Now that I no longer breed canaries, and my overall pet population has decreased to a still crazy but somewhat more manageable level, I actually get to travel. But I remember those days. The biggest drawback I faced then, other than the food bill, was the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere because I had too many critters to care for. Taking a day or two away was a major ordeal and involved copious amounts of written and verbal instructions for the poor soul who agreed to care for the animals. For this reason, we rarely went anywhere that didn’t get us back in a 24 hour period. But if you are a normal person, that is, someone with a normal amount of creatures, perhaps you have the ability to leave your home for more than a day.

Flesh Eating Parrot

If you don’t take your pets with you then you must look into pet-sitting options. Birds are probably the hardest of pets to decide what to do with because they can be very sensitive about drastic changes in their lives. It can also be difficult to find someone who’s willing to care for a bird. We’ve done lots of bird sitting over the years, and some of our clients were told by their friends or neighbors: “I’d be happy to care for your dog/cat/gerbil/polar bear, but I’m not going anywhere near that flesh-eating parrot of yours!”

What If!

If you’re only going away for a day or two, you may be able to leave the bird at home unattended, but I wouldn’t really recommend this. Even if you fill a large water bottle and extra food bowl, that doesn’t mean the bird won’t spill everything ten minutes after you leave. The power could go off, leaving your bird in the cold (or in the hot). He could get caught in a toy, the cat could knock the cage over…what if…what if…. The list could go on and on of things that can go wrong while you’re gone, and when it comes to birds, you never know. Your bird will probably cause it to happen just to make you mad.

Wheel of Fortune

Unless you give in and take Polly along with you, you must decide whether you want an in-home sitter, or if you want to board him somewhere. There are pros and cons to either approach, so look at your options carefully. No matter where he stays, you’ll need to prepare the caretaker with information about your bird: his diet, his likes and dislikes, and any quirky habits he may have, so you don’t get a frantic phone call about the fact that your bird screams like Janet Leigh in “Psycho” whenever he hears the theme music to “Wheel of Fortune”!

In-Home Sitter

Leaving the bird at home and having someone come in has one big advantage: The bird remains in his own environment. His routine will change, but the familiarity of his surroundings may help keep him from becoming too upset over the fact that his family is gone. Ideally, you want the sitter to be someone the bird already knows and likes. That person may be able to get the bird out of the cage and play with him. If you can’t get someone you know to come in, look into hiring a professional pet sitter. A pet sitter usually has experience working with all kinds of pets, and might also be willing to get your mail, water your plants and keep a general eye on your home. Ask your vet or local pet shop if they recommend someone. Interview the potential candidate and get references from past clients. The sitter doesn’t necessarily need to be bonded or licensed, but that helps. Have the person come over at least once before you leave so he or she can meet your bird and become familiar with your home. Leave phone numbers so the sitter can reach you, your vet, and a neighbor or friend. Be sure to alert your neighbors to the fact that someone will be coming and going while you’re gone. Give the neighbor a description of the person, and of their car if possible. I once dog-sat for someone over a Christmas holiday, and had a little trouble with the home security system. If the neighbors hadn’t known who I was, they’d probably have called the police instead of laughing at me from behind their curtains.

Board Your Bird

If you don’t like the idea of letting someone into your house, you can board your bird at a professional place, such as a vet’s, a kennel, or a pet shop, or you can send him to an individual’s home. If it’s possible, have the bird stay in his own cage, or at least bring along his favorite toys. You’ll also want to be sure your bird is healthy before sending him to be around other birds. Many shops, kennels, and vets require health checks before they will allow an animal to stay. You may have to have the bird tested for several transmittable illnesses, and it can take several days to get results back on certain tests. Therefore, plan ahead. A thorough exam protects your bird, as well as the other clients’ birds, so don’t get offended if you’re asked to do this.

Boarding your bird at someone’s home will probably mean more personal attention for him and might make him feel better, even if it isn’t his home. We’ve sat for birds that didn’t do well at kennels, but did fine at our house, probably because they were used to a home environment rather than a stainless steel and concrete echo chamber filled with barking.

Holding Grudges And Trauma

No matter what you decide to do with your bird while you’re away, chances are it will be somewhat of a trauma for him (and perhaps for you). Don’t be surprised if he’s angry at you upon your return. Birds can hold grudges for a while if they think they’ve been mistreated. Most likely after the bird settles back into his old routine, he will forgive you and all will be well. That is of course unless he falls in love with his bird sitter!

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Categories: Flock Talk

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