Elaine Henley explains how to teach your Parrot to like a travel cage
For many Parrots, their lives are confined to being in cages, a room in a house or a home. No matter how enriching these places have been made, they are a poor substitute for being able to take our Parrots safely outside, for fresh air, to experience new environments or for medical treatment at their avian vets.
I know of several caregivers who have motorhomes and regularly take their Parrots with them on holiday!
Towelling and forcing a Parrot into a travel cage may cause them additional trauma and stress. Most likely the birds will remember this and may take umbrage against their caregivers as they no longer trust them.
Far better to help your Parrot view their travel cage and going inside it as a positive experience.
Step One: Will your Parrot return willingly to their main living cage or do they have to be actively encouraged or forced in?
Consider which regular foodstuffs your Parrot prefers and withhold those from daily feeding. Instead wait until the Parrot is out of the cage, show them the goodie and place that inside the cage, so that they have to go inside in order to get it. At all times your Parrot should have the choice to go in or not.
Aim for 8-10 sessions per day.
Once your Parrot is reliably going inside to get the treat, begin to show them the treat and only drop it into the bowl once they have gone inside.
Step Two: Now it is time to consider purchasing a travel cage. Northern Parrots sell a range of these, lightweight for smaller birds and heavy duty for larger Parrots.
Step Three: Once the new travel cage has arrived, it could be tempting to try to lure or bribe your Parrot to approach it. However, do remember that Parrots are often neophobic and new objects may worry them. To prevent this, leave the new travel cage in sight of the Parrot’s main cage for a few days.
Remember that it may take your Parrot days or weeks to no longer view the new travel cage with suspicion.
Step Four: Now move the travel cage closer to the main cage and raise it up so that if the Parrot goes inside and onto a perch, they will retain their height advantage and feel safe.
Hint: Have the travel cage on a secure and steady surface so that when the Parrot does eventually approach, there is no movement to cause alarm or fear.
Step Five: Using your Parrot’s yummy treats or food, show them to your Parrot and make a big deal of placing them inside one of the travel cage’s food bowls.
Hint: Place the yummy food in the bowl furthest from the entrance and then move away, as your Parrot is likely to be suspicious if you stay close.
Aim to have 8-10 sessions per day.
Step Six: With patience, your Parrot will begin to be curious about this new cage, that has the yummy food or treats inside. Desire for these may overcome any apprehension that they have about approaching the travel cage.
Step Seven: Your Parrot is now inside! It is important not to become too excited about this and rush to close the door. Instead, reliably feed your Parrot their yummy food and treats inside over a period of a couple of weeks.
Step Eight: Only when your Parrot will reliably go inside, and remain inside the travel cage, should you close the door for 30 seconds, then open it. Increase the time that the door is closed in increments of 30 seconds, until the door being closed can be tolerated for 5 minutes.
Hint: remembering that you wish the travel cage to be a safe and good experience for your Parrot, if they show any sign of distress, immediately open the door and next time, close the door for half the time and begin again.
Step Nine: When your Parrot can tolerate the door being closed for 5 minutes, lift the cage and take it into another room. Once there, feed some more yummy food or treats. Now the aim is to gently expose your Parrot to being lifted and moved when inside the cage. If the day is warm, you could take your Parrot outside for a while, always remembering to stay close.
Step Ten and Beyond: By the time your Parrot can cope with, and even enjoy being transported around the house or garden, you will be able to introduce new experiences such as car journeys or that important trip to an avian vet for a check-up.
Hint: even if the purpose of travel crate training was for a vet visit, once home, keep practising exposure to the travel cage, so that your Parrot views this as a mini extension to their main cage.
Conclusion: These steps will help the majority of Parrots cope with the introduction of a travel cage. However, as we all know Parrots are individuals and if these simple steps do not work then do contact a Clinical Animal Behaviourist.
Special thanks must go to Paco, a rehomed Ringneck who found his forever home with his caregiver, Pauline.
See lots of travel cages here.
Here are Elaine’s contact details
Elaine Henley P.G.Dip CABC
Animal Behaviour Clinic
Full member Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)
Registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist (ABTC)
Certified Parrot Behaviour Consultant (IAABC)
Telephone: 01294 833764 or 07789112347