that you can easily change out of upon arriving home. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your birds.
  • Wear an old pair of shoes. It’s been suggested that a number of pathogens are tracked in on the bottom of shoes. Wear an old pair of shoes to any such event, and remove them before walking into your house.
  • Play it safe. If you are at an event, ask to see the health certificate of the birds you interact with. Perhaps inquire if there was any required testing for the birds that are on display. When were they tested, and what were they tested for?
  • Avoid bulk bins

Bird marts, fairs, and other venues can be very educational experiences for bird owners.  Taking the proper precautions can help make these events a fun and stress-free time.




Posted by: Emily AT 11:43 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, January 10 2010
Finding a quality bird cage
Are you in need of a new bird cage? Cage shopping can be overwhelming, frustrating, and time consuming. But don't be discouraged ... when you find the perfect cage there isn't much that is as rewarding ... and yes, fun! There are so many brands and models to choose from not to mention all the little things you have to consider, such as: bar spacing, cage dimensions, style and brand, just to name a few. There are so many options out there, how can you ever narrow it down?
First, decide what you want the cage for. Will it be your bird's permanent residence? Or used as a sleeping cage or perhaps a travel carrier. Next, consider the size of the bird that will inhabit the cage. Let’s assume for the sake of this article the cage is a permanent residence.  Rule of thumb is that the cage must be wide enough for the bird to stretch its wings out fully, without getting tangled in the bars. Ideally the cage should also be double the height of the bird.  For a smaller species, this could lead to the conclusion that a small cage will work. This is not true.  Most small birds are very active and appreciate room to roam.  And don’t forget that no matter how small or large a bird is the cage must accommodate more than just the bird.  Multiple perches, toys, food/water bowls are necessities and take up space.  And for some birds, items like sleepy tents are welcome accessories.  
Next, consider your budget. While used cages sometimes prove to be good investments be sure to be sure the powder coating is in good shape, there is no rust, and the overall strength of the cage is intact.  Before allowing your birds access to a used cage disinfect the cage thoroughly with a mild bleach or products such as Pet FocusIf using bleach be sure to rinse the cage promptly so the finish is not affected.  It is possible to find a service that can re-powder coat a used cage.  However, if the powder coat is of safe quality and the workmanship meets a high criteria the expense may not prove worthwhile when added to the initial cost vs. a brand new cage.
Alternatively to a used cage, there are a number of cage manufacturers providing beautiful environments in all styles, sizes, colors, finishes and amenities.  Both powder-coated cages as well as stainless steel or aluminum cages are available to meet most any need. Prices vary, but they will be more expensive than used cages.  But with a name brand cage you can depend on the safety of the powder-coat and general construction and that it will be appropriate for your bird. 
Happy shopping!
Posted by: Emily AT 11:05 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, January 03 2010
Are you considering buying a water bottle for your bird, but don't know what to look for? When buying a bottle for a parrot you must consider the following:
  • durability
  • safety
  • ease of use
  • size 
The size of the bottle is very important.  Consider the size of the bird and size of the beak in comparison to the size of the bottle and spout. You don't want the expense of a bottle that you later find out to be suited for a canary when your bird is an amazon! You also want to consider what the bottle is made of. The cheaper alternatives are made of plastic in varying ranges of thickness. While plastic bottles may be OK for smaller birds those with larger beaks are more apt to do serious damage to the bottle. The heavy duty glass bottles (that normally resemble old milk bottles) are best for birds larger then a budgie.
You also want to make sure that the spout is made of a bird safe material. Some of the cheaper bottles have plastic spouts. You do not want to risk your bird being able to bite right through the spout and flooding its cage. Look for bottles that are outfitted with stainless steel spouts.
Is the bottle easy to use? Some bottles appear to be ok, but the ball will stick or is hard to manipulate within the spout which will restrict water flow. Other bottles may be easy for the bird to use, but hard for the human to change out on a daily basis. Even though the water bottle holds more then your average water dish, make sure to change out the water on a daily basis.  So consider ease of use from your point of view.
  There are many brands of bottles to choose from but I've found Lixit to be the best. Lixit bottle are the most popular brand and for good reason. Their water bottles come outfitted with stainless steel parts and the bottles are heavy glass that will stand up to a lot of 'beaking'.  My birds each have a glass Lixit bottle and I am very pleased with them ... they are easy to clean, stand up well to large beaks, and do not leak. 
Even if your bird has a bottle as it's water source also consider giving your bird the traditional bowl as well. Since many birds are natural "soup makers" giving them a way to wet their food will prevent attempted "dunkings" in the spout of the bottle. There are also some species that backwash for sanitary reasons, like amazons, so having a bowl of water is important. I personally use both water bowls and dishes. My birds enjoy drinking out of the bottles and will dunk their food in the bowls but then go to the bottle to actually drink. Please remember to carry out the same sanitary precautions with a water bottle as you would a bowl.
Posted by: Emily AT 11:09 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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