Whether summer or winter, holiday time can mean travel – either for vacation or moving. A few years ago, we had to move from California to Maryland with our first two birds (a macaw and an African Grey). We’ve also made shorter (4 hour trips) with up to four birds. Traveling with birds can be challenging, but with a little planning, everything can go smoothly. This article offers a few tips based on our experiences with our flock.
One of the first things you have to decide is what cages your birds will use for the trip. You definitely want to make sure that the cages fit into the vehicle before you get very far into your planning. Small birds can probably travel in their regular cages, but larger birds will most likely need a smaller travel cage. If you find that you need a travel cage, get it a few weeks before the trip so you can give your bird time to adjust to it. When we were getting ready for the cross-country move, we put the travel cages in the living room with favorite toys in and on the cage and let our birds play in them.
When preparing the cages for the trip, you might want to use perches that have a slightly smaller diameter than your bird’s usual perches. My birds seem to feel more secure on the road if they can really wrap their toes around the perch. If you put toys in the travel cage, make sure they’re small, light ones that won’t swing around and hit your bird if you make a sudden turn or stop. If possible, use the same food dishes they have in their regular cage, especially if you have picky birds.
If your car has airbags, do not put the cage in the front seat. The force of an airbag deploying, even in a relatively minor accident, could easily damage any cage and injure or kill a bird inside. Cages should be fastened securely into the vehicle with seatbelts, bungee cords, etc., so keep that in mind when picking out a travel cage.
If your trip will take several days, you need to plan out stops at pet-friendly hotels. Even if a hotel does not advertise as pet-friendly, it’s very possible they’ll make an exception for birds, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If your birds are not used to riding in the car, take them on short trips. Each bird seems to have a different preference for travel. The only way to discover these are by observing your birds in the car. On these short trips, watch your bird(s) and see what they prefer; some will be calmer or happier covered, others want to see what’s happening around them. Similarly, some birds will prefer their cage on the seat where they can look out the window while others might be happier with their cage on the floor.
We’ve discovered that some of our birds do not like to poop in their travel cage, so we need to make frequent rest stops to let them out of the cage to relieve themselves. None of them seem to eat much “on the move” so we always plan eating breaks for us and the birds. It’s also a good idea to bring along water from home for the trip, because you never know for sure what the water will be like at your stops. We’ve noticed that our birds get very nervous once it starts getting dark, so we always try to plan trips so we arrive at our next stop before dark if at all possible.
If your travel or moving plans will bring you to areas with hot weather, remember that vehicles can become extremely hot in a short period of time in the sun. Never leave your birds in the car unattended. As an added precaution, we had the windows on our van tinted before we made the cross-country trip to cut down on the glare of the sun while we were on the road. The tinted windows have the added bonus of making it difficult for curious strangers to see that there were parrots in the van.
While I would never say traveling with birds is stress-free, a little planning can go a long way toward making it a mostly pleasant experience.