Bird Sitter Checklist

By Susan C.

When I Plan a trip out of town, the first person I call is my bird sitter. Plane, hotel and tour reservations all depend on her availability. If she’s not available, I adjust my dates accordingly. I have ten birds, and boarding them would be rather unwieldy, so I have a bird sitter come to the house. I’m lucky enough to have a sitter who sleeps overnight at my home, a definite plus during extreme weather conditions!  Whether your bird sitter comes in once or twice a day, or spends the night, this check list will help you both.

When the trip is still a dream: 

  • If you don’t already have a bird sitter, ask for referrals. Some sources for referrals are: vet’s office; bird store; bird club; other bird owners; professional pet sitter’s organizations: Pet Sitters International  or National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
  • Schedule interviews so prospective pet sitters can meet your birds. Check references.
  • Ask your bird sitter about availability on the dates you plan to be away.
  • Confirm services required and cost.

When you’ve made your trip plans:

  • Contact your pet sitter and confirm dates and cost.
  • Call or visit your avian veterinarian to plan for your bird’s medical care if the need should arise while you are away.  Tell your vet the dates you will be away, the name of the person who is authorized to bring your bird in for treatment or evaluation and plan to have such visits billed to you directly.

A month before you leave:

  •  Bring your bird to the vet for a well-bird visit. Re-confirm emergency arrangements.
  •  Re-confirm dates with your bird-sitter.
  • Purchase some safe toys (‘hand’ toys or other proven safe playthings) for your bird to play with while you’re away.
  • If your purchase bird supplies via mail order catalog or online, order them now.

Two weeks before your trip:

  • Line up a friend or family member to check in on your bird sitter once or twice during your absence just to be sure everything is okay.
  • Have your bird groomed. Trimmed toenails and clipped flight feathers will help reduce risk of accidents or escape while you’re away.              
  • Purchase extra trash bags for the bird sitter to use while you’re away.
  • Make sure there’s an ample supply of newspaper or cage tray paper. Save time later and cut paper to size if necessary.
  • Label any spray bottles and bird cleaning products your bird sitter might use.  Your bird’s bath spray should be clearly marked “Clean Water for Bathing Birds”.
  • Make an extra set of house keys for your bird sitter and test them to be sure they work.
  • Begin making your own Bird Sitter’s Check List. Leave the check list where your bird sitter will find it. Include the following things as they apply to you and your birds and add your own special items:
  • Phone number where you can be reached; landline at destination and cell phone numbers; instructions for operating your answering machine; your e-mail address
  • Emergency numbers while you’re away:  relatives, veterinarian, heating company; household repair people; alarm company
  • Location of electrical panel and shut-off switches for boiler, etc.
  • Airline flight numbers and schedule or driving itinerary
  • Date and time of your return
  • Garbage collection days and location of cans
  • Location of mailbox, newspaper delivery and package delivery so bird sitter can bring items inside.
  • Dates and times of scheduled service visits: cleaning person, lawn service, etc. (You may be assessed an additional charge if your sitter must make a special trip to let people in.)
  • List of your bird’s names and species.

The week before you leave:

  • If you’re using a new bird sitter, ask him or her to come over for a final visit before you leave. At this time, answer questions, re-familiarize the sitter with your home and give the sitter your house keys and your alarm code. (Some alarms accommodate a special, additional code for this purpose, so you do not have to divulge your own code.)
  • Call your veterinarian again and re-confirm previous arrangements.
  • It’s time for heavy cleaning.  Scrub or power wash bird cages, trays and gratings. Discard soiled or frayed toys and accessories.
  • You should now have your trip itinerary. Print a copy of your itinerary and flight schedule to leave for your bird-sitter
  • Launder cage covers.
  • Purchase seed, pellets and treats.

Two days before departure:

  • Post your bird’s names, special habits (‘escape artist’, ‘stick trained’, ‘bites’, ‘afraid of purses’, etc.)and diet needs on cages; do this in a place where birds won’t be able to access the paper. I tape these to the edge of the angled cage aprons.
  • Put Post-it® notes on cabinets to let the bird sitter know where things (including carriers for emergencies) are. 
  • Wash and sterilize bird dishes.
  • Set timers for lights, radio, etc. and monitor them to see that they’re going on and off as scheduled.
  • Remind your friend or family member to check in with your bird sitter periodically.
  • The day before you leave:
  • Wipe soiled cage gratings, bars, aprons and clean perches where necessary.
  • Change filters in air cleaners.
  • Purchase fruit, vegetables and other fresh food for your birds.
  • Touch base with your bird sitter and reconfirm the time he or she will service the birds the following day.

Day of departure:

  •  Leave itinerary, check list and other instructions for your bird sitter in a pre-determined place.
  •  Change cage tray paper; give birds fresh food and water.
  •  If you’re going to be gone for more than a few days, leave some cash in case the birds need fresh produce, etc.
  •  Relax!