I have had the privilege of being a caretaker to various species of birds over the past 43 years. I started at the age of eight with my first little yellow parakeet named Tweety, and that quickly grew to include many flockmates. My parents divorced when I was young, which resulted in many moves with my flock and later in life, marrying a military man ensured several transfers in my adult years.
As I grew older, the moves became easier. I knew just what was needed to make a smooth transaction and what could be packed away and not missed for a while, while in boxes. I became more in tune with my flock and kept in mind their specific needs.
Most of my moves have been within one state, which made it easier to plan. This probably made me more of a pro when it came to our long-distance move last year with our five African greys and caique. Our last move to South Carolina after my husband’s retirement from the Army counted as the 14th move with my flock. Needless to say, I plan on being here for a long time.
Prior to a move, make an appointment with your current veterinarian for a well-bird check, grooming if needed, as well as an up-to-date health certificate. You may need this along the way. Make sure you keep the health certificate along with a picture of your bird, leg band numbers or microchip information with you. Place them in a zip lock bag and keep with your own important documents. Never place these things on a moving truck because things can and will get lost.
What do I do first?
- Invest in a smaller travel cage and a carrier. Very often the bird’s big cages and play stands are going to be on a moving truck, so it is very important to get them used to a smaller travel cage for a few days at a time prior to any move.
- Get your bird used to a carrier that you can use securely in your car during travel. Take the same precautions you would with a person, and make sure they are seat-belted-in. You do not want the carrier taking a tumble with a short stop.
- Make sure the carrier is roomy enough that they can stand on a perch if they want or be on the floor if the ride gets bumpy. Make sure the perch in the carrier is not too big and they can get their toes ¾ of the way around the perch. Larger and slippery perches make travel difficult. Line the bottom of the carrier in the event they fall during travel.
- Take your parrot on small trips to make sure they do not get car sick. You will notice if there is any stress in the bird and can adjust things prior to a longer drive. Do this several times so the bird is used to road noise and movement. Each bird is an individual. One bird may like the carrier with an open view to what is going on and respond positive to the whirlwind around them with singing and dancing. Others may respond better to the carrier being covered on three sides with just a view of you to help keep them calm.
- Take breaks and monitor your bird. Make sure there is food and clean water and something for the bird to do to keep them busy. Make sure the carrier is clean and the bird not soiled. The simple reassurance of seeing you will reduce stress. Make sure you are in the car anytime you are working with the carrier to prevent accidental escape. Do not have open windows or air vents causing a breeze on the carrier during your trip.
- If you need to stop overnight, make sure the hotel is animal friendly. Bring a small stand that the bird can come out and stretch. Bring in a towel or sheet so the bird can exercise a bit but not run on a dirty floor or unchanged bedspread.
- Locate a vet prior to your move so in the event you need one, you know exactly where to go without hesitation and keep that information with you at all times. In fact, our last two homes were chosen due to the close proximity of a board-certified avian vet.
- Bring plenty of foods, treats and bottled water in the event something happens. We all know about Murphy’s Law.
I always made sure that I was with my birds during all travel. All the birds traveled well until Miss Emma came along. Emma Lynn has a twisted neck and spine, so, for whatever reason, she does not do well during car rides. We would get about 45 minutes into a trip and then she would start violently throwing up. I would have to stop and calm her down. After each stop, we would get an additional 20 minutes of road time until we had to stop again.
Prior to our last move I got a little tip from my vet that ginger should help calm her stomach. I purchased fresh ginger at the store and gave her a slice before a trip to a vet. Emma took one bite and threw it. She looked at me as if I was trying to kill her. I tasted the ginger myself and understood why she would not eat it. It was nasty! In desperation, I made a small batch of ginger water and replaced her regular water the night before as well as during our travels. This little trick has helped Emma travel easier and came in handy with our last 700-mile adventure. I have also noticed that Emma travels better in our Motor coach then in a car.
We have arrived!
Once at your destination, to try to keep your bird’s routine as familiar as possible. After each of our moves, the first few nights I would sleep closer to their room in case they were spooked by some new noise or shadow. Once settled, I set up a baby monitor so that I could still monitor them during the night.
Our birds are pretty resilient and offering reassurance and some sort of normalcy will help them adjust into their new home. The stress is usually worse on us than it is on them. We have the ability to sooth them and keep them calm when we often can’t do that for ourselves.
As you get ready for your travels and land at your new destination, remember to take a deep breath, remain calm and before you know it, you all be settling into your new routine.