Avicultural Medicine: Quarantine Protocols

Key Points

  • Quarantine birds for a minimum of 30 days.
  • Keep new birds as far as possible from the breeding birds and nursery.
  • Educate the client extensively on the importance of keeping new birds isolated from the rest of the flock. Also educate the client on the practical day-to-day methods of quarantine.
  • The decision as to what to test for during quarantine must be carefully balanced between the number of birds, the carrier potential for the species, and the client’s budget.



Quarantine is a basic component of good preventive medicine. The purpose of quarantine is to protect both the existing collection and the new arrival (Fig 1). New birds are usually stressed and may be more susceptible to infectious diseases. The quarantine period also allows the new bird(s) to acclimate to its new environment, food, and owner. Proper client education is paramount to minimize and/or eliminate the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.

Birds in a tree

Figure 1. The purpose of quarantine is to protect the existing collection as well as new arrivals. Click image to enlarge.


Ideally the new bird(s) should be kept in a separate air space from the rest of the collection. Unfortunately, many avicultural hobbyists do not have the physical space to properly quarantine new arrivals. Keeping a bird in a separate cage next to its future mate for 30 days is unacceptable.

Keep new birds as far as possible (separate room or floor) from the breeding birds and nursery. Quarantining birds in the same physical facility as the nursery is a recipe for disaster, as I have seen the devastating damage that avian polyomavirus can cause in the nursery as a result of not following proper quarantine protocols.


If possible, designate one person to care for quarantined birds.


  • Quarantine new birds entering a facility for a minimum of 30 days. Some facilities may quarantine birds for up to 90 days.
  • Direct efforts at eliminating cross contamination. Clean and feed quarantined birds last, wearing different clothing and shoes. Keep equipment used to feed and clean birds in quarantine separate. If this is not possible, clean equipment with an appropriate disinfectant before use with other animals. Always wash hands afterwards.
  • When a bird arrives in the quarantine area it must receive a thorough physical examination, fecal Gram stain cytology, and testing for infectious diseases such as polyomavirus and psittacine beak and feather disease. Testing for infectious diseases or fecal parasite screening should be performed as dictated by the number of birds, susceptibility and carrier potential of the species, flock history, and client financial constraints. I usually recommend Chlamydophila psittaci serology in all birds. Bank serum or plasma, if possible.
  • During quarantine, the sex of the bird(s) must also be adequately ascertained prior to placing them in a breeding program. Do not always trust the seller as to the bird’s sex and/or reproductive capabilities.
  • Also consider permanent identification such as tattoo or microchip placement.
  • Perform a second physical examination before allowing the bird to leave quarantine.
  • Any bird that dies during quarantine should be necropsied.