So, you’ve got a new companion bird and you want to get it used to traveling in the car so that you can take it on fun outings. Read to learn everything you need to know about traveling with your bird. BirdSupplies.com is all about parrot wellness, including providing enrichment opportunities for companion birds.
First things first. You've got to get your new companion home. Usually, the bird store or your breeder will provide you with a bird carrier. Of course, they may charge for it.
Since a bird carrier is an essential piece of equipment you may just want to spring for a nice style that you know you'll get a lot of use out of. For instance, I use my bird carriers not just for travel, but as the occasional sleeping cage, as a hospital cage, as an evacuation cage since I live in Colorado, and to take my bird to the vet.
My bird carriers get a lot of use so I've invested in a nice, high-quality bird carrier that allows my bird to see out and makes it easier to see my bird while I'm transporting it. I also like a bird carrier with stainless steel doors to allow for plenty of ventilation. And finally I want a bird carrier that can accommodate food cups, perches, and a toy or two.
Now, if I were bringing a new bird home I would minimally stock the bird carrier. If the bird has never ridden in a carrier before, the rattling toys may be frightening. Instead, I would stalk the carrier with a sprig or two of millet which generally have a calming effect on a bird. I'd also make sure that my bird had access to water and an easy to grip perch.
It may be important to bring a towel or sheet along so that you can cover up the carrier in case the bird is frightened. I prefer buckling the bird carrier in the back seat just for safety purposes. It may be helpful to play calming music versus loud, boisterous music, as well.
Once you get your new companion home, allow it to settle in quietly.
It may seem a little daunting to get your bird to go into a new bird carrier. Plan to use positive reinforcement to encourage your bird to want to explore.
If you're unfamiliar with positive reinforcement grab a copy of the Clicker Training for Birds book. This quick read book is chock-full of all kinds of bird training activities. Bird Training is one of the best ways to start bonding with your new feathered friend.
You'll want to make the bird carrier an enticing place to enter. Most birds are curious, so use that to your advantage. Gather up some of your bird's favorite treats and place them in a bowl inside the carrier. if you know that your bird has an affinity to a certain kind of toy, that inside too. If possible, put a t perch on top of the carrier and leave the door open so that your bird can enter and exit at will.
Every time that your bird enters the carrier, click the clicker and treat your bird. Slowly extend the timeout that the bird needs to be inside the carrier to obtain the reward. Remember, that when your bird makes the choice to go inside the bird carrier and it is a pleasant experience oh, that is the most enticing reward of all!
Once your bird is entering the bird carrier on its own volition, you can begin practicing closing the door, picking the carrier up, and even placing it inside the car and taking short jaunts.
You can use the same tips for getting your bird used to a backpack style carrier, as well.
Since keeping up with your parrot wellness exams at the vet are really important, you'll of course want to transport your bird to the vet at least annually. As long as you frequently use the bird carrier for other fun activities, your bird won't begin to associate getting inside of the carrier with being handled by a stranger.
When I am taking my birds to the vet, I place a clean paper towel or white paper in the bottom of the carrier so that my vet can get a fresh fecal sample. I also place a couple of toys in the carrier and make sure that my bird is comfortable. It might be helpful to train your bird to tolerate an exam so that it is comfortable when the vet is handling it.
Our birds live a long time and it is likely that you'll have to transport your bird many times throughout its life. I’ve had to transport my flock when I moved from one house to another, during evacuations, and even when I take them on vacation.
I suggest that you create a parrot transport bag that contains things like food, freshwater, clean up wipes, a towel to make sure that your bird doesn't get overheated in the car, and of course toys. Write your bird's leg band number and microchip number on a card and keep that separate from the bird and it's transport bag.
If you're transporting your bird a longer distance it's a good idea to teach your bird how to wear a harness. That way, you can get your bird out of its carrier and know that it's not going to fly off. My birds like to ride onbird car seats.
Here's a picture of Peachy riding shotgun on his car seat. I used positive reinforcement training methods to make sure that he didn't chew up my car's interior and that he stayed put on the car seat while we were in transit.
Plan to make frequent stops so that you can check on your bird. You want to make sure that it isn't getting car sick. You'll also want to make sure that your bird is comfortable in the carrier and not sitting in the direct sunlight. and, it will be important to make sure that the carrier hasn't shifted in a way that makes it hard for your bird to perch.
Just like you, your bird will appreciate frequent breaks where it can get out and stretch its wings and its legs. That's where harness training comes in especially handy!
A frequent question that I see come up in bird online bird groups is how to go about planning for a cross country move. You'd use a lot of the strategies that I've already discussed such as:
Please make it a point to never leave your pet bird unattended in the car, even if it's for a very short time. It only takes a matter of minutes for a bird to get overheated. Also, it is not uncommon for people to steal birds and try to sell them for a profit. Either one of these scenarios would be a disaster!
In addition, you may want to
Birds can and do get car sick. At least with my flock, I’ve found that the earlier I introduce my bird to car travel, the easier time they have adapting to it. But, that's not always the case. Some birds just experienced motion sickness.
If your bird is one to get car sick you'll notice it may fluff up and squint its eyes. It might just start vomiting. Plan on providing your bird with ginger tea 30 minutes prior placing it in the car. You can find the ginger tea recipe here.
You might be able to combat bird car sickness by making frequent, short, fun trips with your friend. As soon as your bird learns to associate car trips with fun it will feel a lot calmer during the car ride.
In conclusion, I've answered a lot of commonly asked questions about taking birds on car rides. If you have any additional questions please don't hesitate to reach out.
Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health.
Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians.
With over 30 years experience, in a range of settings, she’s created thousands of successful behavior plans to help turn around challenging behavior.
Diane got parrot fever in the ‘90’s and founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. Nowadays, BirdSupplies.com focuses solely on Science-backed Parrot Wellness with bird collars for feather plucking birds, nutritional supplements to support avian wellness, and a range of educational materials to support challenging bird behavior. Diane’s authored a number of books on supporting challenging behavior in birds.
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