Elaine Henley explains how to help your Parrot prepare for holidays.
Elaine Henley is registered as a Clinical Animal Behaviourist with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council and a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors- where she is the treasurer. Working with a variety of species, dogs, cats and Parrots.
Elaine is one of the very few Parrot specialists to have studied their behaviour in the wild and uses this knowledge to help caregivers at home.
This is the time of year that caregivers are beginning to plan our summer holiday. For some caregivers, this holiday may mean that we will be leaving our Parrots behind. Some Parrots may not be unduly bothered by being left behind, whilst other Parrots may become extremely distressed at being left.
The majority of Parrots living in captivity see their caregivers as being part of their flock, and when we suddenly leave them for longer than usual, they fear that we may have been eaten by a large raptor and will never return.
So how can we make flock absences easier for our Parrot?
Boarding with a relative, friend or a professional
Many caregivers send their Parrots to board elsewhere, where they may be alone or with other species of animals or other Parrots.
Sending your Parrot to board with other animals and Parrots could be risky because of disease transference- so do your homework to establish what the protocols are to reduce the risk of disease.
If the establishment is registered with the local authority, they will have had yearly inspections and you may be able to view the outcome of this.
Anywhere that is not your home is a novel environment and simply being in another house or pet boarding establishment could cause additional stress by being in the presence of other animals/Parrots, a change of cage, new objects and people.
If you have no option other than boarding the Parrot elsewhere, here are some things that can be done to make this a less traumatic experience:
Familiarise your Parrot with the type of cage that he will be housed in beforehand.
Ask that your Parrot will be boarded on his own in a room and not sharing with lots of other Parrots/birds.
Supply the same food and treats that he is fed at home, as a change of diet can lead to feelings of being unwell, thus adding to stress.
If you are allowed to do so, request that familiar toys and perches are place in the holiday cage.
Ask that you take your Parrot for familiarisation visits, overnight or a weekend visit before the main holiday.
Leaving your Parrot at home
Some people rely on neighbours or friends to visit their Parrot’s home and feed them when they are left on their own. Whilst this may be adequate for an overnight stay, it is not advisable for anything longer than this, unless the person will spend a few hours with the Parrots- and not just pop in and out.
Parrots need the company of familiar people, and more so when their regular flock members are not around. Parrots who are left on their own do become more stressed as they feel lonely and vulnerable.
Some caregivers have a pet/home sitter or a friend staying in the house. Out of all of the options for Parrot care during holidays, this is the best option, as it means that your Parrot will not be alone and that a more normal life can continue.
There are now several websites with details of people who offer to look after your pets and home when you are away in return for a bed. You can easily check references before engaging their services.
Whoever you have staying with your Parrots:
Ensure that the person is experienced with Parrots, knows how to care for them, and recognises when they are ill.
Try to familiarise your Parrot (on multiple occasions over a period of time) with the person before you leave them. Start off with introductions when you are there and then if all is well, leave the bird-sitter with the Parrot for a few hours and eventually overnight, then an entire weekend before the main vacation takes place.
Prepare your Parrot for your absence by gradually increasing the time that you leave them alone in the house- so that they may be comfortable with 4-5 hours.
Teach your Parrot to accept that they will not always get your attention when you are at home by teaching them how to amuse themselves for short periods of time.
Familiarise your Parrot with other people so that they accept other people coming close and interacting with them.
No matter who or where you leave your Parrot with, make sure that you leave clear instructions of their likes and dislikes, if they should have out of cage time or not, the name and contact details for your avian vet and an emergency contact.
Taking your Parrot on holiday with you
Many caregivers would prefer to bring their Parrot on holiday with them if holidaying doesn’t involve leaving the country- which can be challenging with CITES regulations. Owning or renting a holiday home or static caravan is probably the easiest option, as there should be a good amount of space to accommodate a larger cage for when it isn’t possible to safe to allow the Parrot to roam around.
However, traveling with a Parrot in a motorhome or camper van does present some difficulties that should be considered before attempting.
The motorhome travel cage should be able to be secured to the floor whilst travelling but allow for wing stretching.
Some caregivers take a collapsible larger cage for their Parrot to safely enjoy outdoor time. However, consider how you are going to safely remove your Parrot from the travel cage to place in the outdoor cage?
This will need to be done either inside the motorhome- with the door closed or in the safety of a secured awning- that has no gaps to allow for escape. Many a Parrot has taken fright and flown off when being taken outside by hand to be placed in an outdoor cage.
When staying on campsites, your Parrots’ vocalisations may prove popular with some camp goers or be cause for complaint- and more so at dawn when your Parrot sings the song of their people- badly!
The majority of caregivers know not to use chemicals or non-stick pans at home, and don’t realise that motorhome living involves the use of many chemicals- in the toilet for example.
Living in a small space with your Parrot opens the potential for accidents to occur, from cooking to coming and going through the door.
Whatever you decide is the best option for you, have a lovely holiday!