Cage Birds (Diseases Of). Like all tame animals, birds that are kept in confinement are exposed to more maladies than those that live at large ; and especially as they are frequently so closely confined in cages that they have scarcely room to move. These maladies are, however, considerably increased by their having all kinds of delicacies, and pastry, sugar, etc., given them, which spoils their stomachs, and usually produces a slow consumption.
The following are the chief maladies which affect birds, and their remedies, the efficiency of which we have proved upon our own. Indeed the variety of birds, as well as the variety of their food, require also a difference of treatment in their maladies ; and in speaking of each species, we shall have occasion to notice how their peculiar diseases may be cured, when the general remedies are not suitable to their nature.
1. The Pip. This is properly a cold, in which the upper skin of the tongue becomes hardened by fever, and the orifices of the nose are stopped. In large birds, therefore, this skin is separated from the tongue, and in doing this, it must be commenced beneath and behind. Thus the pores of the tongue are re-opened, and the secretion requisite for digestion can be reproduced, and taste and appetite made to re-, turn. A pill, consisting of butter, pepper, and garlic, generally frees them from this complaint. They may :also be made to drink pectoral tea made of speedwell. To remove the stoppage of the orifices of the nose, a small feather is drawn through them.
2. Foe Rheum, which is indicated by frequent sneezing and shaking the head, we have found no better remedy, especially when the bird has been valuable to us, and we have not desired nature to work alone, than giving it some drops of pectoral elixir in pectoral tea; or, when it would not drink of its own accord, to drench it with it. To a sick chicken we have given twenty drops in half a pint of tea.
3. Consumption. It is usually the result of unnatural food which interrupts the functions of digestion, and it is recognised by the bird inflating and distending itself. The feathers are ruffled, and their flesh dwindles. As yet we know no better remedy than to give to such birds a common spider, which purges them, and to lay in their water a rusted nail, which strengthens the stomach. They must, at the same time, be fed with the best description of their appropriate food. In birds which will eat vegetables, we have always found this, and especially water-cresses, the surest remedy against consumption, or waste. Usually, birds suffering from this malady have a voracious appetite for green food. We fed a Siskin, which had already wasted, for three successive days with nothing but water-cresses, and on the fourth it recommenced singing.
4. Constipation. This malady is detected by observing the birds every moment bending the venter to evacuate, and being unable to do so. If a spider does not cure, the smooth head of a pin must be dipped in linseed oil, and gently thrust into the rectum ; such a clyster is usually effective In birds which eat meal worms, constipation is removed by squeezing the inside of a meal worm and filling it with linseed oil and saffron; the bird thus willingly swallows the laxative, and the effect is certain.
5. Dysentery. Birds frequently suffer from this before they become accustomed to the food of the aviary, and then generally die. They evacuate every instant a chalky substance, which usually hangs about the feathers of the vent, and is so acrid that it inflames the rectum and anus. In such cases, occasionally, the internal application of the rust of iron, by placing it in the drinking vessel, and a linseed-oil clyster, have been serviceable. But we know no positive remedy yet, and have only found that ailing birds may sometimes be saved when food is supplied them which is most appropriate to their nature. Many persons pluck away the feathers of the tail and vent, and rub their hinder parts with fresh butter, and mix the hard boiled yolk of eggs with their food. But this remedy we have found rarely followed by a successful result.
6. The Stoppage oF the Fat-glands, or the Pimples. Every bird has above the rump a gland, which secretes the oil required by the bird to smear its plumage, to retain them supple, and to prevent moisture passing through. In confinement, birds neglect the frequent pressure of this gland, as they are more rarely exposed to getting wet than when at liberty, and it consequently becomes hardened or inflamed. If the bird is seen sitting and drooping, the tail bending downwards, or if the feathers upon the rump are observed to be ruffled, and that the bird frequently pecks at it, it must be examined to see if the swollen gland be not the cause. This may frequently be softened by the application of very fresh butter, mixed up with a good deal of sugar, the aperture being enlarged by gently distending it with a needle, or a small knife; but a lead salve, or rather a salve of litharge of silver, white lead, wax, and olive oil, which must be ordered at the apothecary's, opens it best. The usual remedy is to pierce it with a needle, or to cut off the hardened gland But this process, whilst it removes the stoppage, destroys the gland, and birds thus "healed usually die at moulting, from wanting the oil requisite to smear their feathers. Tscheiner has the following observations upon this malady : - "If this evil have not yet too severely affected the health of the bird, it may be sought to be remedied by puncturing the gland, compressing it frequently, bathing the bird with a syringe, and plucking out some of the feathers of the tail. The accumulated fat is absorbed in the renewal of the feathers, when the gland resumes its natural functions."
7. Epilepsy. A very usual malady of birds. The abundance and goodness of food, and the want of exercise, whereby much and thick blood is produced, are the chief causes of this. "We have found no better remedy than to dip birds, when thus suffering, frequently into ice-cold water, and to pare their nails so closely that some drops of blood start. Also a few drops of olive-oil given internally have been serviceable. Large birds may be bled in the veins at the side of the feet. But usually birds which suffer from this sickness die eventually of it.
8. Moulting is also a malady. At this period it is requisite to attend to them very carefully, and to change their diet without giving them delicacies.
9. Birds in confinement also suffer much in their feet. These must be constantly so carefully cleansed that, the skin is not at all ruptured. The large thick scales in front of the legs must also be removed once a-year, but with great precaution.
10. Tympany. At one part of the body, or frequently all over it, the skin is puffed up as tense often as a drum. A small puncture must be made with a needle, whereby the air escapes, and the bird usually becomes sound again. We have had Skylarks which suffered from this malady, and in the next quarter of an hour, when freed from the air, resumed singing, although previously they had been sick to death.
11. Twirling. This is properly no sickness, but yet a very general evil, and a habit acquired by seed-eating birds in cages, where they turn and twist their head and neck so far back as to overbalance themselves. There is no better mode of breaking them of this evil habit than, as soon as it is detected, to put a cover over the cage, and so prevent their seeing anything above them; as this is the cause of their twirling themselves.
12. Parasites. If birds are sometimes restless, especially of a night, and if they are observed to be frequently feeling with their beak about the abdomen, back, or wings, they must be examined to see if no small yellow insects (lice or mites) may be discovered upon the body, or between the feathers. If this be the case, they must be sprinkled by means of a small syringe with water, in Which quicksilver has been steeped, or with a greatly d luted infusion of tobacco, for several successive days, whereby the vermin are destroyed, or chased away. Another mode of getting rid of the lice is to bathe the birds frequently, and to give them daily fresh or dry sand, and to be very particular in keeping them exceedingly clean.
13. If it be found that the birds become unnaturally fat, which is often the case, especially during autumn, in some species of warblers, their too nutritious food must be changed, and Swedish turnips be mixed in it, and dry ants' eggs put into their drink, which much checks their corpulency.
14. Birds in confinement are subject to another malady which we may call the amatory fever. It occurs usually in the month of May, when the sexual impulse is strongest. Birds that are. attacked by it usually cease to sing; about this time, droop, raise their feathers, waste away, and die. Birds that are confined in cages are first attacked by this malady. The cause appears to us to be the uniformity and tedioua-tnss of confinement, as well as their desire for a female. We cured several suffering thus, merely by hanging them frequently at the window. They were almost immediately cheered, and seemed to forget their sorrow, as well as their desire for freedom and pairing, in the general hilarity peculiar to singing birds.