As much as you love your companion bird, he or she can’t go everywhere with you. Sometimes, when a trip will be hectic or stressful or birds are not welcome at a destination, you’ll leave your bird behind. You can either find a pet sitter to come take care of your bird in your home, or you can board your bird at someone else’s home or facility.
You can find established bird sitters in several ways:
- Ask an avian veterinarian for recommendations
- Contact a bird club about members or associated businesses who pet-sit or board birds
- Search online at pet sitter organizations like Pet Sitters International (PSI) or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS)
- Consider hiring a relative or neighbor who likes your bird
Be sure to interview potential pet sitters at your home and note how they respond to your bird. Look for someone with experience caring for birds, or at the least who is very interested in learning how to care for your bird. Pet sitters range from pet professionals to the teen next door. Reliability is important. Urge your bird’s caretaker to leave you daily notes or to send you an email about how it’s going while you’re gone.
Someone who is coming to your home can also help make your house more lived in. They can pick up mail and the newspaper, change shades or blinds and turn on different lights at night while you’re gone. Your bird benefits by being in a familiar environment.
Make Bird Care Easy
Set up your supplies in one place on your counter, so that your pet sitter doesn’t have to look through cabinets to find things. Have extra bowls available and explain how you wash them and how you fill them. A major mistake inexperienced small bird caretakers make is to think a bird has seed in the food cup, when actually the cup only holds hulls. You’re safest asking a pet sitter to empty the food cup each day, wash and dry it, then fill it with a day (or two’s) worth of food. Have plenty of paper, food and treats on hand.
Set up your bird’s cage so that all maintenance and feeding can be done from outside the cage. Not everyone is comfortable handling birds or even putting their hand/arm in a cage. Demonstrate care and cleaning to your pet sitter.
It’s up to you how many visits you require from a pet sitter. At a minimum, they should be coming once a day to give your bird fresh water. Can you drape a cover over part of the cage or set up lights to go on and off, rather than requiring visits to put a cage cover on and off?
Make Bird Care Fun
Your pet sitter will understand why you love your bird so much if you let him/her know what words your bird can say, what tunes he can whistle, or what games you play together. What kind of music does your bird like to hear? Point out bird toys and let the sitter know what treats they can feed your bird, or what foraging opportunities they can offer your bird while you’re gone. Only if your bird and sitter know each other should you talk about letting your bird out of his cage while you’re gone, and what commands he knows, such as “up.”
Boarding Your Bird
There are a few bird boarding facilities in the country. In most other areas, you will be choosing from a pet store that boards birds, an avian veterinary clinic that boards birds, or a private person who would take your bird into their home.
Check out potential locations. Costs will vary, but so will care. Look for a clean facility. It’s best if boarded birds are in a separate area from birds for sale or bird clients. It’s the best when boarded birds have their own room — but that is not the case in most instances. Most boarders will ask for proof of a recent veterinary exam, which should make you feel better about leaving your bird with them.
Take your bird to the facility at least a few hours ahead of time, so that he can settle in and your boarder has time to ask questions. Provide food and instructions as well as your contact information, and the name of your avian veterinarian. Be sure to specify how long you will be gone and when you expect to pick up your bird.
To find a reliable bird boarder, ask other bird owners, ask at bird clubs, and ask pet sitters who they recommend.
Even when it’s difficult to leave your bird behind, you can make sure your feathered friend is comfortable and cared for by competent people. Getting to know a pet sitter or boarder might even introduce your bird to a new friend and some entertaining experiences.