by Phil Samuelson
No responsible pet bird owner should be without an appropriate portable cage for each bird in the household. A carrier is a critical item to have on hand in case the bird has a medical emergency and requires a quick trip to the veterinarian or if its owner is forced to evacuate his or her home because of a fire or other natural disaster. The portable bird carrier is also mandatory equipment when on the road traveling during planned vacations. The ideal bird carrier will also quickly convert into an appropriate and convenient hospital cage should a bird become sick or injured.
The choices of pet bird carriers available to bird owners these days are numerous–and many of them are quite good. Many of these manufactured cages are ideal for medium- to large-sized parrots like African greys, Pionus, Amazons, conures, mini macaws and small cockatoos. Large macaws pose special challenges when selecting travel cages because their long tails quickly become frayed and broken when they rub against cage walls or bars.
A travel cage should be lightweight and easy to lift and clean. The cage should have adequate ventilation, but keep drafts to a minimum. The construction should be durable to eliminate any chance of the pet becoming crushed by accident.
Some well-designed travel cages are constructed of thick polycarbonate with numerous holes in the surface and a wire mesh door. This type of material and design provides the necessary ventilation, while also retaining some warmth. Transparent polycarbonate allows for easy viewing of the bird, and also allows the bird to observe its surroundings. Often these types of travel cages come with a “privacy cover” that sits snugly the top (on some models this cover is an option and costs extra). Partially or completely covering the cage will help calm the bird when in a busy area or when it’s time for sleep.
Bird Carrier Components
Every bird carrier needs a good perch. A diameter of approximately 1 inch should serve most birds well. A perch with a similar diameter bolted to the top of the cage will allow the owner to let her pet out to perch and exercise its wings. This exterior perch also serves another purpose. In addition to being a comfortable, elevated place to perch, the cage-top perch also works well as a handle when transporting the carrier.
Some portable bird carriers resemble backpacks and have straps that fit comfortably around an owner’s shoulders. These carriers are available in a variety of sizes and designs and are usually constructed of durable nylon and stainless steel mesh.
For birds that are nervous travelers and do best in a mostly solid cage, laundry basket designs are available, with a heavy wicker appearance to the exterior. And for the ultimate travel cage accessory, there are cage carts designed to resemble baby carriages so owners can go for walks with their pets, either close to home or while on the road. These carriage carts allow for easy removal of a travel cage and fold up for easy storage or transportation.
Of course, there are travel cages constructed entirely of metal mesh, and these can work well, too. After all, this type of construction and materials has served bird owners well in the travel cage department for decades. Don’t overlook the standard, basic designs.
Providing adequate water is especially important when on the road. Some birds owners, particularly owners of smaller species, train their birds to drink from a bottle. Since water bowls are useless in a moving car, these bottles can come in handy when traveling. The owner, however, must be sure to use the appropriate size and design for the bird in question. Vacation is not the time to experiment with feeding new foods or new watering methods, so if a bird usually drinks and feeds from a bowl, be sure to use this method. Since some birds eat less when away from home, owners should bring plenty of their pets’ favorite food items.