There are few situations that provoke more angst among bird owners than traveling with their beloved pets. We all seem to fret over their comfort and safety, and we’re certain that our birds will be thrown into some sort of shock or frenzy at our eventual destination. I know. I’ve been there. When I made a long distance move some years ago, I was convinced that my Amazon parrots would be traumatized into silence for at least two weeks. I was sure that the budgies wouldn’t survive the car trip down US 95, and I just knew that my pair of Senegal parrots would go into a panic from which they’d likely never recover! Amazingly to me, the birds all survived the trip just fine. The Amazons maintained their silence until the first toll booth along the road, at which point they sent up a cacophony of sound that provoked the interest of the toll collector. The budgies kept up a constant chortling throughout the two-day trip, and the Senegal parrots contentedly munched on their food along the way.
I was amazed at my flock’s ability to adapt to this new adventure, but I had planned it with the precision of a military operation! Several months before, I acquired the small cages and carriers the birds would be traveling in. I set them up at home and let the birds spend time inside them each day so that they would become accustomed to their temporary quarters. I gave them small treats and toys to make the time inside small cages more pleasant. This was so successful that the Amazons soon began to insist on spending their afternoons inside their travel cages. I took the birds for short rides around town several times before the trip so that they’d get used to the car. There were no problems here; no one panicked and thankfully, none of the birds became carsick. If your bird is prone to motion sickness, consult your avian veterinarian for specific advice.
Traveling with your bird can be fun and rewarding for both of you. Little things can make a big difference. Make your bird’s home away from home safe and familiar. Bring along a good supply of your pet’s usual food and several favorite toys. Make changing the paper in your pet’s travel cage a cinch by purchasing pre-cut cage tray liners or a roll of waxed paper or paper towels. Store travel supplies in a plastic crate or box so you can move everything in and out of the car in one shot. A cooler for fresh food is essential Replenish ice at hotels or restaurants along the way. Keep the ice in zipper style plastic bags to reduce leakage inside the cooler. If you want to take a step up, purchase a small cooler that operates on your car’s power system. These are available at sporting goods stores or well-equipped appliance outlets.
There are so many great carriers available that it’s difficult to choose just one. What’s the purpose of your trip and the method of travel? If you’re traveling by air, you’ll need an airline approved carrier. Will your bird ride in the aircraft cabin with you? The carrier must fit beneath the seat. Your bird store retailer will be able to help you select an appropriate carrier for air travel. Clear acrylic carriers are beautiful, easy to clean and provide a full view of your bird. These are great for automobile travel, but most are not intended to be used as vacation homes for birds, so you’ll need to have a cage available at your destination. Never place acrylic carriers in direct sunlight, as the temperature inside can quickly escalate.
Soft-sided ‘backpack’ style carriers are very popular now, and these are designed for people who want hands-free freedom while taking their birds out with them. These offer easy access to the bird inside, and are great for trips to the vet, groomer or on visits to friends. Many people use them when they want to take their birds safely outdoors for a walk.
A small cage often makes a great travel home for your bird. Be sure the cage is sturdy enough for the bird inside. Bring along a folding tray table to use as a stand at your destination and attach a screw-on gym or perch to the cage so your bird can enjoy some “out” time too.
Hints for a Safe, Smooth Trip
- Never permit your bird to travel ‘loose’ inside your car. The results could be devastating in the event of an accident. Confine your pet to a travel cage or carrier.
- Give your bird bottled water or drinking water brought from home until you are settled at your destination.
- Cover travel cages with white or light-colored cloth to deflect sunlight and to provide your bird with daylight while you are on the road. The cover may help reduce the possibility of carsickness and will keep your bird from the prying eyes of strangers.
- Avoid bird theft. Keep a low profile. Resist the urge to show your bird off at rest stops or hotels.
- Bring a clean spray bottle, filled with water so you can mist your bird in case of overheating.
- Be sure your bird is healthy before you leave! Several weeks prior to your trip, take your bird to the vet for a check up and a health certificate if necessary. Health certificates may be required for interstate travel or for travel on planes or other public conveyances.
- Make a note of avian veterinarians and emergency animal clinics along your route. To find these, ask your veterinarian for referrals, contact area bird clubs or visit the Association of Avian Veterinarians website at www.aav.org for reference
- Purchase an avian first aid kit for your trip. Pre-assembled kits are available at pet shops and through mail order and online suppliers. The kits contain hemostats to pull our blood feathers, blood-stop powder, eye wash, gauze and more. Read up on first aid for birds well before departure. Prevention is the best first aid there is!
- Have your bird’s wings and nails trimmed several weeks prior to your trip to reduce risk of injury and escape.
- Prevent injuries! Remove swings and hanging toys from your bird’s travel cage.
- Buckle up! Place your bird’s carrier or travel cage on the back seat of the car and secure it with a seatbelt. Alternatively, you may place it on the flat cargo area of an SUV or station wagon. Avoid putting your bird on the front seat to avoid injury from accidents or accidental air bag deployment. Never place your bird’s travel cage on the floor of your car, as exhaust fumes may be present in that area.
- Don’t forget the hand-held vacuum cleaner! A cordless, rechargeable vacuum cleaner will make cleaning up in hotels and at friends’ homes a cinch! You do want to be invited back, don’t you?
- Never leave your bird alone in the car for more than a minute or two. Heat can quickly build up to lethal levels during warm weather. If you are traveling alone and must make a pit stop, park in a well traveled area and lock the car doors.
Copyright Susan Chamberlain 2021 This article may not be disseminated or printed without express written permission of the author.