Many birds and small animals are not native to Australia and not naturally equipped to deal with the blistering summer heatwaves. At the height of summer, the best option, especially for small animals is to offer them sanctuary inside under controlled temperatures. For birds in an aviary, this may not be an option, so here are some tips to help you get your pets through those sweltering summer days.
Temperatures over 28°c may cause heat stress. Preferred or safe temperatures for small animals are roughly 16-24°c
DANGER ZONE: PETS IN DISTRESS!
Animals stressed by the heat will often behave differently than normal. They may lose their balance, collapse or appear lethargic and stressed. Below are some tell tale signs that your pet will display when it is distressed. It’s essential for you be able to identify these signs, and to know what to do if you see them, but the main thing to remember is that heat stress can set in quickly and you must seek veterinary attention immediately.
During summer, if inside the house is not an option for pets then access to full shade, cool water and electrolytes is essential.
You may have to move your pet’s cage during the day to ensure they have access to shade all day long. Even a few minutes in full sun can be enough to kill on hot days!
Shade cloth is a simple and effective means of reducing temperatures.
If using metal cages keep in mind they retain the heat and your pet will not be able to keep cool.
A misting system can be a tremendous help, and on average will reduce the temperature by about 10 degrees. Make sure you place it somewhere your pet can get cool, but still leaving enough dry area to get away from the mist if they want to.
Cool clean water is essential. Cool being the operative word. Adding a block of ice to water containers and freezing water bottles can help. If using bowls for water, then try to use deeper bowls rather than wide shallow bowls as water will stay cooler for longer. Adding a little bit of Spark Liquid to the water ensures your pet stays hydrated and recharged.
HEAT STRESS AND LIFESAVING ELECTRO – WHATS??
Cooling your pet down is only half the battle. The other half is trying to keep their body chemistry normal. Without getting really complicated, when animals or people get hot, changes begin taking place within the body that can lead to heat stress. These changes are centered around electrolytes and the loss of these all important components of the body due to dehydration.
All animals have electrolytes including humans. They are essential for cells and organs to function normally.
So making electrolytes available to our pets becomes a really important and lifesaving factor. You can use Spark Liquid for this job. Simply add it to your animal’s clean cool water, and you will support your pets with the final piece of equipment they need to deal with the burning inferno that is our beloved Australian summer.
If you rescue an animal suffering from heat stress and dehydration, wrap it loosely in a towel, place in a cardboard box and offer water to drink. Spraying with a fine mist of water can help to cool it down. Leave it in a dark, cool and quiet place and contact your local wildlife organisation. Be sure to record the location of where the animal was found so that it can be returned to the area if it recovers.
A wild lorikeet has to work for its food, flying from tree to tree and foraging for a large portion of their day. Our pet lorikeets on the other hand, only have to hop over to their feed bowl. In addition, while wild diets do contain sugar, they do not contain sugars that humans have chemically refined – so why are we feeding our pet birds that do comparatively little exercise, a diet brimming with refined sugar? Because our birds love the taste and refined sugar is cheap!
BETTER FOOD NATURALLY!
When formulating a new lorikeet diet, Vetafarm’s nutritionists took a different approach. By avoiding processed foods, by-products and refined sugars, we developed Forest Fusion. A far cry from the traditional refined sugar and breadcrumb mixes of the past, Forest Fusion contains wholesome low GI ingredients as a base, along with Australian bee pollen, real fruits, vitamins, minerals and organic acids.
Forest Fusion does NOT contain refined sugars, instead it is flavoured with the natural sweetness of real dates and blueberry extract.
WILL MY LORIKEET LIKE FOREST FUSION?
Vetafarm have used real dates, Eucalyptus bee pollen and blueberry extract to achieve a sweet food without the need for refined sugar. However, some lorikeets have developed what can only be considered an addiction to refined sugar. These birds may need to be converted onto Forest Fusion gradually – but it is certainly achievable!
Converting your Lorikeet onto a low sugar diet
Converting a Lorikeet from a food high in refined sugar, to a formula that contains much less, or no refined sugar is simple. However some birds may need some time and patience on your behalf. Vetafarm has a number of great foods and while we are focused specifically on Forest Fusion in this article, this technique will work for any of our Lorikeet diets.
WHERE TO START?
First offer Forest Fusion in a separate bowl along with your bird’s regular formula and simply observe their response. Most Lorikeets will investigate a new food and try it first. Many will readily consume Forest Fusion without delay. If this is the case with your Lorikeet, simply change to the new formula and your job is done!
If you observe some head flicking, this usually translates to “what is that taste in my mouth!”. It doesn’t mean the conversion has failed, just that the taste and texture is very different to your birds previous high sugar diet. Give them a day with the formula to give it a decent try.
After tasting Forest Fusion, if your bird decides that they’re sticking to their old high sugar diet we need to take the next step in the conversion process.
Conversion tip! Try offering some wet Forest Fusion from your hand or on a favourite treat.
Mix 75% of the old diet with 25% new diet and place the mix in the bird’s regular food bowl. You can do this wet or dry, depending on how you usually feed your bird. Over the next 5 days, when preparing food gradually decrease the old formula and increase the amount of Forest Fusion by about 10% each day.
By day 5, 75% of the mix should be Forest Fusion. If your bird is eating this mix happily, then try straight Forest Fusion the following day. Be sure you still make fruit and vegetables available throughout the conversion process.
Conversion tip! New foods can be easier to introduce as a wet mix, rather than a dry powder.
Remember to monitor your bird throughout the process until you are confident they are happily eating your new Vetafarm formula.
With a little patience and perseverance, even the fussiest sugar addict can be swayed to a low sugar Vetafarm diet. Then it’s just a matter of sitting back and enjoying the good times with your feathered friend.
Watch our videos below for more information!
There are a variety of feeding spoons and syringes on the market and there is no right or wrong choice when it comes to feeding equipment for hand rearing. However you need to make sure the product is safe and that it’s the right size for your bird. Some feeding equipment, like crop needles, require experience as they can be used incorrectly which can result in heartache! Every option has its pro’s and con’s, but to make the choice easier, we have given you the low down below!
Crop needles speed up the task of feeding young birds tremendously, they cut down waste, make feeding at the right temperature easier and ensure more accurate volumes of feed are delivered. Crop needles even eliminate the ugly dried crust of food that accumulates around a birds beak from spoon or syringe feeding. HOWEVER it is only recommended that you attempt using a crop needle if you are familiar and confident with the technique, as they require some experience and know how to be used safely and correctly. If you would like to find out more about how to crop needle, check out our You Tube video, or consult with your local veterinarian.
Baby birds can also be syringe fed directly into the mouth without any attachments at all. Again, while this is quite messy and does take some time, bonding can be better with the birds. Many breeders employ this method, however there is an increased risk of birds inhaling food if they are fed too quickly. Standard disposable syringes can be used and the ‘Basik’ brand is by far the best choice in this area. Reusable, perspex feeding syringes are also available from Vetafarm. These can attach to crop needles and the Ezy Feeder or be used for direct feeding. These reusable syringes have the advantage of being easier to handle, easier to clean and obviously as the name states, they are reusable!
The Ezy Feeder was designed by veterinarian Dr Tony Gestier and is used in a similar manner as the feeding spoon. The Ezy Feeder is a stainless steel spoon with a tube attachment that connects to a syringe. The Ezy Feeder offers the advantages of using a syringe with the simplicity of the spoon. Ezy Feeders allow for accurate, low mess feeding and the ability to keep food warm for the duration of the feed. A great compromise for those that want a better system than the standard feeding spoon but don’t have the technical expertise required to handle a crop needle.
Many people believe that a closer bond is built between bird and person using this method. Which makes sense due to the extend amounts of time you will be spending with the babies during feeding. Although time consuming, feeding spoons are very easy to use. Vetafarm has a simple feeding spoon for those who need a low tech feeding system.
Raising babies from day 1
Hand raising babies from day one is grueling, time consuming and all in all, quite a difficult task. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is just like raising babies from pin feather stage, this thinking will give you dead babies and a broken heart. The word neonate refers to a baby that is in absolute infancy and is completely dependent on it’s parents. There are three core problems that we need to address when dealing with neonates before we look at anything else, overcoming these are the key to success.
Neonates do not have a functioning immune system – full stop. Essentially the neonate is at the complete mercy of any bacteria that enters the gut as they have very limited defense systems. Deaths from bacterial infections at neonate stage are extremely common and can occur as quickly as 24 hours after the baby is exposed to the bacteria. Treatment is really difficult with babies of this age, as antibiotics still rely on the body’s immune system to gain the upper hand. Prevention however, is very effective and simple – good hygiene practices and common sense are all that is required. Using a poorly cleaned feeding utensil that has been used on older babies is one sure way to introduce a bacteria that could potentially wipe out every neonate in your brooder. Be smart and fastidious with your hygiene and if you really need to use the same feeding utensils for a range of babies of different ages, disinfect thoroughly and feed your neonates BEFORE your older babies.
A complex way of saying that neonates cannot control their body temperature. Much like a premature baby, neonatal birds are absolutely reliant on their environment to be both the right temperature and the right humidity. Too cold and a neonate will become hypothermic, too hot or too dry and they will dehydrate, too wet and they will absorb too much moisture – the result of any one of these imbalances can be death. Humidity and temperature are controlled by your brooder, if you cannot afford a brooder or do not have a brooder, do not attempt to raise neonates. Where you will get away with a cardboard box and a light bulb with some birds at pinfeather stage, you won’t get anywhere when raising babies 3 days old or younger, they simply rely too heavily on the correct environmental conditions and these CANNOT be achieved without spending money. The ideal conditions and a good starting point for neonates is a brooder temperature of about 38-39°C.
After the ordeal of actually hatching from the egg, many neonates are fatigued and more importantly, dehydrated. It is important to get two things correct when dealing with dehydration. Brooder humidity is absolutely crucial and again, a good quality brooder is essential here. The ideal brooder humidity for most species is about 70% relative humidity. The second important step to preventing/combating dehydration will be covered in the next section.
Foods and fluids from Day 1
Once the 3 core principals covered above are taken care of, the next matter that requires attention is food and fluids. Getting the correct food and fluids into a neonatal baby in the first 7 days and in particular, the first 24hrs is imperative.
Once the neonate has finished hatching and is clear of the egg, the biggest danger we have is dehydration. Actual food is not a concern at this stage as the baby continues to feed on the remnants of the internal yolk sac. A “starter solution” of 20ml Spark Liquid mixed with 1lt distilled or boiled water, along with 5g of Probotic should be mixed and fed drop-wise (1-2 drops) via syringe to the beak every 2-3 hours until the first dropping (the meconium) is passed. This solution will supply everything the bird needs in the first 24 hours while the digestive system begins to function. Although some may disagree, Vetafarm do not feel overnight feeds are necessary, even at this age. Simply administer your last feed at 10-11pm and then the first feed of the day at 5-6am. Note: It is important that the “starter solution” be fed at the same temperature as the brooder, 39°C.
Now the meconium has been passed we should be through the first 24 hours of life and it is time to very slowly introduce solids. This last statement can be misleading as we initially start the process by making a “Neocare Tea” rather than a solid food. The “Neocare Tea” is made by adding approx 5g of Neocare in 100ml of the “starter solution” mentioned above, mixing thoroughly with a fork and leaving to stand for 15 minutes. We then simply use a syringe to suck a small amount of the “Tea” off the top of this concoction and feed very small amounts (start with as little as 0.1ml and progress up to 0.5ml over a two day period) by syringe warmed to 39 °C every 2-3 hours as above.
After day 3 we can very gradually start to thicken our “Neocare Tea” over a further 3 day period until we reach “normal” consistency. We no longer need to wait for 15 minutes to extract the liquid from the very top of the formula and can now leave our mix stand for 3-4 minutes and feed as required. The same rules for food temperature apply to the thicker formula, however after day 7, plain distilled or boiled water can be used in place of the “starter solution”. Remember to always mix your formula with a fork to ensure an even consistency and allow to stand for at least 3 minutes to allow full absorption of water into the food and correct feeding consistency to be achieved. At day 7, we should be feeding a formula at a normal consistency. This consistency will be continued up until the point the bird is weaned. The best way to measure the correct formula consistency at this point through to weaning is to pick up a small amount with your mixing fork. If the formula just drips through the prongs you are spot on!
Good luck and happy hatching!
Worms. A word that should send shivers down the spine of ANY bird keeper. Getting rid of or better yet preventing worms in birds is really easy. You just need to have the right information.
So let’s cut straight to it.
What birds can get worms?
There are many opinions on this topic and we’ve heard them all. Things like “cement floors will prevent worm infestations in aviaries” and “if you only have one bird it can’t get worms”. Wrong. While there are measures that reduce the risk of worm infestation, there still remains some risk. While some species of birds and environmental factors reduce risk. The fact is if it has a gut, it can get worms, no exceptions.
So how does a bird end up with worms?
It occurs very easily. Round Worm eggs are spread through the droppings of birds already carrying a worm burden. Worm eggs shed into the environment are incredibly tough. They require 14 days in the environment before they become infective and can then remain infective in the right circumstances for years afterwards, simply waiting for a new host to infect. Birds usually ingest worm eggs while foraging in an infected area, but there is always the chance that the infected area will be brought to them, in the form of branches, feather or dropping dust, wild birds or even a new cage mate. These parasites are experts of infiltration.
So why should you care about worms?
Well, different worms cause different issues. If your bird has made contact and ingested Roundworm eggs, they quickly hatch, the emerging larvae taking a tour of the bird’s body, actually moving through the tissue on their way to the birds gut. Sounds traumatic right? Well, in large numbers it can be.
But you see the real problem caused by Roundworms happens when the larvae reach the gut and then mature into adults. At this point, each worm becomes an egg producing factory sucking up nutrients that your bird needs and increasing in numbers as the life cycle continues now your birds are in serious trouble.
What are symptoms of worms?
It’s a tricky thing to know what to look for if your bird has worms. Birds can carry a large number of worms in their stomach without showing any outward symptoms. Then in the right conditions, for example, your bird becomes stressed; this existing large worm population can explode in numbers causing immediate implications and even death. Some of the symptoms that are common with worms with birds include weight loss, poor feather condition, lethargy, sleepiness and ruffled feathers. In breeding birds you may also see a reduced activity particularly in the egg production. Adults carrying worms also pose a risk to their developing babies. The big problem is that these symptoms are not specific to just worms and the majority of them occur when the birds are very sick, with just about any disease. Waiting to treat worms until you see these signs a very bad idea.
How do we stop a worm infestation?
The only way is to establish a regular worming schedule. Vetafarm recommends that all birds, whether they are breeders or pets, inside or outside birds, are wormed four times a year. Prevention is key to stopping worm infestations. Some people find it easy to remember by worming at the start of every season, this ensures you are up to date with your worming treatments.
Worm infestations in young birds are a real issue and cause a large number of deaths every year. Bird breeders need to be especially vigilant with their worming schedules. Worming just before breeding season and again after the chicks fledge is absolutely crucial. It is much easier to worm adult birds before breeding season than to run the risk of baby birds picking up worms and then trying to treat the problem.
Now we have the background story on worms and we have a schedule to control them, we need to make a decision on which wormer to use. There are many worming treatments available on the market so it’s really important to choose a product that is going to treat all types of worms in your birds and just as importantly is safe.
You need to pay attention to your active ingredients in your selected wormer. Piperazine is safe as a bank but is an old remedy and many worms are now resistant. This should not be your first choice. Levamisol is another option and is very effective, however overdoses are common and this active can be toxic. Ivermectin is often touted as the perfect wormer but there are downsides. Ivermectin does not treat tapeworm and is very unstable in water. This means once added to water Ivermectin immediately begins breaking down and its ability to actually do the job becomes questionable. When treating worms you don’t want questionable, you want a sure fire solution. Vetafarm recommends using Wormout Gel to worm all types of birds. The active ingredients are Praziquantel and Oxfendazole, both have been proven to be safe at up to ten times the recommended does rate. It will treat and prevent all types of worms and can be administered either in water or via a crop needle and either method is safe and effective.
If you choose to treat in water, here are a few tips to help you get the job done right:
• Avoid medicating on generally cold days and damp days. A bird’s water intake will generally be less on days like these and birds will drink water off the wire of their cages before touching medicated water. Likewise, avoid medicating on extremely hot days as a bird’s water intake can be double or triple what it would usually be.
• Worming solutions can be quite bitter and often birds will refuse to drink medicated water adding a small amount of orange juice to sweeten the water will often help with these fussy drinkers.
• Also make sure you remove all other types of water and wet food whilst medicating. Birds will choose to eat things like fruit or sprouts to get moisture rather than drink their medication.
Measuring the medication is really easy – 1 pump is equal to 1ml. We recommend using a jar with a secure lid for mixing Wormout Gel as this provides a much faster way to achieve an evenly mixed solution. So two pumps of Wormout Gel into 160ml of water, pop on the lid and shake well. All these directions are also on the reverse of the product label. If you’re adding orange juice, just remember to supplement 40mls of water with your 40mls of juice.
You need to provide the medicated water for 2 days and replace with fresh solution every 24 hours. We find it much easier to make up two days worth of medication, use half on the first day and put the other half in the fridge to be changed out on the second day. You will need to ensure that it’s mixed through properly as the gel will settle to the bottom of the container after a period of time.
While anyone can treat worms using Wormout Gel in water, it is also designed for direct administration using a medication or crop needle in birds in emergencies or in any circumstance that a bird’s water consumption is in question.
It is only recommended that you attempt this if you are familiar and confident with the technique of using a crop or medication needle. If you would like to find out more about how to crop needle, check out our You Tube video, or consult with your local veterinarian.
Worms must be taken seriously. If left untreated, there is a significant chance of death in your birds. Australian natives, and in particular princess parrots, are especially at risk but exotics are also susceptible. Keep on top of your worming schedule and you will have healthy and worm- free birds.