Q: I travel frequently because of my job and lately I have been feeling guilty about leaving my bird so often. Do you think this will cause her to become unhappy?
-Monica, B., San Diego, CA
A: The answer depends mostly on your situation, but also on your bird’s personality. You haven’t given me much information, so I will try to look at this from different angles.
If you live alone and have made arrangements to have someone come in to feed her every day, then I feel it is a bad situation for your bird. Birds are very social and being left alone in a cage for long stretches will definitely take a toll on her from both a physical and emotional standpoint.
Not only will the lack of out of cage time result in poor physical condition from insufficient exercise, but after a while, most birds who are poorly socialized lose their willingness to interact. It is not fair to expect a bird to live in solitude because of one’s job.
If you do not live alone and have made it an issue to be certain that your bird is content in the company of the others living in the house and have trained them to be good caregivers, your bird will be fine. Birds are resilient creatures. As long as they feel secure in their surroundings they are quite adaptable.
If you find it necessary to bring your bird to a location outside of your home while you travel, that also can be done without stress.
I know of divorced couples who share custody of their birds. These birds live between the two homes for a few months at a time in each location. I know another divorced couple with multiple birds that they rotate. This arrangement works out well as two of these birds do not get along well and the rotation keeps them apart.
There are also people who travel with their birds and have great results.
In the end it all comes down to how well you do your job as a parrot guardian. If you have kept your bird socialized to many people and have allowed a lot of new experiences for her, the chances of her adapting comfortably to this lifestyle without stress is greatly increased. It is important to understand your bird’s body language so that you can accurately gauge her reaction to environment changes.
There are many people who have birds and travel for a living. One common report from those I have spoken to is that they don’t really regard the bird as “theirs” any more. The bird becomes a family bird and sometimes switches its allegiance to another person who is home with regularity.
This can be hard to cope with and it took time for some to come around to feeling at peace with the idea that this was what was best for their bird even though it didn’t feel good to them. In the end, they knew that letting go was the best thing for their bird. Remember that whatever choices you make, your bird is the one who will have to live with the consequences. Be very certain she is okay with the arrangements.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.