Type: Senegal Parrot
Weight: 120 grams
Height: 9 inches
Age: 9 years, 9 months
Type: Cape Parrot
Weight: 330 grams
Height: 13 inches
Age: 8 years
List of Common Parrots:
Monk Parakeet (Quaker Parrot)
Green Rumped Parrotlet
Blue Winged Parrotlet
Dusky Billed Parrotlet
Yellow Faced Parrotlet
Peach Faced Lovebird
Lilian's (Nyasa) Lovebird
Black Cheeked Lovebird
Red Faced Lovebird
Lories and Lorikeets
Cherry Headed Conure
Blue Crowned Conure
Green Cheeked Conure
Black Headed Caique
White Bellied Caique
Red Bellied Parrot
Brown Headed Parrot
Congo African Grey (CAG)
Timneh African Grey (TAG)
Blue Fronted Amazon
Yellow Naped Amazon
Yellow Headed Amazon
Orange Winged Amazon
Yellow Crowned Amazon
Galah (Rose Breasted) Cockatoo
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Bare Eyed Cockatoo
Red Shouldered (Hahn's) Macaw
Blue And Gold Macaw
Blue Throated Macaw
Red Fronted Macaw
Green Winged Macaw
Thursday December 18th, 2014
This article is about giving medication to multiple parrots in a multi-parrot home. For instructions on giving medication to a single (particularly untrained) parrot, I previously wrote about giving medication to my Green-Winged Macaw.
My flock was diagnosed with Clostridium so now they all have to take medication for 21 days. Santina previously had it and received treatment but it did not stop the other birds from catching it as well. It is not clear if it is the food, environment, or other bird that is the cause. But regardless the entire flock needs to be medicated. The medication is administered orally once a day. The trouble is the duration for which it has to be given. This is a long enough of a period that the parrots must be trained to accept medication. Clever trickery may get you by a few days or a week. But anything longer and the parrot must be on board.
In most cases where a parrot requires medication in a multi-parrot home, the rest of the flock should receive the medication even if they don't show symptoms. My birds all seem to have it because they have been having smelly poop.
So on to the process of medicating a bunch of birds together. This may seem like a lot of work but actually if done right makes things a heck of a lot easier! Using modeling and a healthy dose of competition can get the birds to be more excited about doing something undesirable (like taking medication)!
I medicate the entire flock together and have turned it into a fun game for them. I have been taking advantage of each of my bird's strong points while avoiding their weaknesses in this medication process. This makes it appear to each of the other birds that the one they are watching really loves getting medication.
Kili is a super trained parrot so for her I set taking medication to be like a trick. I taught her to target the syringe, then to sip water, and finally to sip and swallow. Thus when I make the unexpected switch to real medication she just takes it. Santina is a great follower. She likes to do what the others are doing. So between the original medication sessions that I had with her modeling off of me and the recent ones of modeling from the other birds, she is doing very well. Truman is a bit of a runt and doesn't want to take medication but I've been working past that with him as well. He drinks water like a camel so I've been letting him get thirsty and then enjoy drinking a lot of water from the syringe. Because each bird appears eager to participate in the medication process (although each for different reasons) it encourages the remaining birds to cooperate and try harder. Nobody wants the competition to get more!
Here are some more elements that have made the process so successful. I practice the "medication process" with just water in the syringe twice a day although medication only comes once. For every 1 sip of medication, the birds are probably getting 40 sips of water. This makes the undesirable medication not only unpredictable but also fairly negligible in the greater scheme of getting water from the syringe. The birds get pellets as treats so this makes them more thirsty for water sips from the syringe. The pellets also soak up medication in their beaks and ensure that it is swallowed. Also I stopped providing water in the cage and have been giving it by hand only to ensure that the birds desire fluids at the necessary time. Spitting out and not receiving the medicine is far worse. So instead I let them sip some of their drinking water from the syringe and the rest they get from a bowl in my hands. This is similar to when we travel so they are perfectly used to it.
The thirstier/hungrier birds are far less picky. They used to spit out pellets that got medication on them from inside their beaks. Truman in particular would shake his head and spit out the medication. But now with this training system in place, the birds are far more cooperative. With practice, they now know the routine very well and are even more cooperative. In their competition with each other to get water and treats, they seem to forget their resistance to the medication and it is a win/win for everyone.
It is important to understand that the objective is not to simply get the medicine into the bird but to succeed in completing the entire medication process. Tricking or forcing the bird to take medication will only work a few times. In an emergency, you do what you gotta do. But if the bird is in condition to be trained, it is far far better to have a bird that wants to take medication than a bird that flies away or bites you because it knows what is coming. This is why even after the birds get the real medication, I keep practicing with them with the water. In fact, I would say they get the real medication about a quarter of the way into the session. This is when motivation is highest and it makes it least predictable as to when it will happen. Since they all come over to me when they see a syringe, I know I have succeeded in applying positive reinforcement to taking medication!
Part of: Health, Nutrition, and Diet, General Parrot Care, Blog Announcements, Poicephalus, Cape Parrots, Senegal Parrots, Macaws, Rescue
Kili Senegal Parrot Truman Cape Parrot Santina Green-Winged Macaw Medicine Medication Syringe Vet Training
CommentsPost Your Response
Posted on December 19, 2014 01:21PM
Yes, just like little kids. You pick the easiest first and the others want to follow.
Define flock. You have 3 kids.
My 11 make it a nursery school class.
Pajarita has the whole nursery school.
Posted on December 19, 2014 02:49PM
I wonder if there is a specific term other than flock for a group of parrots and if so what it might be, for instance you don't get a flock of crows although what is what it is, you have a murder of crows, or a gaggle of geese.
Posted on December 19, 2014 04:55PM
The term for a group of parrots is 'company', Wolf.
Wow! Clostridium! Poor babies! Never had a bird come down with it - it is contagious but, usually, it only happens when the birds are stressed out or not getting a good diet (a good intestinal flora would kill the bacteria before it can take hold) so make sure they get a good quality probiotic two hours after eating, Michael.
With the exception of the wild-caught, I never have a problem medicating the large ones because they all love getting fed from a syringe - the parent-fed ones are another story, though.
Post Your Response
Posted on January 8, 2015 05:34PM
My flock consists of 2 green cheek conures and 1 canary.
When we first got the green cheeks they were approx. 6 - 9 months old and arrived with a "minor" bacterial infection. This infection cropped up like clockwork every 4 months or so for the first 1.5 years.
We first attempted to force the birds to take the antibiotics, which was to be administered orally by eyedropper, assuming that they would resist.
We figured out on the second day that we only had to offer the eyedropper to the female. The only issue was that she did not like being held and forced to take her medicine (this continues to be a training opportunity for her in which we can do pretty much anything with her so long as she is not being held/forced to do it). When freely offered the eyedropper she greedily slurped the medication from it and demanded more.
We suspect that the two - brother and sister from the same clutch - had been reared with eyedropper or syringe feeding early on, because the female simply adores being fed this way. She happily accepted her medication and even would fly over and try to steal her brother's medication just to be fed from the eyedropper again.
The male also liked the eyedropper on principle, but did not like the taste of the medication so much that this bad taste combined with being forced to feed from it gave him an aversion to it after a few days. Had we understood that he was predisposed to like the eyedropper we would have done things differently instead of reshaping his behavior negatively and then having to go to great efforts to undo the negative reinforcement and then replace it with that of the positive. He has a personality quirk where if you give him something that does not taste good, you are a big fat jerk and must be punished for daring to present something unawesome to him (we trained him early on not to bite hard so he just makes a lot of play fuss about it - but that did not help in this first month of ownership). Plus he is smart enough to realize that something previously awesome might not always be so and he refused the eyedropper because he knew what was inside did not taste good.
So what did we do to get the male to accept the eyedropper/syringe over time as he needed to have medication administered over numerous weeks to date? We diluted carrot juice with water and put it in the syringe. We allowed the male to observe how much his sister adored being fed delicious carrot nectar from it. We allowed them to observe that we were filling the eyedropper with carrot juice - which they love - as they easily make the connection that a container was just filled with something awesome. He was very cautious but eventually demanded to be fed from the eyedropper as well.
The medication tasted different. It was cherry flavored but still chalky. The male felt betrayed. It was not carrot juice. So we pretended to fill it with carrot juice and he eventually decided, watching his sister try to steal his medicine, that this must still be awesome, and it got to the point of bird battles over the medication.
As an important aside, eventually we learned about stabilized chlorine dioxide as a safe and effective sanitizer and macrobiotic and our birds overnight seemed healthier and have not gotten sick since. It is likely that we finally killed whatever kept reinfecting them with this sanitizer. I made an extensive post some time ago on the subject of sanitation. Please read that post as it contains information that can lead to improving both yours and your pets' health.
Of course, when something really foul was in the eyedropper, the male had to be held to feed it again. The eyedropper in and of itself is awesome, but he recognizes now that it can contain different things and sometimes it is icky. We had an unfortunate bird mite infestation thanks to a family of blackbirds that made a nest in our attic (long story). Our flock was given a prescription for minor dosages of permethrin (in an incredibly tiny quantity it makes the blood toxic and kills any mites drinking their blood - but it has to be really tiny so as not to harm the bird). This stuff did not taste good. Thankfully we had spent a lot of time following Michael's method for taming training the parrots and with little difficulty were able to hold the parrot, drop the dosages on the side of his beak and let them drip into his mouth with minimal fuss.
Thankfully the female did not care how icky it was - being hand fed with an eyedropper is just way too awesome it does not matter what is in it.
What are some of the lessons learned?
Start early. If you happen to be weening chicks - get them used to being fed with droppers and syringes. Our birds are almost 6 years old and the female still goes nuts for them. There is a lot of evidence that foods and feeding methods cultivated in the nest stay with a bird its entire life. If you have this knowledge you can use it to great positive effect.
If you have multiple birds - if you can get one to love doing something, the other birds will observe this and take to it better.
While we did not have to use this method for medication acceptance training of the birds, a method we used and which Michael discusses at great length elsewhere may prove effective. Our birds were very finicky eaters at an early age. Nowadays they love getting new foods or foods presented in new forms. However, early on things that are now their absolute favorites, like almond slivers (they will do anything and learn any trick for a tiny piece of one of them), they wanted nothing to do with. It did not taste like millet (they were addicted to millet at the pet shop to the point where they starved themselves in the first few days - waiting for the millet spray that was not coming) so it must be bad and we were big fat jerks for daring to even think about presenting this not-millet to them. So I sat there with a container of almond slivers (in this example) and ate it - making a huge fuss about how delicious it was. They eventually were intrigued. So I would turn away and covet it like Gollum with his precious and continue to eat them greedily - making a big show of it. They demanded to have some and realized it was awesome and should not be angrily thrown on the floor.
The point of the above example is - you can possibly get your bird to demand syringe/eyedropper feeding simply by observing how much you adore it yourself.
The rest of the lessons I can currently think of are already iterated in Michael's excellent article.