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YOUR BIRD, YOUR MONEY: Sitting-Dollar Values

Budget for boarding or hiring a sitter for your pet bird

By Susan Chamberlain

From the pages of BIRD TALK magazine Many pet bird owners I’ve met refrain from going on vacation because they believe they should stay home with their birds. Despite how much we love and worry about our pet birds, we need to get away once in awhile.

Vacations, family obligations, illness or out-of-town emergencies are inevitable, and we’ll be faced with the choice of boarding our birds or hiring a sitter. That choice doesn’t need to be an added expense. Budgeting for boarding or sitting costs helps owners be better prepared for both unexpected and planned excursions.

Boarding Vs. Sitting

Courtesy Donnamarie & Mike Jabier, New Jersey
Ask about what services are included in the fee when looking for a bird-sitter.
Prices associated with boarding at a pet shop, veterinary office or boarding facility are typically lower than professional home care. An advantage to boarding is that your pet bird is observed throughout the day by knowledgeable caretakers who can notice signs of illness or stress. Your bird will also be in an engaging environment, with other birds and people coming and going throughout the day.

A downside to boarding is that your pet bird is away from the comfort of its own home. It may also face possible exposure to disease. To prevent disease exposure, most boarding facilities require a recent health certificate, so factor the cost of a vet exam and any required vaccinations into your boarding expenses.

Ursula Berg, owner of Fancy Feathers Exotic Birds in New Jersey, requires boarding birds to have been tested for psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), polyoma virus and psittacosis. Berg’s standard service includes toys, fresh fruit and vegetables, daily interaction and socialization as well as attention to special needs, with prices ranging from $7 to $10 a bird per day. Long-term and multi-bird discounts are available.

“Reserve your bird’s boarding space and inquire about costs and health requirements well ahead of time,” Berg said. “Vacation periods get very busy, and there may be
no room.”

Boarding fees vary according to location, degree of expertise, services offered and type of facility. New York resident Barbara Landsperg has spent many years working in bird-specialty shops. “Long Island, New York is a more high-end area, with boarding costs often ranging from $15 per day for small birds to $25 for large birds,” Landsperg said.

In-Home Breakdown

Find A Bird-Savvy Pet-Sitter
Tips on finding a bird-sitter and working out sitting costs. More>>

In-home bird-sitting fees fluctuate. Daily rates can range from $7.50 to $75 for a single in-home visit, with most ranging in the $15 to $25 per-visit range. Fees vary depending on the degree of professionalism of the sitter (your next-door neighbor who occasionally takes care of your pet bird may charge less than a full-time professional), travel time and distance and services offered. During your initial contact with a bird-sitter, ask about the fee structure and included services.

A sitter might charge a fee for the preliminary home visit and for setting up a new account. Some sitters charge a flat, per-hour fee no matter how many birds are involved, while others charge on a per-bird basis. Most charge per visit without a predetermined visit time specified. Daily or weekly rates can be arranged, and sleepovers and holidays incur additional costs.

Special needs, such as medicating a pet bird, may result in higher fees. Leave enough food and supplies available, because unanticipated shopping trips will add to your bill.

What To Expect From A Sitter
Your sitter should provide your bird with clean water and fresh food daily as well as change the cage liner. If your bird is generally friendly and social, the sitter should allow the bird some out-of-the-cage time. (Show the sitter how to get your bird to step up on a stick or perch so he or she can safely retrieve the bird no matter the circumstances.)

One pet sitter will have a vet on call, while another will ask for your veterinarian’s contact information. Call your vet before you leave and arrange to have charges billed directly to you in case there’s an emergency while you are away. If your pet bird does require a trip to the vet during your absence, expect to be billed for the pet sitter’s time. 

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YOUR BIRD, YOUR MONEY: Sitting-Dollar Values

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Reader Comments
Great article
joan, franklin square, NY
Posted: 7/21/2008 7:11:34 AM
v, d, OH
Posted: 7/20/2008 9:28:50 PM
i have a family member do it
ben, lake Bluff, IL
Posted: 7/20/2008 8:07:17 PM
If my husband and I ever take a vacation, I'm probably going to be boarding my birds. I bought all three from the same store, and I know that they would be well cared for. They would also get out of cage time. She also knows what to expect from my birds for behavior, and it's easier than getting a friend, like I do for my dog. If it was just a day or two, I do have a neighbor who likes birds that I can ask to help out.
Andie, Spring, TX
Posted: 7/20/2008 6:52:09 PM
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