It is supposed to be spring here but someone forgot to tell the weather that. Australia is dealing with soaring temperatures and in most locations a heatwave. My television just announced we have officially hit record-breaking temperatures here. It has never been this hot since they started recording weather patterns and as I type I’m aware we still haven’t reached the maximum temperature for the day. This heat has come much earlier than it was supposed to and it possibly indicates what we can look forward to this summer.
I bring this up for 2 reasons. Firstly, I want to beg those who are dealing with this heat to please, please, please, put out water bowls for wildlife and wild birds. I’ve had so many wildlife rescue calls today for dehydrated animals that haven’t been able to find water in this heat. The concrete jungle that our world has become can make it hard on our wildlife, water is something very simple that you can provide to help. While I’m on that rant, giving your own birds some extra water can’t hurt either.
The second reason that I bring this up is because this extreme weather has led me to pull out some of my evacuation equipment and I thought it might be helpful to share the three different types of evacuations I’m prepared for.
Unsurprisingly, the sudden onset of heat seems to have shocked my birds. I checked them this morning and was concerned by what I saw. It occurs to me that as my macaw is under a year old – this is likely to be the first hot day that he has ever seen. He doesn’t like it. He’d given up his perches and was sitting on the ground in his aviary making baby noises in an attempt to get my attention. That’s never a good sign. The others are much more accustomed to this weather but even they were sitting on perches holding their wings out and panting.
So I’ve gone into evacuation mode. We’ve ditched the outdoor cages and we’re all in the living room together as it’s the most comfortable room in the house as far as temperature goes. I’m hoping the air conditioner won’t be necessary and so far the ceiling fan seems to be doing the trick. No one is panting and even my macaw has stopped sooking. My birds are currently in their sleeping cages throwing fresh corn around the room.
For me, if there is a time of year when I might have to evacuate then this is most likely to be it. The number one reason I’d have to leave my home is fire. There is a reserve not far from my home and if that ever caught fire, I wouldn’t stick around to see if it spread. It’s so dry in there; a cigarette butt thrown out the window of a car would be all it would take.
As I see it, I’m organised for three different types of evacuations. The first is what I’m dealing with today. An extreme weather event that has made me evacuate the birds from their outdoor aviaries into the more protected environment of the house. It’s the most minor version of an evacuation that I can imagine. It’s very easy for me to do because I have indoor sleeping cages that they can move to. Before I bought sleeping cages, I used to use collapsible cages (dog crates) in this situation.
The next type of evacuation that I’m organized for is the type you can plan. Those situations when you do not have to make a split second decision to leave. This is when you know in advance that the cyclone, hurricane, flood waters, etc., are coming and you have time to pack and run to a safe location.
Every one of my birds has their own travel cage. These are the travel cages that I use to take them to the vet. That said – I have 9 birds, 2 dogs and 2 cats. This is a problem because 9 travel cages, 2 cat carriers and 2 dogs do not fit simultaneously into my car along with humans. So if I have to get them all out at the same time, I go to Plan B.
I know which birds happily combine into a travel cage together and I have smaller travel cages that I can use in an emergency instead of their larger more comfortable ones. I have collapsible cages that fold flat and stack neatly in the car for use at the destination. So that takes a little pressure off me when it comes to the size of a carrier as I know they’re not in it for long. Even so, the process of loading my car is like a nightmare version of tetris.
Which brings me to the question of what happens if the house catches fire and I have less than 2 minutes to get out? I have many superpowers but I’m reasonably sure that carrying 10-12 pet carriers in one hit isn’t one of them. So this brings me to the third type of evacuation that I’m prepared for. The type where you have seconds to react.
I have a zip locked bag hanging on the wall in the bird room. It’s ugly and visitors do look at it and ask me what that’s about? Inside the zip-lock bag you’ll find a stack of standard pillowcases, a European pillowcase (the larger size is useful for a macaw) and a packet of hair ties. The theory is that it is extraordinarily easy to stick you hand in a pillowcase, reach in to a cage and trap a bird in your pillowcased hand. Then all you have to do is turn the pillowcase inside out and secure it with a hair elastic. (Fold the pillowcase at the opening so that the bird can’t force itself out getting its neck stuck in the elastic.) Within seconds your bird is safely contained. Do not rely on your well-trained bird to step up in an emergency situation. A panicked bird will simply not cooperate. It’s worth incorporating that into your emergency plan.
I may not be able to carry 10-12 pet carriers in one hit but I can carry that many pillowcases. I say this knowing that an animal can breathe through a pillowcase and while it may ruffle a few feathers, it’s a lot better than leaving them behind to die.
I share this because people who have evacuation plans usually plan to use a travel cage. In an ideal world, you’d always have time to pack and load your pets properly. But, it isn’t an ideal world. I am haunted by a story I heard of a man who had numerous cockatiels that panicked as his house very quickly flooded in a bad storm. He had travel cages. He wasn’t able to catch even one of his birds and his neighbour had to rescue him because he nearly drowned trying. I added pillowcases to my evacuation plan when I heard that story. If you only have seconds to react, you don’t want to waste them thinking about what to do.
For those of you who want to know what to pack for an evacuation or some advice on preparing for emergency situations, Patty has done a helpful post that you can access by clicking here.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure the bitumen out the front of my house is melting back into tar. The drama queen in me says this heat is going to cook us all! I’m writing about evacuation plans because I’m also trying to comfort myself into thinking that I’ve really got it quite easy at the moment. Just because I can’t go out of my front door for more than 20 seconds without getting severely sunburned, or without tripping over a wild bird that is eating a concrete cooked snail (they’re seriously gross), does not mean that the world will end on December 21. I’m really just not a summer person. I might be in the middle of an extreme weather event, but in the scheme of things, I’m lucky I’ve got sleeping cages and haven’t had to resort to pillowcases. It could be worse.
That said, all of my birds come from different backgrounds and that inevitably has led to them all hearing different ring tones in their previous lives. I’ve had so many real phone calls today (thanks to the wildlife rescue side of things); it has set the birds off. I’m listening to about 12 different ring tones full blast on repeat. After 4 hours, it’s starting to wear a little thin. I have this horrible feeling that I’m going to wind up humming ring tones in my sleep…
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.