TRAVELING WITH PET BIRDS
By Carolyn Swicegood
That time of year is here again. As the days grow
longer, we daydream of faraway places and we long for a change of scenery.
But wait--what about the birds? How could we possibly enjoy traveling with
nagging worries about our feathered friends left behind? Maybe we could
ask a trusted friend to come in and care for them, but what if the birds
stop eating? What if the caregiver forgets something? What if a bird
becomes ill while we are away? Maybe that trip was not such a good idea
after all. Perhaps we should just stay at home and save the worry and the
expense of a bird sitter!
There is an enjoyable option -- bring the birds along! After all, if we
have the urge to fly the coop, just imagine how exciting a trip could be
for our wild friends who were meant to travel the skies daily! Take to the
air or hit the road with your feathered flock and enjoy your trip as well
as your birds. Here are a few travel ideas to consider.
If at all possible, take your birds inside the cabin of the plane with
you instead of in cargo. The cargo hold is pressurized and safe but it is
probably more stressful for the birds. Most airlines allow passengers to
carry on their birds in carriers that fit under the seat. Each ticket
holder is entitled to carry one bird in the cabin of most airlines for an
extra charge of about $50. A family of three can take a total of three
birds for about $150 extra. Some airlines limit the number of animals per
flight allowed in the passenger cabin as well as the cargo compartment.
The maximum number allowed is usually five to eight animals, so reserve
space for your birds early and confirm 24 hours in advance. It can be
helpful to check in before the recommended arrival time. Always book
non-stop flights when possible. This minimizes handling, loud equipment
sounds, stress and the possibility of other problems. For air trips over
eight hours in length, schedule a flight with one stop. If the bird is
traveling in cargo, instruct the carrier to give the birds water and fresh
food supplied by you. Secure the food and water dishes near the door to
make it easier to service and minimize the chance of escape into the
airport. If the bird is traveling in the cabin with you, use the stopover
to offer water and clean the floor of the carrier if you can find a safe
quiet place to open the carrier.
Most airlines require a health certificate issued within 10 days before
the flight. It is important to make arrangements with the airline well in
advance of the departure date. Birds should be listed for the flight at
the same time as human passengers. International travel requires much more
advance planning than travel within the country. Double check the
regulations required for animals to enter and leave a foreign country. It
is most important to determine whether regulations require the
quarantining of birds in either country. Some countries require up to six
months quarantine of pets entering the country.
Purchase the carrier recommended by the airline well in advance and
familiarize the bird with the carrier by taking short trips, especially if
the bird seems nervous about being confined. It will be necessary for the
bird to remain confined to the carrier for the duration of the flight if
it rides in cargo. If your bird is traveling with you in the cabin of the
plane, some flight attendants will allow you to remove the bird from the
carrier, even though regulations forbid it. Besides the standard plastic
under-the-seat carrier, there are shoulder bags and other soft bags with
steel frames that have been airline approved for carry-on birds. Young
birds travel well in carriers without a perch. To absorb droppings, some
travelers use a piece of cotton rug with non-slip backing. I prefer nubby
dog bedding fabric over a piece material designed to prevent rugs from
sliding on the floor. The nubby texture absorbs droppings and keeps them
away from the birds' feet.
TAGGING & COVERING THE
Carriers should be well marked and tagged with information such as
flight number, destination, owner's name and address, home phone number,
and the bird's name and schedule for food and water. Some owners take the
extra precaution of using a permanent marker to write all the information
and instructions somewhere on the carrier.
Taking along a discrete cover for the carrier will prevent prying eyes
and pointing fingers both in the airport and during the flight. If you do
not cover the carrier, prepare to be swamped with gawking onlookers who
somehow are completely fascinated by a flying creature about to hitch a
ride on an airliner! If you like to teach, now is your chance. You will
have a captive audience of fellow passengers to educate on parrots and
their care.AIRSICK BIRDS--REALLY!
Believe it or not, some birds are prone to in-flight motion sickness.
Before the trip, familiarize your bird with fresh ginger root by placing
several slices in the carrier every time you go for test rides. Ginger is
a peppery tasting treat that prevents motion sickness in most birds. Do
not give birds a heavy feeding just before the flight. Place a few moist
foods such as half an orange or a few juicy grapes inside the
Consider the comfort of your fellow passengers. If someone sitting next
to you is allergic to birds or afraid of them, offer to ask the flight
attendant to change seats. Some passengers will welcome the distraction of
an exotic passenger nearby. Bring along a thick, dark cover for the
carrier in case the floor is drafty or your bird becomes overly exuberant
while airborne. Covering the carrier can be comforting to a bird that
feels insecure and fearful, especially during takeoff and landing.
AFTER THE FLIGHT
Once you have landed and carried your feathered buddy off the plane or
retrieved him from cargo, you are on your way. Many hotels allow birds to
stay in a room or suite with you for a small daily or weekly fee. Guide
books and hotel directories are a great resource but pet policies change
often so it is necessary to verify the current policy. Some hotels offer
special rates for pet owners. For a fee of $4, Super 8 will issue a card
entitling the holder to 10% off the price of a room. Check for similar
deals which add up to good savings over the duration of a long trip.
Some hotels allow guests with pets to stay only in rooms where smoking
is allowed. This can be a problem if you or your pets have allergies. Some
pet rooms are unsuitable due to soiled carpets, odors, or worn
furnishings. Ask beforehand if the room is the same quality as non-pet
rooms. When inquiring about keeping birds in your room, explain to the
manager that the bird will be confined to a cage, therefore doing no
damage to the room. If they ask about noise, explain that you use a cage
cover (if your bird can indeed be quieted with a cover). When you leave,
clean up the mess! Don't make it difficult for the next traveler with
birds by leaving the room looking like the scene of a food fight!
TRAVEL CAGE OR CARRIER?
Teri and Larry Crosiar warn, "If you use the plastic Vari-Kennel for a
bird with a strong beak, take along an extra one for a long trip. Daphne,
our Eclectus, chewed her way through two of them, even though she had toys
and millet sprays to busy her beak. I think I'm going to find her a good
metal travel cage before we take off again. A perch can be installed in
the plastic Vari-Kennel a couple of inches from the floor. This can be
made with a short piece of dowel rod and two large screws. Drill the
screws through the sides of the kennel into each end of the dowel. Install
the perch near the floor of the carrier so that if you swerve or stop
quickly your bird can simply step off the perch instead of falling."
Most birds enjoy riding perched in a travel cage while watching the
world go by. They quickly learn that the vehicles passing by will not harm
them, but they never fail to duck when going under an overpass. The
instinctual fear of "predators from above" is alive and well!
Whatever your choice for your bird's home away from home during the
trip, allow the bird to try it out and become comfortable with it before
the trip. By observing your bird in the carrier or cage, you can correct
any problems with the setup before you leave. A cage cover is essential
both in the car and in the hotel room to block direct sun and drafts, as
well as to provide security and restful sleep. Absolutely nothing can ruin
a vacation trip faster than a lost member of the flock, so be sure that
your birds have an adequate new wing clip to prevent escape. By planning
ahead, we have made the annual trek by car or van with all our parrots
from the southern tip of Florida to the mountains of North Carolina
without a problem.FOOD, WATER AND SAFETY TIPS
Reserve accommodations well in advance of your trip. Ask for a room or
suite with a small refrigerator and microwave oven. If they are
unavailable, take along a small crock pot to prepare food in the room. A
cooler will preserve fruits and veggies brought from home and replenished
as needed. Some coolers are equipped with adapters that plug into the
lighter of the car and the electrical outlet of the hotel room. Here are a
few helpful hints for advance planning of a car trip:
- Always seat belt the travel cage securely before driving and secure
any luggage that could fall on the cage in the event of a quick stop.
- For the duration of the car trip, only soft toys should be hung in
the cage. All toys and dishes should be secured to the cage bars or
floor to avoid injuries to the bird in case of a sudden stop.
- Pack a portable perch or a screw-on perch for the travel cage top so
that the bird can have some freedom once you are settled in your home
away from home.
- Assemble a first aid kit of the most essential items such as a
coagulating agent for broken blood feathers or nails. Ideally we would
take everything that the birds could possibly need but in the interest
of traveling light, choose emergency items carefully.
- Locate an avian vet in the area and keep the phone number handy.
- Bring drinking water from home. A change in water can cause upsets
for sensitive birds.
- Sheri Blackshire who travels with a Grey and an Eclectus recommends
placing ice cubes in the water dish instead of water which can spill
- Juicy foods such as grapes, pears, berries, apples, celery, mango
and papaya also contain water without the problem of spillage.
- Pet canteens with a bowl built on the side are available and save
- A spray bottle of pure water is a MUST for a car trip with birds. It
can be used for quick cleanups and could save the lives of overheated
birds stranded due to car trouble in hot weather.
- Pack all the bird food together--dry foods can be kept in the cooler
in sealed plastic bags. Baby wipes or paper towels and a bottle of
Grapefruit Seed Extract serve multiple purposes. They can be used to
sterilize water and to clean bird dishes.
- To make your own sterile handi-wipes, moisten folded paper towels in
a solution of eight ounces water and ten drops of GSE.
- If you spend your vacation in a hotel room, ask to do your own
cleaning. Your GSE, spray bottle of water, and paper towels or baby
wipes will do most cleaning chores and you can avoid the problem of
toxic fumes from hotel cleaning solutions that could be harmful to
- Pack food toys such millet spray, almonds and other unshelled nuts,
whole fruits and veggies and of course the bird's favorite toys.
- Carry detailed emergency instructions for bird care in your wallet
with your driver's license. An extra copy in the glove compartment could
be helpful in the event of an accident.
- Never locate your bird's travel carrier in a seat facing an airbag.
The impact of an inflating airbag during a bump up can be fatal to
- Never leave birds unattended in an unlocked car when stopping for
fuel or supplies. Unless you are traveling alone, take turns staying
with the birds. If you are alone and have only one or two birds, take
them with you in a covered picnic basket when you must leave the car
- Minimize the time that birds are left alone in the hotel room.
Secure your bird safely in the travel cage and secure the cage if
possible when you leave. Use the "Do Not Disturb" sign at all times.
- When you dine in restaurants, order bird food to take home. Unsalted
corn on the cob, rice, baked potato or sweet potato, fruits and most
veggies are good choices.
- When you leave the hotel, clean up all bird debris and leave a
generous tip for the cleaning staff.
- Stick to the usual feeding and sleeping schedule of your birds
Most of all, enjoy your trip and enjoy your feathered companions too.
Some birds are stimulated by family car trips to talk much more than
usual. It is a great time to teach them new words, phrases and songs.
Don't forget the new wing clip and enjoy traveling with your birds! Bon
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