So, you’re going camping, but you don’t want to leave your pet bird — or birds — at home.
However, you’re also worried that if you take your birds camping, they’ll fly away or be at risk from the local wildlife.
Luckily, there are ways you can take your pet birds on your camping trip while ensuring the experience is safe for all of you.
How to Take Birds RVing
If you’ll be camping in an RV, taking your bird should be fairly straightforward.
If you can, take your bird into the RV a few days before you leave for your trip, to get it acclimated to the new territory.
Make sure all windows and doors are shut, and let your bird out of its cage to give it the chance to poke around.
Like most animals, birds will want to investigate a new environment once they feel safe. Try opening the door to its cage and placing some treats around the RV to encourage exploration.
After you’ve introduced your bird to the RV, take it back inside your house and give it encouragement so that it feels calm and safe again.
That way, when you leave for real, it won’t be scared that it’s leaving its well-known environment for a new, scary one.
Once you arrive at your campsite, make sure your bird is safely in its cage or on a restraint or harness when you open and close the RV door.
Taking Your Pet Bird Outside
If you’d like to take your bird outside, try doing so for the first time before you leave for your camping trip.
While you’re at home, take your bird in its cage outside the house and let it adjust to the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors — even if it’s just in your backyard.
If your bird enjoys being outside — and many do — you can look into getting a leash or harness for it.
Then you can take your bird outdoors anytime you want, without fear that it will fly away.
Taking your pet bird outside is a good idea even if you’re not going camping. Birds (just like humans) need the vitamin D from full-spectrum sunlight for their health. They can’t get full-spectrum light if it’s filtered through window glass.
If your bird is stressed or scared by being outside, take it back inside. Keeping it outside will only stress it out further.
As all bird owners know, birds can be quite temperamental when it comes to what they want. There’s no point in trying to force the issue, as your bird will always win.
Remember: Even birds with clipped wings can take flight if the right breeze comes along. Always make sure your bird’s cage is locked shut or its harness is properly secured.
Putting a Harness on Your Bird
Some birds will be okay with wearing a harness. Others won’t. Some will even get excited at the sight of their harness, like a dog does when it sees its leash, because it knows that means it’s going outside.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to place the harness on your bird.
Also, give it a treat or two and speak in a calm, encouraging voice while you put it on, so your bird associates the harness with good things.
How to Take Birds Car Camping
For car camping, the same principles apply as when you’re RVing — there’s just less space to maneuver in.
In a nutshell: Try to make your car the most inviting space you can, so your bird feels at home. Bring toys, treats, and food from home, so it’s surrounded by familiar sights and smells.
Dedicate a section of the car to your bird’s cage. Try not to let your bird loose in the car unless it’s secured by a harness.
There are many nooks and crannies that it can fit into, and then it’ll be quite a chore to get it out, especially if it’s scared.
Remember to introduce your bird to your car in advance of the camping trip, if possible. Slow and steady is the key here.
How to Take Birds Tent Camping
If you’ll be keeping your pet bird inside your tent, make sure that you have adequate room for its cage.
As with the RV and car, try introducing your bird to the inside of a tent at home, before you leave for your trip.
Set up your tent in your backyard or a nearby park and place your bird’s cage inside.
Remember: Don’t force the issue if your bird appears stressed.
Let your bird back outside the tent and try to calm it down with a low voice, pets, and treats. If it’s too stressed, take it back inside where it knows the environment and realizes that it’s safe.
Don’t leave your bird unsupervised when it’s outside, including when it’s on a leash.
Even if you’re at a large campground, nearby predators could see your bird as a tasty snack. Keep an eye on your feathered friend at all times.
Try not to let your bird loose inside the tent. The last thing you want to do is spend half your day getting bird poop out of your sleeping bag.
How to Keep Your Birds Calm in the Car
Step one is getting your birds bundled into their cage and into the car that’ll take you to your campsite.
If you’ve done this before, you know the drill. If your bird hasn’t been in the car, you might want to take it on a quick trip around the block first, to make sure it isn’t stressed out by travel.
Most birds tolerate car travel quite well — many even like the excitement of going to a brand-new place — but some will not like it.
A honking horn or barking dog could stress out your bird as well, so do your best to make the experience comfortable.
If your bird is stressed out by car travel, that could mean it’s not cut out for camping.
How to Tell if Your Bird Is Stressed
Your bird might show signs of stress in different ways, including:
- Picking at its feathers
- A change in its voice
- Repetitive behavior
If you’re in the car with your bird and it seems to be stressed, it’s best to drive home, go back inside, and try again another day.
To calm your bird, try these tips:
- Give your bird its favorite treat
- Speak to it in a low, calm voice
- Pet your bird (if it likes to be pet)
- Play with it using its favorite toy
Remember to be patient with your bird as it experiences a new setting. Imagine if someone picked you up and put you in a giant, moving metal box for the first time. I know I’d be fairly stressed, too.
Can I take my pet bird hiking?
If your bird will accept a harness or leash, you can definitely take it hiking. If your bird enjoys being outdoors, think about how much fun it will have on top of a mountain or in a lush forest.
Can I take my pet bird canoeing or kayaking?
Taking your pet bird paddling is not recommended, because if you tip over, your bird could drown if it’s trapped in its cage. If your camping trip requires a canoe or kayak trip, it’s simply not worth the risk to bring your pet bird camping with you.
It’s important to take safety precautions, however. You’ll need to do some preparation to ensure that your bird is okay with being in the car or RV for the drive to the campsite.
In any case, practice being outside with your bird. Birds need the vitamin D from full-spectrum sunlight, which they can’t get from behind a window. This should be done regularly, even if you’re not going camping.
If your bird will accept it, a harness or leash is a great choice for taking it outside. This allows your bird to sit on your shoulder or arm
If your bird is stressed, deploy your favorite techniques to help it feel calm again. This is a new experience for both of you, and it’s okay if it takes some time for your bird to feel safe.
Remember to keep your bird in your sight at all times when it’s outside, even if it’s in a cage or secured by a leash. The outdoors is home to many predators.
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Jack Hauen is a freelance writer and backpacking aficionado. When he's not writing, he can often be found in the Algonquin backcountry, wheezing through a portage that looked smaller on the map.