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Tips for Safe Traveling with Your Bird
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
Basic Care
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Will your bird be a good traveler?

AmazonWhen it comes to travel, the disposition of every bird is different. Many small birds such as canaries, finches, and budgies are high-strung and can easily become stressed. They are best left home. Others, like the gregarious Amazons, love to travel. Still others, such as cockatoos and macaws, may suffer separation anxiety, and thus will not abide being left home alone. For many birds, travel is interesting, keeping their active minds entertained. Best of all, travel lets them be with their favorite person all day.

Traveling with your bird is not difficult and can be fun, if he wants to come along. Need help with determining whether your bird is an eager companion? Try answering these questions:

  1. Is your bird accustomed to a routine? (And will you be able to maintain it?) If your bird is very young, his feeding, play, rest, and hygiene patterns may not be well established. Travel is best for those mature birds who can adapt to a change in routine.

  2. How long will your bird stay comfortably in his cage? You learn to read your bird's many moods at home. On the road, you need to pay extra attention to them to prevent stress. Before taking a long trip, we recommend that you familiarize your bird with the travel carrier. Then start with short trips, and gradually increase their duration.

  3. Does your bird get motion sickness? Like humans, your bird can experience motion sickness. His brain can receive conflicting messages - from his eyes and the rest of his body - about whether he is in motion. Again, starting with short trips will help you determine if motion sickness is a problem for your bird.

  4. Is your bird healthy? Travel causes stress for owners and their pets. Schedules change. Diet changes. Water consumption is often disrupted. Travel is more difficult for some birds than others. For example, some experience phobias, while others tire easily. Before any extended trip, it is a good idea to take your bird to your veterinarian for a health check-up. The stress of travel could cause serious problems in a bird that is already ill.

  5. Is it legal to transport your bird on this route? Believe it or not, depending on the species of your bird, it may not be. Some states exclude certain species. It is your responsibility to check in advance before you travel. For any bird, interstate travel usually requires a health certificate signed by your veterinarian within ten days prior to your departure. The site, www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_states.shtml, has links to the latest regulations on interstate movement of animals, written and maintained by individual states. International travel is much more complex. Always ask your veterinarian for advice.

  6. Will the trip and the destination be safe? For safety concerns, it is best if your bird travels in a specifically designed travel cage. Your bird should not be left in the car unattended, so it may be necessary to make special arrangements depending upon your travel plans. There are also places you should not take your bird, for example, exceptionally cold or hot climates. Also check your route and destination to make sure there are no disease outbreaks or established quarantines that could affect your bird.

  7. Will you have time for your bird at your destination? If your answer is "no," home care is a better option. You will need to have time to play with your bird, feed him, clean his cage, etc. If this will not work into your travel plans, consider a pet-sitter.

Travel tips

If you decide your bird would be a good traveler, here are some tips to add to your mutual enjoyment and safety.

  • Before you go, have reservations. If you need to arrange overnight accommodations, make sure the pet-only rooms are also non-smoking rooms. Smoke fumes can make your bird ill.

  • Schedule a health exam and check regulations. Remember, if you are traveling interstate, you will probably need a health certificate signed by your veterinarian within ten days prior to your departure. Even if you are traveling in-state, have your veterinarian give your bird a health check. If you think your bird may become anxious or have motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian about herbal or prescription products that may help. If traveling by air, be sure to contact your airlines to determine if they have any restrictions.

  • Pack everything you and your bird will need. You can bring all you need for your bird and still pack light as a feather:

  • Travel cage that fastens to the seatbelt and has a cover
    • Cages and restraint – Your pet's regular cage is likely to be too large for your car. Instead, for car travel we recommend a travel cage designed to fasten securely with a seat belt, and hold up to jostling on the highway. Do NOT place the cage in the front seat since in the event an air bag would inflate, it could cause injury to the bird. Covering the cage may help prevent motion sickness. When it comes to cage furnishings, you will not want to fill the travel cage with hard or swinging objects that could cause injury during a sudden stop. Because of their compact size, travel cages are not recommended for daily use on extended trips. You will need room in your car to pack your pet's regular cage, or at the minimum, a play gym.

      Never travel with a bird loose in your car or in the trunk; and, because birds expire quickly in high heat, they should NEVER be left in your car unattended.

      Wherever you go, you need to take precautions not to lose your pet. A flight suit with lanyard will help keep you in control. Also, to prevent escape, it is always a good idea to keep wings well-trimmed.

    • 3 Ways To Provide Safe Water:
      1. Carry a portable water filter. Water filters can get rid of heavy metals and other elements boiling does not address.
      2. Boil water from home and store it in air-tight bottles.
      3. Use commercial bottled water (remember to get your bird used to the taste of commercial waters before your trip).
      Food and water – Just before and during the trip you will not want to overfeed your bird. On arrival, you will need a good supply of his regular diet. Because you probably will not want to invest the time to shop for pet food, be sure to pack plenty. Also, bring bottled water you can trust your bird will enjoy.

      Do not be lax, and feed your bird the wrong foods just because you are "on vacation." Now more than ever, your bird needs his regular daily food to be the main portion of his diet. Remember that foods full of fats and sugars - such as fast foods - are unhealthy for your avian friend. Proper nutrition is also important for managing stress in your bird. Suddenly changing food, especially during the stress of travel, could cause severe digestive problems. If you are going to give some treats, introduce them to your bird several days prior to the trip to acclimate his digestive system.

      To help keep your car seat and the cage dry, try using a water bottle instead of a water cup. Make sure your bird knows how to use a water bottle before starting on your trip. You may also want to give your bird small pieces of juicy fruit, which will help keep him hydrated. Remember that if you are traveling to an area where it is unsafe for you to drink the water, your bird should not drink it either.

    • Tips For Carrying Foods
      On The Go:
       •  Use a cooler with plenty of ice for fresh foods.
       •  Store foods in non-breakable jars, such as plastic containers or tight closing plastic bags.
       •  Eat healthy and share with your bird. Instead of a "doggie bag," save a few fresh vegetables and fruits from your meal and make a "birdie bag" to give to your bird.
      Some other helpful food-related hints include:

      • Food cups should be deep and secured to the cage or crate.

      • Provide one dish for his regular diet (pellets/seeds) and one for fresh vegetables.

      • Use a seed guard on the cage to reduce unwanted messes. No one likes to clean up seeds from the car floor.

      • Remember that birds crave routine, even on the go. The closer you can stick to your usual feeding schedule, the better. For instance, feed breakfast before starting out, and provide dinner when you stop for the night. Many birds will not eat inside a moving vehicle, and are more apt to eat when they are settled and not stressed.

    • Cleaning supplies – Hygiene never takes a holiday, and keeping your bird's cage clean during the increased stress of travel is vitally important. To clean or touch up the cage, pack the necessary cleaning supplies such as:

      • Cage liners
      • Paper towels and/or cage wipes
      • Cleaning cloths
      • Bird-safe disinfectant
      • Sandpaper
      • Scrub brush and/or old toothbrush

      While cleaning the cage, carefully monitor the amount of food that was eaten and the color, quantity, and consistency of the droppings. Changes in any of these could signal a potential problem.

    • First aid kit – You will want to include a small first aid kit for traveling to handle any minor emergencies that may occur; see our article, Making a First Aid Kit for Your Bird. It is also a good idea to have the name and phone number of an avian veterinarian located at your destination, and even along the way. A listing of active members of the Association of Avian Veterinarians can be found at http://www.aav.org/search/index.php.

  • Keep to the routine. The key to successful travel is minimizing the changes in your bird's routine. Here are some important to-dos before and during your trip:

    • Pre-trip – Keep your bird's normal play, feeding, rest, and hygiene schedule. If you will be using a new travel cage, familiarize your bird with it in advance by taking local trips. A week before, during, and a week after traveling, fortify his diet with stress-formula vitamins and minerals. A few days before departure, you may wish to bathe your bird. You may not have time for a full bath until you reach your destination. Also clip your bird's wings, and the nails and beak, if necessary. Make sure your bird knows how to drink from a water bottle.

    • En route – Like you, your bird needs a rest stop every few hours. During breaks, in addition to food and water, be sure to provide your bird a few minutes of personal attention. Observe your pet's mood. If needed, give any herbal or prescription products as recommended by your veterinarian for anxiety or motion sickness. Covering the cage may also help reduce the symptoms. Any time your bird is out of the cage, use a flight suit with its lanyard attached. This will control droppings, and help prevent escape… the last thing you want while away from home! Feed your bird lightly before and during the trip, and minimize the confusing visual stimulus by keeping his cage covered. Be sure your bird has the necessary dark and quiet area for plenty of sleep.

    • At your destination – Because of their compact size, travel cages are not recommended for daily use on an extended trip. Upon arrival, transfer your pet to his regular cage, and/or allow him to be out on a play gym. Position the cage and gym in a quiet location, away from any windows. Spend time with your pet. Keep attention from friends, family, and others under control. And continue your effort to maintain a normal pet maintenance schedule. Again, be sure your bird's sleep schedule is not disrupted. Healthy birds need at least 10 hours of sleep - birds under the stress of traveling need even more.

A stress-free trip takes planning. Plan the basics, like food and water, and there will be less for you to think about and more time to enjoy travel with your bird. The planning and preparation on your part can make the trip fun and very worthwhile.


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Click here for a pdf version of this article.  See related products at DrsFosterSmith.com Pet Supplies  
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