T hat time of year is here again. As the days grow longer, we daydream of faraway places and we long for a change of scenery. But wait - what about the birds? How could we possibly enjoy traveling with nagging worries about our feathered friends left behind? Maybe we could ask a trusted friend to come in and care for them, but what if the birds stop eating? What if the caregiver forgets something? What if a bird becomes ill while we are away' Maybe that trip was not such a good idea after all. Perhaps we should just stay at home and save the worry and the expense of a bird sitter.
There is an enjoyable option - bring the birds along' After all, if we have the urge to fly the coop, just imagine how exciting a trip could be for our wild friends who were meant to travel the skies daily. Take to the air or hit the road with your feathered flock and enjoy your trip as well as your birds. Here are a few travel ideas to consider.
If at all possible, take your birds inside the cabin of the plane with you instead of in cargo. The cargo hold is pressurized and safe but it is probably more stressful for the birds. Most airlines allow passengers to carry on their birds in carriers that fit under the seat. Each ticket holder is entitled to carry one bird in the cabin of most airlines for an extra charge of about $50. A family of three can take a total of three birds for about $150 extra. Some airlines limit the number of animals per flight allowed in the passenger cabin as well as the cargo compartment. The maximum number allowed is usually five to eight animals, so reserve space for your birds early and confirm 24 hours in advance. It can be helpful to check in
before the recommended arrival time. Always book non-stop flights when possible. This minimizes handling, loud equipment sounds, stress, and the possibility of other problems. For air trips over eight hours in length, schedule a flight with one stop. If the hird is traveling in cargo, instruct the carrier to give the birds water and fresh food supplied by you. Secure the food and water dishes near the door to make it easier to service and minimize the chance of escape into the airport. If the bird is traveling in the cabin with you, use the stopover to offer water and clean the floor of the carrier if you can find a safe quiet place to open the carrier.
Documents and Regulations Most airlines require a health certificate issued within 10 days before the flight. It is important to make arrangements with the airline well in advance of the departure date. Birds should be listed for the flight at the same time as human passengers. International travel requires much more advance planning than travel within the country. Douhle check the regulations required for animals to enter and leave a foreign country. It is most important to determine whether regulations require the quarantining of hirds in either country. Some countries require up to six months quarantine of pets entering the country.
Choosing a Carrier
Purchase the carrier recommended by the airline well in advance and familiarize the bird with the carrier hy taking short trips, especially if the bird seems nervous ahout heing confined. It will he necessary for the hird to remain confined to the carrier for the duration of the flight if it rides in cargo. If your hird is traveling with you in the cabin of the plane, some flight attendants will allow you to remove the bird from the carrier, even though regulations forbid it. Besides the standard plastic under-the-seat carrier, there are shoulder bags and other soft bags with steel frames that have been airline approved for carry-on hirds. Young birds travel well in carriers without a perch. To absorb droppings, some travelers use a piece of cotton rug with non-slip backing. I prefer nubby dog bedding fabric over a piece of material designed to prevent rugs from sliding on the floor. The nubby texture absorbs droppings and keeps them away from the hirds' feet.
Tagging and Covering the Carrier
Carriers should he well marked and tagged with information such as flight number, destination, owner's name and address, home phone number, and the bird's name and schedule for food and water. Some owners take the
extra precaution of using a permanent marker to write all the information and instructions somewhere on the carrier.
Taking along a discrete cover for the carrier will prevent prying eyes and pointing fingers both in the airport and during the flight. If you do not cover the carrier, prepare to be swamped with gawking onlookers who somehow are completely fascinated hy a flying creature about to hitch a ride on an airliner! If you like to teach, now is your chance. You will have a captive audience of fellow passengers to educate on birds and their care.
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