Cocks unwell and not Hens and Vice Versa

Introduction by Gerald Binks

Dr Robert MarshallAs fanciers familiar to this website understand, in Dr Rob Marshall, we have on board, arguably, one of the finest avian veterinary surgeons in the world.

His book The Budgerigar should be to hand for all serious fanciers for the answers to all the disease conditions that exit in parrot-like forms (but specifically on budgerigars), when it always seems as though it is the best ones that succumb to “going light” and we struggle to help them.

Below are two examples of sound procedural advice on what are mysterious problems for even the most experienced of us.

Neither fancier wishes to be named.

Problem #1 affecting cocks only

Question: I get occasional birds that do not exhibit any external fluffing up features or nasal discharge or vent problems. However they do not look 100 per cent and their crops are almost empty. They require a heat source to help as there is some loss of weight. No signs of wetness around the beak and no regurgitation is evident. It can occur in flights or breeding / stock cages but seems worse as the colder weather begins. Can you make a calculated guess as to what it could be and would it be helpful to crop feed them using one of the powders made for this purpose?

Dr Rob says:

These birds are birds that come into breeding condition, so sexually they are on the rise (see pages 270-273 in The Budgerigar). You may see a very blue cere(s) and as you say, involving a cold spell (see pages 322-323) – there may be pin feathers on the head as well?

What happens is that under the effect of testosterone, their immune system is affected which causes an acute Streptococcus infection (see pages 374-376).

Check also for quill mites around the tail region in particular (see pages 390-291).

Preventative treatment is by using “Quik Gel” to support the breeding condition while it is chilly and using a penicillin based product containing amoxicillin from your local veterinary surgeon. Administer via a crop needle. Both of these products are obtainable from my surgery or through Riversway Avicultural (see advert on this Website) in UK.

No action and the result is infertility in the next cycle in 7-8 weeks and of course possible death at any time.

Associated images from “The Budgerigar” – click on any image to enlarge it:

Problem #2 affecting hens only

Question: Many of my hens develop watery large droppings with a few having caked vents during the breeding season, in and out of the breeding cages. All the cocks are fine. There is a smell to the droppings. Can you advise please?

Dr Rob says:

The most likely cause is stress which all breeders seem to dismiss, probably because we as humans all suffer stress in the modern world.

Where birds are concerned, stress occurs during the breeding cycle of the hen(s) (see pages 285-287 especially figure 22b). Not all hens are affected because this problem affects only those breeding hens when the stressful factor arises at the critical stage of the breeding cycle (e.g. a cold spell, wet weather etc. See pages 380-384)

Look especially at fig. 30a and figs 30b and 30d and examine the stress factors outlined.

Treat the complete flock with “Quik Gel” for two days to counteract the stress across the complete stud.

Isolate and treat hens with dirty vents and treat them also with an appropriate antibiotic medicine. Such hens require additional nutritional support (e.g. a liquid calcium and “Quik Gel”) during their recovery and once recovery starts such patients must be rested and fed well for 2 months (a complete breeding cycle).

Associated image from “The Budgerigar” – click on the image to enlarge it:

Additional comment by Gerald Binks

A warning to the inexperienced!

Do be aware that many items sold as “Hospital Cages” can quickly cause death by dehydration as the patient is incapable of drinking itself because it is so ill.

Many fanciers today use a show cage placed on a heat source so this sustains the body during treatment plus frequent topping up with water direct to the beak or via a crop needle.

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About the Author: Dr Rob Marshall B.V.Sc., M.A.V.C.Sc. (Avian Health) is arguably the finest and most experienced veterinary surgeon in the world currently highly active in the field of avian diseases. His knowledge, supported by his extensive Curriculum Vitae, plus papers and books on avian health, is unequalled. His latest publication, "The Budgerigar Book", took 12 years to produce and is undoubtedly the most extensive volume concerning budgerigar health ever produced. Dr Marshall has his own veterinary practice in Carlingford, near Sydney, Australia.

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  1. Fantastic article by Dr. Rob Marshall and comments from Gerald Binks.

    Habib Ur Rehman, Pakistan

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