Transport by car

In order to get to an avian vet, it is often necessary to travel quite a long way. © Gickel/Pixabay
In order to get to an avian vet, it is often necessary to travel quite a long way. © Gickel/Pixabay

Every now and then it can become necessary to transport budgies or other pet birds by car over more or less long distances. This may be the case for example if you have to take your birds to an avian vet, bring your budgies to a bird sitter before you go on vacation or if you move to another place.

In general, budgies tolerate traveling by car quite well. They are by far not as touchy and nervous as other bird species. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to some basic details when transporting the birds. So a lot of stress for both, the birds and the driver can be prevented. In addition, the risk of unpleasant incidents such as injuries can usually be significantly reduced.

Preliminary considerations and details

To transport budgies safely in a car, they should be placed in a cage as small as possible. This may be temporarily uncomfortable for the birds, but the risk of injury decreases in a small cage. In the case of the birds panicking, in a large cage, there is more space for movement and therefore the chances are higher that a severe injury will occur. Or in other words: If the birds frantically flutter, they can accelerate more in a large cage than in a small one. This means that in a large cage they can collide with the bars at a higher speed. As an injury occurs during a car journey, panicked fluttering budgies are also very difficult to catch if they are in a large cage.

Therefore, everything suggests that the birds should travel in a small cage. However, small cages are absolutely not suitable for everyday life as accommodation for the birds, at best they can be used as hospital cages.

If you want to transport several budgies at a time, you should not place too many birds in a small cage. This could be too stressful and the birds could become aggressive. A maximum of six budgies should be kept in a small cage for transport purposes and no longer than one to two hours. Please use additional cages for a larger number of birds to be transported to avoid overcrowding.

Only for very short distances, which can be covered in less than half an hour, it is exceptionally possible to accommodate more birds in a small cage. Make absolutely sure, however, not to place sensitive and anxious budgies in such a crowded accommodation with many other birds. In this regard, it is therefore important to check in advance which bird is suitable for this type of transport.

Very anxious, frail, or even handicapped budgies should travel individually or at most together with their trusted partner in small transport boxes. This is more secure for them than placing them in a small cage with several fellow birds.

Setting up the transport cage for the journey by car

There should be no swings, swaying branches, sharp objects, and loose ladders in the transport cage. Food bowls that are hooked into the bars should also be removed for safety reasons. One or two firmly attached perches are usually quite sufficient to provide the birds with a secure hold during the journey. All swaying seats on the other hand hold an incalculable safety risk if sudden braking is required. Also, loosely attached bowls can be flung through the cage when braking and hurt the birds. The same applies to ladders or toys, which is why they should not be present in transport cages.

To prevent the birds from starving on the way, you should put some grains or millet spray on the bottom of the cage. It’s not advisable to cover the cage floor with sand while you’re traveling by car. The sand could slip and be thrown out of the cage during hard braking. In addition, birds who are frightened and flutter in panic while you’re driving could fling up the sand. If it comes into the diver’s eyes, this inevitably leads to trouble. Newspaper or kitchen paper towels are therefore the better alternatives.

Water does not necessarily have to be offered when traveling short distances. But after one hour of driving at the latest, you should stop and give some water to the birds in a small bowl which you can hook into the bars of the cage. But it’s no good idea to leave the drinking bowl there during the drive because the water would be spilled by the movements of the car. Alternatively, liquid-rich vegetables such as cucumbers or watery fruit can be placed in the cage for the journey, using brackets without sharp edges. Caution, fruit should not be served if there is an infection with Macrorhabdus ornithogaster (Megabacteria/avian gastric yeast) or other yeast fungi in one of your birds.

Securely fasten the cage or transport box

In a car, the cage or transport box must be placed in a way that it can be securely fastened with a belt. If this isn’t possible in individual cases, another method should be used. For example, a cage can be tied to the passenger seat with parcel tape or a transport box can be placed in a basket padded with towels, which in turn can usually be secured with a belt.

If necessary, such a basket with a transport box inside can also be placed in the footwell of the rear row of seats. The seat in front of the basket should be pushed back far enough so that the basket is slightly jammed and cannot slip, even under hard braking.

Have a first aid kit at hand

If one of your budgies panics while driving, the bird may be injured afterward. In such cases, the birds usually suffer from lacerations on their head – usually, beak and nose or the skin close to the eyes are affected. You should therefore have a hemostat ready to treat the bird in a parking lot. You can find more information on the subject of hemostatic agents in the chapter on the medicine chest for pet birds (which will come very soon).

Important during transport
  • In summer: Ensure cooling by air conditioning in the car and prevent drafts. The birds must also be protected from too much sunlight by placing a cloth over the cage. If you stop on warm, sunny days, never leave the birds alone in the car, not even for just five minutes! Vehicles often heat up extremely when they’re exposed to the sun so that animals in the car would quickly suffer a fatal heatstroke.
  • In winter: The temperature in the car must not be too low. Especially at the beginning of a journey, it can be quite chilly in a car on cold winter days. The birds should either be brought into a previously heated car or be protected from the initial cold by warm blankets/cloths.
  • Short breaks: On longer journeys, i. e. transports that take longer than an hour, you should take a break for drinking and eating every now and then. In moving cars, birds can only eat their food under difficult conditions, which is why they should regularly be given a little rest. Make sure to take enough food and water with you in case you get caught in a roadblock or traffic jam and therefore have to travel longer than planned.
  • Attach a covering: A cover like a cotton or linen blanket or piece of cloth should be placed over (and around) the cage so that the birds are not frightened by large vehicles passing your car. For example, a truck suddenly appearing in the birds’ field of vision can scare them.
  • Pleasant background noise: Play soothing music while driving, as this usually has a positive effect on the birds. On the other hand, most budgies find loud and “hard” music during a car journey very stressful. So if you are a techno or death metal fan, for example, you should better refrain from listening to this music during the transport for the sake of your birds.