Feed & Feeding HygieneBirds do not only become sick through direct exposure to other sick birds. Other items can transmit disease to your birds if they are contaminated with pathogens, such as toys, cages, seed, and other products if they have not been disinfected. This is also true of unhygienic feed and feeding practices. For example, Enterobacter, Pseudomonas, and E. coli are some of the most common gram negative organisms isolated from utensils, appliances, and cutting boards in some bird breeding facilities.2 In one case, a group of Australian finches became ill with Pseudomonas enteritis because they had been fed nestling food prepared in a contaminated blender.2 Therefore, to minimize the risk of potentially transmitting disease to your birds, you need to make sure that all utensils you use to prepare, hold, and transfer the feed are kept clean and regularly disinfected.
When distributing feed into dishes, do not dip the dishes into the feed source, but rather use a clean scooper to dispense the feed into the dishes. Return the dishes to the enclosures that they came from; do not return dishes to the wrong cages or you may run the risk of introducing pathogens to the enclosure. Dishes, particularly water dishes and those used to hold moist foods, should be washed daily and disinfected regularly. Feed and water dishes should be placed into the enclosure in such a way that contamination by feces is minimized; never scatter food on the floor of the cage or place dishes directly under perches. Cleaning the floor of the enclosure regularly (daily, if possible) will prevent the birds from accessing feed which has fallen to the floor and has possibly become contaminated.
In addition to keeping the dishes and utensils clean, you must also use only fresh, clean foods which have been stored properly. Fruits and vegetables should be stored in a refrigerator, rinsed before they are prepared, and only given to the birds while still fresh. In order to prevent spoilage, remove any moist foods such as fresh vegetables from the enclosure within 4 hours of first providing them.5 Seed and formulated diets should be stored in clean, tight-sealing bins. The bins should be kept in a cool, dry (low-humidity) place that has good ventilation and is free from rodents. When feed moisture reaches 15% it may begin to grow mold; this is most likely to occur when humidity levels reach 85% and the feed absorbs moisture from the air.6 I prefer to store my feed in the refrigerator. Lastly, only fresh, uncontaminated water should be provided to finches. Pseudomonas, Alcaligenes, and/or E. coli may be present in water, garden hoses, PVC pipes, well water, or water bottle holding tanks.2,5 Additionally, water which has been sitting in plastic or copper pipes may have accumulated toxic levels of chemicals.5 For these reasons, water should be collected directly from a tap which has been flushed (turned on so that water flows through it) for at least three minutes. If this is not feasible, bottled, distilled water may be used instead. Do not add disinfectants, vitamins, or medications to the birds' water.5,2