By Phil Samuelson
These days, increasing numbers of people are taking their pets on the road when they hop in the car for a vacation. It’s not just dogs enjoying these excursions anymore; quite a few birds are becoming travel companions, too.
One need only look at the myriad bird travel cages and designs now on the market to confirm this fact. Gone are the days of a simple wooden box design with a wire mesh window. Today’s parrot travels in style!
When vacationing with a pet bird, an appropriate travel cage is the most important item to consider. Not all travel cages are created equally, so it pays to shop around for the best choice. Fortunately, there are a number of good options on the market these days. The majority of these manufactured carriers are ideal for medium- to large-sized parrot species such as conures, Pionus, African greys, Amazons, mini macaws and small cockatoos. (Large macaws can pose special challenges when selecting a travel cage because their long tails take a beating when they rub against the cage walls or bars.)
Important Considerations when Choosing a Bird Travel Cage
First of all, a bird travel cage should be lightweight and easy to lift and clean. The cage should provide adequate ventilation, while still minimizing drafts. The construction should be durable to eliminate the possibility of the cage dweller being crushed by accident.
Some well-designed bird travel cages are constructed of thick polycarbonate with numerous holes in the surface and a wire mesh door. A cage such as this provides the necessary ventilation, while also retaining some warmth. The transparent polycarbonate allows for easy viewing of the bird, and also allows the bird to survey its surroundings. Often these types of travel cages come with an optional “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 with calming the bird when in a busy area or when it’s time for sleep. Some cages are designed to be buckled in and secured to the seat. For these carriers, solid walls are a good idea to prevent the bird from chewing seatbelts.
Various Designs and Components
Every bird travel cage 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 makes it easy for an owner to remove the pet from its cage to let it perch on top once it reaches its destination. This exterior perch actually serves two purposes. As well as providing the bird with a comfortable, elevated place to perch, it also works well as a handle for carrying the cage, much like the handle on a suitcase. In fact, some travel cages with exterior handles are designed to look just like suitcases, so a meticulous bird owner and his or her pet can keep up with the current fashion.
Some travel cages, particularly those for small-sized birds in the cockatiel range, have nylon shoulder straps for easy carrying. Other designs resemble backpacks and have straps that fit comfortably around an owner’s shoulders. These types of cages are available in a variety of sizes and designs and are usually constructed of durable nylon or 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 bird 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.
It’s only relatively recently that all of these models and designs of bird travel cages have become available. And fortunately for bird owners, many of these newer cages are quite good–and life is always better when there are choices!