Q & A: “Is it good to give my birds antibiotics, vitamins, and minerals each month?”

Vitamins and minerals for parrots should be provided, especially those on seed diets. The best way to supplement these items is to sprinkle them lightly on steamed vegetables, which will absorb the complex. The bird will eat the food and thus derive maximum benefit from the supplement. Adding vitamins and minerals to water is not recommended, as they tend to create a rich broth for bacteria.

In trials that I conducted two years ago using a commercial vitamin sold for parrots, I was able to culture bacteria in as little as two hours after mixing the water-soluble vitamin with the water. The growth was probably spurred by the presence of sugar in the vitamins. Parrots that eat pellets require less vitamin and mineral supplementation, as the pellets are intended to be a complete meal.

I have found that parrots whose pelleted diet is supplemented with extra vitamins and minerals tend to acquire aberrant feathering. This is seen when pellets form the principal diet. This suggests that over-supplementation is not necessary. The best means of meeting a species’s requirements are to use a broad diet that contains vegetables, a little fruit, and depending on the species a cooked mash and nut.

The use of antibiotics prophylactically is to play Russian roulette. Antibiotics should only be used when there is an obvious sign of illness and then after culturing and performing sensitivity tests, which identify the most suitable antibiotic to kill the pathogen affecting the bird. Prophylactic use has been proven to create an immune system in the bacteria, which then is unaffected by the antibiotic.

At no time should antibiotics be used as part of a monthly purge to clean the flock. The antibiotics can affect fertility, increase the risk of disease by compromising the natural immune system, and can deter breeding by bringing the bird out of condition. Short term there may be benefits, but the breeder must ask himself or herself if the short-term gain is justified or if the interest is to breed from that pair for a very long time? I think the answer is obvious.
While on the subject of antibiotics, please understand that an ill bird may respond to therapy within a short period but that the antibiotic course should continue to prevent a relapse. In chicks, the course could be as short as three days but in adults, 7-10 days is normal, longer when treating Chlamydophila. It is always good to use a probiotic when using antibiotics.

Liver tonics or cleaners must be eyed with suspicion as most have not been tested in parrots or can contain elements that themselves prove harmful. One breeder in Asia recently learned that lesson the hard way. He provided a tonic to his birds but was unaware that the tonic contained high levels of iron, which contributed to many losses from hemochromatosis.

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Psittaculture A Manual for the Care and Breeding of Parrots
Psittaculture A Manual for the Care and Breeding of Parrots

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