My Experience with Psittacine Beak
and Feather Disease (PBFD)

In my case, long before import closed its doors (1993), I had purchased four adult pairs of Jardine's. They were so beautiful I went back a year later and purchased two more pairs, but these had "young" bird features.

My first four (4) pairs were very reliable breeders for a few years, and then the young ones decided to lay also, and were fertile. It was the end of my breeding season, and I had a few left over greys I was feeding, plus all the Jardine's went to nest and had chicks at about the same time. I believe I had six baby greys and about 10 baby Jardine's. The greys were maybe 6-8 weeks old when I pulled the Jardine's at three weeks. I had one chick from one of the new breeding Jardine's.

Everything was uneventful until the Jardine's started weaning. I had one grey that I had gotten food in his nostril, and I wasn't able to flush it quite right. I was having a heck of a time with him, and he didn't want to wean. This baby grey cried a lot, and was very "clingy."

I walked in the nursery one morning, and all the tail feathers of the one new Jardine's were lying in the water dish. Uh-oh, what's going on here? Well I have seen a bird get feathers caught and they drop them. He was in a holding cage about this time. I called my daughter and asked if she would take him to her house, since she didn't have any birds. Over a period of about 4 days he lost a few primary feathers daily. My vet was on vacation, but I called her and she said get baby out - which I had already done - and how was the grey with the runny/clogged nostril? Not doing well I informed her.

Well, she returned about a week later, and I had the grey on antibiotics, but still not doing well. He died the day before she got here. He had PBFD. Everyone else seemed fine.

The day after the histo results the vet was here to draw blood on everyone. The procedure was nuts, because of how careful you have to be, since the test is so sensitive. I got the vials from a plastic bag in another room, and held it as her assistant met me part way, he would fill the vial. The vet would change gloves, and get a new syringe from another plastic bag........etc.

The vet advised me that I had very healthy babies, and I would probably have a few positives, and they would seroconvert. Not to worry. Of course I sat in the middle of my nursery room floor crying my eyes out, knowing all my precious babies were going to die. We had called ahead, and the lab was expecting the samples and we had the results in the next day or two. It was a remarkable turn around.

Out of all the birds we had 8 positives. They figured, in all the time of the shedding, some had already seroconverted. We put all negatives, outside in a holding area away from anyone else, and all the positives stayed in a different area outside.

Now, where did it come from? Going back over all records, it had to be the newer Jardine's. All the other pairs had babies in here for years, and years, and some of the parents to some chicks, had been screened for PBFD. Since the new Jardine's had been purchased as youngsters out of quarantine, logically they already had it, or got it from a Jardine's I already had in close proximity.

We tested birds in all directions. All the old and newer Jardine's, and all my Timnehs. These were the birds in one location. The only bird positive was the father of the chick that lost his tail feathers. He was euthanized, and his son was euthanized.

90 days later all the nursery birds were retested. The negatives were still negative. Four (4) of the eight (8) positive were negative, and four (4) were still positive. Four had seroconverted. We waited another 90 days and retested again. All birds were negative.

So.......out of 16 babies in that nursery, 2 died; the actively infected Jardine's and the compromised grey.

A lot of my birds, as the test had become available, have been screened for PBFD, and the very early ones I already had, prior to the tests availability, have since been tested. No other bird ever came back positive.

ALL birds that come onto my property are tested for PBFD. When I bought a large group of cape parrots (here in FL) they were all tested while I had them in my quarantine, and out of 12, three came up with a positive. We retested in 30 days (birds over 3 years, you retest in 30 days, birds under 3 you retest in 90 days). The retest on the three, came back negative.

Part of the health of the chicks (I can't take all the credit) may because the parent's feed for at least three weeks. I was very lucky in a lot of ways. They say sometimes you may never find the carrier, and be able to eliminate it. I was also told that the father probably hadn't shed prior to his first breeding. The stress of breeding was probably the reason for him to actively start shedding. The hen mate of the PBFD pair was re-paired years ago, and her babies have all tested negative, as well as her. Had it not been the end of the breeding season, it could have been a disaster.

No birds moved in or out of the nursery, once the PBFD chick had come in. I was very, very lucky

©Jean Pattison