Pigeon health

   the quarantine

06. 02. 2013.
Why and how should I use a quarantine?
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The primary objective of the quarantine is that an infectious specimen not be allowed to be among the other pigeons.
A special and extremely important part of the prevention of epidemics is the introduction to the flock of new pigeons acquired from elsewhere.
Possibly the greatest damage in pigeon-keeping is associated with the inclusion of newly-purchased pigeons, and it is surprising how courageously some fanciers will put their freshly acquired birds, whose state of health (or rather, of illness) is a complete mystery, among their cherished favourites. It is not rare for a flock to decline in catastrophic measure as a result of a single diseased pigeon being introduced into it, losing the best of its most beautiful specimens.

Mankind invented the quarantine back in medieval times, when, in the light of its importance, in many places those violating it would be punished by death. This only goes to show how significant a measure it is, one that, with a little attention, and a minimal, very quickly recouped cost, can easily be implemented in our own yard.
As we mentioned above, the primary objective of the quarantine is that an infectious specimen not be allowed to be among the healthy pigeons. However it is not only visibly diseased birds that are infectious; those appearing to be healthy can also spread pathogens.
Every infectious disease has its lag period, the period of time, usually a few days or weeks, when the animal is already infected, but does not yet display any symptoms, that is, appears to be healthy. But, and here is the point, it is capable of releasing pathogens before any symptoms of the illness appear, that is, independently from them.

A little quarantine in the loft. Its size is good, but common airspace is not recommended.
Similarly, an animal that has survived a disease no longer displays its symptoms, but can still release its pathogens in huge quantities, continuing to infect its environment. Furthermore, there are pathogens – the salmonellas that cause paratyphoid are a typical example; another typical example is the ornithosis caused by chlamydias – which can remain in the pigeon’s body for a long time, even a number of years, without displaying any symptoms. Such a pigeon appears to be healthy, but once in the flock it releases salmonella bacteria or chlamydias that our pigeons have never encountered, thus setting a real epidemic in motion.
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The development and operation of the quarantine
Quarantine is only valuable if the newly-acquired pigeon, whose state of health is unknown, is not in contact with the other pigeons in any way. From this it follows that there must be no exchange of air between the quarantine and the place where the rest of the pigeons are kept; indeed, every effort should be taken to ensure that the cage or cages designated as the quarantine are kept in a separate building, or failing this in a remote part of the yard, as far from the rest of the flock as possible. We should bear in mind the direction of the wind: the dominant direction should be towards the quarantine, not away from the quarantine towards the flock.
The size of the quarantine
The capacity of the quarantine should be tailored to the flock in question, bearing in mind its size and the frequency of purchases and new admissions. Of course we should be aware of our options: the quarantine can be a separate building, but it can easily be a home-made wire cage which holds a couple of pigeons, and which we place in the corner of the yard furthest from the loft. It is not the size or “gleam” of the quarantine that matters, but how well we observe the rules associated with it.
Equipping the quarantine
The quarantine must be equipped with designated feeders and drinkers. It is a fundamental principle that things can only be brought into the quarantine, not taken out, or at least only under certain conditions, and only after being thoroughly disinfected.
As one can spread pathogens oneself (through dirt attached to shoes, clothes and the skin), systematic use of separate clothes and especially shoes, which are only used in or directly around the quarantine, is recommended. It is a good idea to place a tray in front of the quarantine, into which we place a large sponge previously soaked in water rich in disinfectant. This gives us a simple but effective shoe disinfectant. If we have been working in the quarantine, we should use this disinfectant upon leaving without fail, and in addition we should, of course, always wash our hands thoroughly! We should plan the day’s feeding and cleaning programme, etc., such that we always deal with the healthy flock first, and leave the inspection of the quarantine to the end of the day’s duties, after which we do not return directly to the main flock.
Period of quarantine
The lag period of diseases varies, and is usually a matter of days or weeks. No absolute value can be given for the period of quarantine, but a period of at least three or four weeks is necessary for the reliable prevention of epidemics.

Tasks associated with the quarantine
During the period of quarantine we observe the new specimen on a regular basis to see whether it shows any symptoms of some disease. Meanwhile we treat it for worms, which equally refers to internal and external parasites, and also brings protection against canker and coccidiosis. If the feeding of the pigeon in its previous location was very different, then during this time we gradually make it accustomed to the feeding mix we use.
There can also be a need for treatment with antibiotics during quarantine, but this must not be done as a matter of course. The best plan of action is if we request a susceptibility test from our veterinary surgeon. On such occasions it is best to take the sample directly from the pigeon itself (throat discharge and faeces). If this is not feasible, we should use a sterile syringe to suck a few drops out of the fresh faeces, and take this to be tested. The test not only answers the question of what kinds of pathogenic bacteria are present in the pigeon, but that of which antibiotics it is advisable to use. The advantage of the test is that in most cases it produces results quickly, within a day or two, and that, with these in hand, we do not treat the pigeon “blind”, in an uninformed fashion, but with the antibiotics that will really have an effect.
During quarantine we must also strive to stimulate the pigeon’s immune system. There may also be a need for vaccination: this should always be decided by the veterinary surgeon on a case by case basis, and it does no harm if he is aware of the pigeon’s “vaccination history”. These necessary vaccinations can lengthen the quarantine period.

After three or four (or more) weeks have passed, and after the necessary tests, treatments and vaccinations have been completed, we can introduce the new pigeons among the rest of the flock, taking the numbers allowed in each cage into account, of course, that is to say avoiding overcrowding.
 
 
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