Evaluating Care for Your Birds – We DO Get to Vacation Sometimes! by Patti Christie, CVT
As I sit here 37,000 feet above the earth heading for a week-long vacation, I am exhausted from the preparation. Being the “mom” of 6 parrots, it is challenging to get away (especially if my husband comes along – which I do let him occasionally. Otherwise he is home caring for the flock (bless his heart!) I am fortunate to have an excellent pet sitter who is very experienced taking care of birds. She used to work for me at my bird boarding facility in Minneapolis – Avian Suites. Avian Suites is a premiere boarding facility only for birds with a unique set up. A family rents a room, which has an isolated ventilation system, for however many birds they own. The staff are all experienced veterinary professionals with a combined years of avian experience of over 40 years. I sold Avian Suites in 2007 before relocating to the Denver area and the new owner, Karen, still maintains the very high standards of care that are the hallmark of Avian Suites.
So how do you find care for your birds when you want to take a vacation, do home remodeling or just get a break? Since Avian Suites is in Minneapolis, that limits this option! In the Denver metro area, a couple of the avian veterinarians offer quality boarding at their hospitals. There is also All Things Birdy, a boarding facility and retail store. Finding a qualified pet sitter can be a challenge. I spoke at a pet sitters international conference a few years ago and was surprised to find how many included avian care in their list of services. After my talk about what a pet sitter needs to know to evaluate a bird’s health and well-being, and the standard of care, I had many come up to me to say they had no idea there was so much to know about taking care of birds (you just throw the seeds in every few days, right??) Here are some questions to ask anyone who you are considering as a caregiver for your birds in your absence:
- Do they have birds of their own? How long have they had birds? Inquire how they feed and care for their birds (this can be an indicator of the level of education they possess).
- Do they have a relationship with an avian veterinarian? Even if they do not own birds themselves, if they are promoting themselves as parrot sitters, they should have an established relationship and/or be familiar with area veterinary practices that care for birds.
- In the case of a pet sitter coming into your home, will they be caring for other birds at the same time as yours? What is their protocol for disinfecting between homes?
- If you are bringing your bird(s) to a facility (vs. having someone come into your home) what are their health requirements? Minimally, an annual examination by a qualified avian veterinarian along with a CBC every 1-2 years and a fecal gram stain should be required. Ideally, every bird coming in (including yours) should have had a Chlamydia test (c. psittaci) since not only is this disease transmittable from bird to bird, but also to people. Remember, this is for YOUR birds’ protection as well!
- At the boarding facility, what is their hygiene policy? Do birds get weighed regularly? Do they get time out of their cage, and if so, will they be supervised? One bird out at a time or several? Are birds allowed to climb on other birds’ cages? (Look for telltale signs of chomped toes.)
- What is their emergency plan? Do they know what constitutes an emergency, or urgent need for veterinary intervention? You will want to alert your avian veterinarian of your absence and give permission for your sitter to present your bird(s) for care and treatment.
- Can they articulate how to assess changes in health? Do they know what changes in droppings are important? How will they know if your bird is eating well?
Take time to find the best fit for your flock and your situation. Unfortunately, I’ve heard too many stories about bird sitting gone wrong when inexperienced caregivers are used. You should expect to pay more for a qualified boarding facility or pet sitter but in the end it is well worth the money spent to have peace of mind and enjoy your time away. If you need additional resources, contact one of the MDPR volunteers who can provide information.