Who to leave your bird with when you travel
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
Travel can be stressful, especially when you have to leave your parrots behind. We're here to help make the process a little bit easier, and we've even made printable caretaker instructions for you to fill out!
TLDR (but we don't recommend skipping this short read!)
Trust us, we know how stressful it can be to leave your bird in somebody else's hands when you go on vacation or have to travel. To help make the overall process easier, we've compiled a list of factors we think are important to consider when you are choosing a caretaker and getting ready to leave your bird.
Choosing a caretaker while you are away
Boarding your bird at a veterinarian’s office
Boarding your bird at a pet store or a bird sitter’s house
At-home bird sitter
Things to keep in mind
If you are boarding your bird in a facility where there may be other birds, ask about their disease testing requirements. Diseases such as psittacosis, avian bornavirus/avian ganglioneuritis (ABV/AGN), proventricular dilation disease (PDD), polyomavirus, and psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) are contagious and can be fatal. Due to the cost and often limited availability of testing, many facilities do not require comprehensive disease testing to board your bird; however, most will require at least a recent veterinary checkup deeming your bird as clinically healthy. Boarding your bird at a facility that does not require disease testing and keeps birds from different homes in a shared room is putting your bird at high risk for disease exposure. Birds from different homes should be kept in separate rooms, and sanitization protocols should be implemented by staff between caring for birds to prevent cross contamination. We do not recommend boarding your bird at any facility that does not require at least a recent clean bill of health from an avian veterinarian.
If you're boarding your bird with a bird sitter, you’ll also want to be aware of hazards that may be in their house and take any necessary precautions. For example, if your bird sitter has other animals such as dogs or cats, keeping your bird in a separate room with the door closed can prevent accidents from happening. Additionally, if your chosen caretaker has children, make sure to discuss with them what you are comfortable with when it comes to children being around or handling your bird. Remember, we are not just considering the safety of your bird here--children can be injured, sometimes seriously, from bird bites. We recommend checking out our household hazards guide available on our learning materials page to familiarize yourself with other hazards that may be present in your caretaker's home, such as non-stick pans.
No matter how experienced with birds your selected sitter is (be it a veterinarian, pet store, family member, and so on), remember that your bird is an individual. As such, we recommend training your selected sitter to understand your bird’s body language and be familiar with their routine. If you are comfortable having the caretaker take your bird out of their cage, make sure to detail their out of cage routine and other safety factors to consider (for example, instructing your caretaker to close all doors/windows and turn off ceiling fans prior to taking your bird out). If your bird does not step-up for your caretaker, we do not recommend allowing your caretaker to take them out of their cage.
Preparing for your departure
Items to prepare for leaving your bird with a caretaker
It goes without saying that if you are having somebody come to your home to care for your bird, they can stay in their own cage
If you are boarding your bird somewhere, you may have to bring your own cage. As an alternative to using your own cage, many boarding facilities provide cages for free or for an additional cost
Some boarding facilities (typically veterinarian offices) have limited space and as such require birds to be housed in smaller cages or carriers. If you have to board your bird in a smaller cage or carrier, make sure to familiarize your bird with this enclosure so that they are comfortable with it before being boarded. Make sure that your bird can still move around and open their wings in the smaller carrier.
Pellets or other dry base diet, such as seed mix (we recommend checking out our nutrition guide available on our learning materials page for more information)
Chop: note that chop should be removed after a few hours to prevent spoilage, and if this is not possible, it is better to use freeze dried chop or simply skip the chop while you are away (side note, check out a sample chop recipe here)
Other cage items and enrichment
Newspaper or other cage liner
First aid & emergency
Corn starch for clotting in case of bleeding (styptic powder is ok to use only for toe nails but is toxic if ingested or applied to the skin). You can even run a bleeding nail through a bar of scent-free soap to quickly stop bleeding!
Emergency information including owner contact information and veterinarian information (there is a section for this in our printable caretaker instructions at the bottom of this blog and also here)
Remember to let your veterinarian know that you are leaving your bird with somebody else. Some veterinarians require a release form to be filled out so that in the event of an emergency, a designated person other than the owner can bring your bird in to receive care.
Handheld vacuum or broom
Parrot safe cleaning solution (for example, poop-d-zolver, f10 disinfectant, etc.)
All in all, when selecting a bird sitter, it's imperative to choose somebody responsible that you know and trust with your bird's life. We recommend putting a lot of thought into selecting a caretaker and not choosing somebody simply because they are available or have the space to accommodate your bird. Keep in mind that you may need to train your selected sitter! Leaving written instructions with your caretaker helps ensure that nothing gets lost in translation (that's why we created our printable caretaker instructions, available here and as a download at the bottom of this blog post). And one last thought--don't wait until the last minute to plan! As soon as you have a general idea of when you'll be traveling, start making arrangements for your bird.