Public transport can be a scary place for a human, let alone a bird! Trains and buses are full of unpredictable sights, smells and sounds, so the thought of taking your bird on one with you, is probably rather scary.
However, sometimes you have no choice but to take your bird for a ride on public transport. Whether you need to go on a short trip to the vet, or a longer trip to a friend or families place.
Keep to the following guidelines to safely travel with a bird or parrot on public transport:
- Use a quality, escape-proof carrier.
- Get your bird familiar with its travel carrier.
- Cover the carrier with a blanket.
- Do some short practise runs.
- Pack all the essentials.
- Consider giving your bird anti-stress supplements.
- Look out for signs of motion sickness during the car or train journey.
- Re-create your bird’s normal environment after the journey.
- Look out for signs of sickness after the journey.
In this article we will discuss each of these guidelines in detail, to ensure your bird is happy and safe on public transport.
Choose the right travel carrier or cage for your bird.
There are many different types of bird travel cages to choose from. These include:
- Dog Crates
- Flatpack Metal Cages
- Plastic Cages
- Solid Acrylic Cages
Each type of travel carrier has positives and negatives. 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 your bird’s species and how long your journey will be:
- Size of travel cage
To ensure that your bird doesn’t escape and has sufficient oxygen to breathe on the train or bus, your bird’s travel carrier MUST be durable, well-ventilated and secure.
This is particularly important if you have a larger and stronger bird. For example, if you have a Cockatoo, it’s VERY important that you obtain a cage that has been specifically built to stand firm against a strong beak.
You will want your bird’s travel cage to withstand your bird’s beak and claws.
If your bird is small, like a canary or a budgie, then you won’t have to worry so much about your bird breaking free. Therefore, a fabric soft-sided carrier, or a small plastic based cage should suffice.
On the other hand, if your feathered friend is a larger then you will definitely want to opt for a stronger material, like metal or hard acrylic. A parrot could easily tare through fabrics or cheap plastics and you don’t want your parrot loose on a train!
#3 Travel Cage Size.
Your bird’s travel cage should be smaller than it’s normal cage so it is light and easy for you to transport. Additionally, having a smaller travel cage will also prevent potential injuries as your bird could be thrown around in a large cage.
You should also take into consideration how long your trip on public transport 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, to prevent your bird getting stressed. On the other hand, if you will just be taking short trips, like to the vet for example, then a smaller size will suffice.
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Get your bird or parrot used to the travel cage.
To minimise stress as your bird, you want your bird to feel as at home in its travel cage as possible.
Try to obtain your travel carrier weeks before your trip so you have time to get your bird used to it’s travel home.
a) Do not force your bird in the cage initially.
You want to avoid your bird associating its travel carrier with fear and stress.
Introduce the cage during playtime and allow your bird to enter it at its own will.
b) Entice your bird into the new cage with treats.
In order for your bird to associate the travel carrier with positive things, use plenty of treats to lure them in.
Cover your bird’s travel carrier with a blanket.
This is VERY important.
Public transport can be a pretty unpredictable place. The sights, sounds and smells of a busy train or bus can be highly stressful for a bird or parrot.
Use a blanket, towel or jumper to cover your bird’s carrier. This will protect your bird from any scary sights, and will block out some of the sounds and new smells of public transport.
Just be sure there is adequate ventilation.
Do some short test runs with your bird.
Once your bird has started to feel more comfortable in their new travel home, close the cage door and get them used to staying in there for longer periods of time.
Gently pick the carrier up and walk around the house so that your bird gets used to the motion.
If you are preparing for a LONG public transport journey, do some short test runs on the bus or train.
To get your bird used to the sounds, smells and sights of being out in public, take him to the park, or out for a quick lunch.
Consider giving your bird anti-stress supplements.
Stress-formula vitamins and minerals are supposed to decrease stress levels and also help prevent sickness which results from stress.
Avitec’s AviBios and Mardel’s Ornabac can be added to your bird’s soft foods, such as fruit.
Furthermore, some owners find Parrot Calming Formula or Calming Herbs for Parrots soothes their birds’ nerves during travel.
Pack all the essentials.
Pack some food, water, a blanket and other useful items such as wipes and paper towels.
If you are just taking your bird on a short train or bus journey – although you may not need these things, it’s always handy to pack an emergency supply.
Make sure that you pack enough food for any stop overs, or in case of delays.
Water bowls are not advised for car travel 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 give your bird some water by hand.
Look out for signs of motion sickness during the car or train journey.
Birds that are not used to train or bus rides may struggle on a long trip. This is why it is a good idea to do some short practise runs as mentioned above.
Look out for the following signs:
- Severe head tilting
- Acting stressed and out of character
- Panting or is exhibiting an open mouth breathing pattern
- Aggression or uncharacteristically passiveness
If you see these signs in your bird, take a break and talk to your bird to sooth its anxiety.
Take the food supply away as it may make your bird sick.
If you are really concerned, give your vet a call for advise.
After the bus or train journey recreate your bird’s normal, safe environment.
Once the journey is over, reintroduce your bird to its normal cage, or recreate its normal home as much as possible.
Offer the same food that your bird usually eats, and reintroduce his/her favourite toys.
Look out for signs of sickness after the journey.
Birds that have been exposed to high levels of stress are more prone to getting sick. Therefore, keep an eye on your birds health after the journey too.
If your bird shows the following signs of illness, take him/her to a vet as soon as possible.
- Any sign of blood
- Bad posture when at rest
- Change in stool
- Crooked beak/crooked toenails
- Discharge/wetness around the nose
- Dull feathers/feathers with unnatural banding
- Frequent sneezing
- Half-closed or closed eye(s) most of the time
- Lack of energy
- Loss in apetite
- Plucked feathers
- Poop sticking to the vent feathers
- Puffed-up feathers
- Ragged feathers
- Sleeping excessively
- Tail-bobbing when breathing
- Temperament change
- Throwing up
- Weight loss
Additional Tips for a Safe and Secure Journey
- Talk to your bird – talk softly to your bird throughout the journey to soothe him.
- Keep the carrier covered at all times – the darkness calms a nervous bird.
- Never take your bird out of the travel carrier – all of the people and the noises will stress him out.
- Try to avoid the train or bus during peak hours – the train or bus will be extra busy and noisy which will stress your bird out.
- Keep your bird with you at all times and do not leave your bird unattended – no brainer, you want to keep an eye on your bird’s wellbeing.
Birds and parrots are prone to getting stressed whilst travelling, particularly on public transport. However, if you plan and prepare ahead, it can be a stress-free experience for you and your feathered friend.
Be sure to get an appropriate travel cage for your feathered friend weeks before your planned trip. This way, you can ensure your bird feels comfortable in its travel home.
Look out for any signs of illness during and after the trip, and take your bird to the vet immediately if you suspect that he/she is unwell.
Hope you have found this helpful.
Happy and safe travels! 🙂