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Should You Board Or Travel With Your Pet Bird?

From boarding your bird, to pet sitters to harnesses and carriers, find all you need to know about traveling with your pet bird before you hit the road.

By Jessica Pineda

Cockatiels
By Gina Cioli/BowTie/Courtesy Omar's Exotic Birds
A travel carrier is a smaller-sized cage used for when a pet bird is transported from one place to another.

All of us do some traveling from time to time, either for vacation, the holidays or on business. When it’s time to travel, you have several options available on what to do with your pet bird. You can board your pet bird, have a bird sitter take care of your pet bird, or you can take your pet bird with you!

Boarding Your Pet Birds
You can board your pet bird with your avian veterinarian or an avian-only store. There are many advantages to having your pet bird boarded. Your pet bird will be around professionals who understand bird behavior, know the signs of illness and, in case of emergency, are be on hand to care for your pet bird. Another plus to having your pet bird boarded is that it will be around other pet birds (in separate cages), so it will receive some flock enrichment. You might find your pet bird has learned a few new sounds when it comes back home!

Most facilities require that a pet bird be tested for psittacosis before it can be boarded. This test should be done on your pet bird’s first well-bird checkup with your avian veterinarian. Bring a copy of your pet bird’s paperwork and any other required documents, along with your pet bird’s food and a few of its favorite toys. Some avian stores and veterinarians schedule in one-on-one time with your pet bird while it’s boarding with them.

Pet Bird Sitters
While you are away, your pet bird might be better off in the comfort of its own home rather than in a boarding facility, if this is the case, have a bird sitter come to your home to care for your bird. Your pet bird sitter can be your best friend or a professional who you hire to come in twice a day to feed your bird and spend time with it. If your friend is watching your bird, start teaching him or her how to handle your bird a few weeks before you leave. Perch-train your pet bird so your friend doesn’t have to physically handle it, especially if the person doesn’t have much pet bird experience.

If you hire a professional bird sitter, ask for referrals from your veterinarian, bird store, bird club members or other bird owners. Have potential bird sitters meet your birds a few weeks before your trip to see how the sitter interacts with your bird.

Once you have chosen your sitter, either friend or professional, touch base often with him/her to confirm your travel plans. When you arrive at your destination, contact the sitter to see how your bird is doing and to confirm your itinerary with him or her.

Leave your pet bird’s food, toys and other essentials in clear view, along with your contact information, veterinarian information and the dates you’ll be gone. Also include a note with information about your pet bird: its name, likes and dislikes, favorite word, favorite treat and any other descriptions that you feel are important to know.

Traveling With Your Pet Birds
If you don’t want to board your pet bird or hire a bird-sitter, why not take your pet bird with you? Many pet birds love to travel and even look forward to it!

If you are traveling by air, you need to purchase an airline-approved carrier. For your pet bird to be able to ride in the cabin with you, the carrier needs to fit under your seat. Contact your airline for the proper carrier measurements.

Bring along your bird’s supplies, including bird food and a medical kit, in case of emergency. Take along fresh fruit, which can serve as a water source for your bird, since a water dish or water bottle can spill during transit.

Depending on the length of your trip, you might want to stop for breaks and give your bird a chance to stretch its wings. Bring along a T-stand, or a perch that is specifically designed to go over a seat. Never allow your pet bird to be loose in the car while you are driving; keep it in its carrier, with a seat belt over the front.

Pet Bird Harnesses
If you are going on a long trip (or even a short one into the backyard) and want to give your pet bird time outside, train your pet bird to wear a harness. When you’re outside if your bird gets startled or a sudden breeze comes, your bird could be off before you know it, even if its wing feathers are trimmed. A harness and leash on your bird will keep it from flying off.

Once you have your pet bird’s needs taken care of, you can relax and enjoy your trip.

Travel Safely
The second most important investment you can make for your bird (after its cage) is a good carrier. Most young birds are close to fully grown, so a carrier is an investment that will last its lifetime. Your pet bird’s carrier should made of a material your pet bird cannot chew up, like acrylic, hard plastic or aluminum. It should be tall enough that your bird can stand up and turn around.

When you are not traveling, a carrier can substitute as a sleep cage, and some carriers fit the dual purpose of a travel carrier and temporary cage when your bird is away from home trip. 

Where Can’t I Travel With My Pet Bird?
If you are traveling to another state, check with that state’s Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and a state veterinarian to confirm that your bird’s species is allowed. Certain species, namely quaker parrots, are illegal to possess and travel within several states; authorities have the jurisdiction to confiscate your bird if found. Also, if the state you are traveling in has issued a quarantine on parrots and other avian species, your bird might be at risk for being confiscated. Before traveling state-to-state, get an interstate veterinary health certificate from your veterinarian at least 10 days prior to traveling.

International travel is very difficult to do with your bird and it takes a long time (often a year) to gather all the necessary paperwork. You have to obtain a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit that must be validated by the USFWS. You must also check with the other country’s rules about entry with exotic pets. Some countries require additional paperwork and permits. Some do not allow the transport of exotic animals, due to fear of the avian flu.

In Case Of Emergency
Emergencies can happen, so be prepared. Keep a kit full of avian medical supplies and extra food on hand near your bird’s cage. Teach your bird that it’s time to go in its carrier when you give it a verbal cue, such as, “Carrier” or “Time to go.” In case of an emergency, remain calm: birds are sensitive to our emotions and if they sense panic in you, they are more likely to panic. Give your pet bird its cue word, place it in its carrier, grab your bird supplies and go to safety.


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