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How to SAFELY Travel with a Bird in a Car [Ultimate Guide]

Travelling with a bird in a car probably seems like a daunting task. Let’s face it, most birds would probably rather stay at home than go for a ride in your car.

However, sometimes you have no choice but to take your bird on a road trip. Whether it’s a short trip to the vet, or a longer trip if you’re relocating, or are planning on taking your bird or parrot away with you.

Most birds will be completely fine on a short car journey, but long trips CAN be highly stressful for them. Of course, this depends on your bird’s personality.

To ensure a bird feels comfortable and secure in a car, you will need to plan ahead:

  1. Choose a secure, sturdy travel cage for your bird.
  2. Get your bird used to the travel carrier or cage.
  3. Do some practise runs in the car.
  4. Consider giving your bird anti-stress supplements.
  5. Pack the essentials.
  6. Ensure the car is an appropriate temperature.
  7. Strap the carrier into the car with a seat belt or place it securely on the floor behind a seat.
  8. Check up on your bird often.
  9. Look out for signs of motion sickness.

In this article we will go through each steps in detail on how to transport a bird in a car.




Choosing the right travel cage for your bird.

There are many different types of bird travel cages to choose from, these include:

  • Backpack
  • Soft-sided
  • Solid Acrylic Cages
  • Plastic Cages
  • Flatpack Metal Cages
  • Dog Crates

Each type of travel carrier has their pros and their cons. Additionally, different cages suit different bird species, owners and serve different purposes. These are the main points to consider when looking at travel cages, relative to the species of your bird and how long he/she will be in the cage for:

  • Size of travel cage
  • Quality
  • Material

POPULAR BIRD TRAVEL CARRIERS

IMAGE TYPE NAME DIMENSIONS PRICE
petfit bird travel cage Backpack Petsfit Backpack Bird Carrier 13 x 10 x 16 inches Check here
A&E Soft Sided Bird Travel Carrier Soft-sided A&E Soft-Sided Bird Travel Cage 13.5 x 9 x 18.5 inches Check here
Plastic Ferplast Rectangular Cage 39 x 25 x  41 cm Check here
pawhut metal bird travel cage Metal Pawhut Metal Bird Carrier 54 x 49.5 x 20 cm Check here
pawhut metal bird travel cage Dog Crate Basics Metal Dog Crate 61 x 46 x 51 cm Check here

#1 Opt for a smaller travel cage. 

Your bird’s travel cage should be smaller than it’s normal cage.

This way it will be light and easy for you to transport. Additionally, having a smaller travel cage will also prevent potential injuries as your bird would risk being thrown around in a large cage.

With that said, the travel carrier must be large enough for your bird to stretch their wings without any restriction. A Budgie will of course require a much smaller cage than an African Grey.

You should also take into consideration how long your car trips will be, and thus, how long your bird will be in its travel cage for.

Of course, if your bird will be spending a lot of time in its travel cage, you should opt for a larger size. Otherwise, you will risk your bird getting stressed out and anxious. A larger size will also allow more space for multiple branches, or a small toy to provide your bird with entertainment.

On the other hand, if you will just be taking short trips, like to the vet for example, then a smaller size will suffice.

If you put a toy in your bird’s travel cage, make sure that it will not harm your bird by swinging around too much during a rough ride.

#2 Ensure that the travel cage is durable, well-ventilated and secure.

Check the reviews before purchasing your travel cage, to ensure that it’s made from good quality materials and doesn’t have any design flaws.

This is particularly important if you are the owner of a large, strong bird. If you have a Cockatoo for example, it’s VERY important that you purchase a strong, quality cage that has been specifically built to withstand a strong beak.

Furthermore, if you are planning on going on long car journeys, then it’s particularly important that you purchase a strong, durable travel cage. You definitely wouldn’t want the cage to fail on your halfway through you trip!




Get your bird used to the travel carrier or cage.

You want your bird to feel as at home in its travel cage as possible. This will minimise stress as your bird won’t feel completely out of its comfort zone.

Try to obtain your travel carrier weeks before your car journey so you have adequate time to get your bird used to it’s temporary home.

a) Try not to force your bird in the cage initially.

You don’t want your bird to associate the travel carrier with fear and stress.

Instead, introduce the cage during playtime, leaving the door open so your bird can enter it at its own will.

b) Entice your bird into the new cage with treats.

Use treats to entice your bird into their new travel cage. This way, he/she will associate it with positive things.




Do some practise runs with your bird in the car.

Once your bird has started to feel more comfortable in their new travel home, get them used to staying in there for longer periods of time, with the door closed.

Put your bird in the cage with their favourite treat or toy, close the door securely and gently pick the carrier up. Walk around the house with the carrier so that your bird gets used to the motion.

Work your way up to having your bird in its travel cage for at least 30 minutes, before letting him/her hop out on their own.

Once your bird is used to being in their carrier, it’s time for some test runs in the car!

Start out by taking short car trips around the block and work your way up to longer trips. This way, your bird can gradually get used to the sensation of being in a moving vehicle.




Consider giving your bird anti-stress supplements.

You may want to consider giving your bird stress-formula vitamins and minerals before your car ride.

These are supposed to decrease stress levels and also help prevent sickness which results from stress.

Avitec’s AviBios and Mardel’s Ornabac are powdered mixes that can be added to your bird’s soft foods, such as fruit.

Additionally, some people find Parrot Calming Formula or Calming Herbs for Parrots soothes their birds’ nerves during travel.




Preparing the car for the journey.

When your bird is ready to travel, you need to make sure that you are well prepared for the car journey.

You want to make sure you pack everything necessary, and that the car is appropriate for your bird.

a) Ensure the car is an appropriate temperature.

Now that your bird is comfortable in their travel carrier, you need to make sure the temperature is okay for your bird before going on a real car ride.

You will need to ensure the car is not too cold and not too hot, ideally around the temperature of your home.

Top tips: 

  • On a hot day, cool the car before introducing your bird.
  • Don’t allow your bird to sit in direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave your bird unattended in the car on a warm day.
  • Don’t allow the air-con/heat vents to blow directly onto your bird’s carrier.
  • If you don’t have air-con, place an ice pack wrapped in a hand towel inside the carrier for added cooling. You can also place a damp towel over the carrier. 

b) Strap the carrier into the car with a seat belt or place it securely on the floor behind a seat.

You MUST make sure that the cage is secure. You definitely don’t want the travel cage to be thrown around during the car trip.

Put a seat belt over your bird’s cage or carrier, ensuring it is locked securely. This will help it remain steady on the road and will prevent the cage from being projected forward dangerously in the event of an accident.

NEVER place your bird’s travel carrier in a closed off trunk. It’s a scary place for a bird, and you don’t want to risk your little friend suffocating!




Pack the essentials for the car journey.

These include food, water, a blanket and other helpful items such as wipes and paper towels.

For those of you planning on taking your bird on short car rides, although you may not need any of them, it’s always handy to pack an emergency supply.

If you are going on a long car ride, ensure that you provide your bird with enough food and water.

Many travel cages come with food containers, however if your cage doesn’t, you can always put some seeds or pellets on the floor of the cage.

Make sure that you pack enough food for any stop overs, or in case of delays.

Water bowls are not advised for car travel. This is because the water will splash around and the container will probably just end up empty before your bird even has a chance to drink. Instead, opt for a bottle, or make regular pit stops to give your bird some water by hand.

A blanket can be used to cover your birds cage on long journeys. Being covered up is calming for nervous birds.




During the car journey.

a) Check up on your bird often.

On a long car journey make regular pit stops to check up on your feathered friend, if they’re out of your view.

During these breaks check on your bird to insure that it is not too stressed, has fresh water and food and its cage is not too dirty.

If the weather is nice, you could take your bird out of the car for some some fresh air and sunshine.

b) Look for signs of motion sickness.

Birds that are not used to car journeys may struggle on a long trip. This is why it is important to gradually introduce your bird to the car, mentioned above.

Look out for the following signs:

  • Acting stressed and out of character
  • Aggression or uncharacteristically passiveness
  • Panting or is exhibiting an open mouth breathing pattern
  • Severe head tilting

If your bird experiences any of these symptoms, take a break and talk to your bird to sooth its anxiety.

Give your bird some fresh air and a chance to calm down.

When you have to resume your journey, take the food supply away as it may make your bird sick. Additionally, place a breathable blanket over your birds cage.

If you are really concerned, give your vet a call for advise.




After the car journey.

a) Recreate your bird’s normal environment.

Once the car journey is over, put your bird back in its normal cage or recreate its normal home as much as possible.

Offer the same food that your bird is used to, and reintroduce his/her usually toys.

Give your bird love and attention, just like you would at home.

b) Watch out for signs of illness.

Stressed birds are more prone to getting sick, therefore you want to keep an eye on your birds health after the journey too.

If your bird shows the following signs of illness, you’ll need to take him/her to a vet as soon as possible.

  • Puffed-up feathers
  • Tail-bobbing when breathing
  • Not eating their favourite foods
  • Half-closed or closed eye(s) most of the time
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Bad posture when at rest
  • Discharge/wetness around the nose
  • Throwing up/getting undigested or half-digested food stuck to the cage in weird places
  • Poop sticking to the vent feathers
  • Discoloured, undigested, or runny poop
  • Ragged, poorly preened feathers
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Lack of energy
  • Sudden temperament change
  • Weight loss
  • Crooked beak/crooked toenails
  • In budgies, crusted-over nose (cere) and/or feet
  • Dull feathers/feathers with unnatural banding
  • Plucked feathers
  • Any sign of blood!




Conclusion.

Birds are prone to getting stressed whilst travelling. However, if you plan and prepare ahead, it can be a stress-free experience for you and your bird.

Be sure to get an appropriate travel cage for your feathered friend weeks before your planned road trip. This way, you can make sure your bird feels safe and secure in its travel home.

Additionally, to avoid your bird getting sick, be sure to do plenty of short practice runs in the car to get your bird used to the motion.

Look out for any signs of illness during and after the trip, and take your bird to the vet immediately if you do suspect that he is unwell.

Hope you have found this helpful.

Happy and safe travels! 🙂

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