Moving is the worst. The packing. The chaos. The unpacking. The chaos. The only good thing about moving is the excuse it gives you to buy new stuff. Moving with parrots complicates matters even more and if you aren’t prepared, it can make things unnecessarily stressful for you and your bird.
It makes sense that a parrot would be uncomfortable with a move to a new location. They are a prey animal that must be very vigilant about their surroundings in order to avoid becoming some predator’s lunch. Familiarity would provide them with a feeling of security. When you know your environment like the back of your hand, so to speak, it is easy to spot when something is amiss – and that perception keeps a bird safe.
When a bird is moved into a new environment, it has to rebuild that familiarity and the sense of ease that comes with it. We can’t do that for them, but we can help make the transition easier.
It is true that some species of parrots might be better equipped to handle change than others. Some species characteristically experience discomfort when new things suddenly appear in their environment or when old things change. But most relevant is YOUR bird’s ability to adapt to change. Hopefully, you have made efforts to keep your bird flexible prior to this move.
Things to keep in mind:
- Parrots are very social creatures and know that their safety lies in part with their alliance with a flock. In captivity, you are your bird’s flock and it will do your bird good if you are able to arrange time off from work so that you can be there for the first couple of days.
- This is not the right time to buy your bird a new cage. It is a familiar thing that has provided security up until now. Let it continue that role in the new house. In fact, I would suggest you keep everything inside the cage the same until you are sure your bird is comfortable enough to endure further change.
- Move your bird’s cage ahead of time – even if that means he spends the day in a carrier while you are setting it up in the new location. It will be comforting to your bird to have the cage ready upon his arrival. (This will also eliminate having to subject your bird to the exasperation and cursing that takes place during cage assembly.)
- Choose the new location for the cage thoughtfully. Be sure it is a comfortable location that is away from nearby opening and closing doors (or other sources of constant activity) and views that might be distressing (such as the headlights of passing cars at night or hawks flying outside).
- Move your bird into the new house LAST – after all the furniture and boxes are at least temporarily relocated. Allow the new house to be as settled as possible so your bird doesn’t have to deal with the turmoil.
- Birds have a tendency to match the energy levels of those around them. In the wild, this benefits them because tension in the flock is a warning that something is wrong. Therefore, birds are very responsive to our tension. Try to keep yours in check.
Things that do not work:
- Letting your bird “gradually adjust” by moving him back and forth between the old and new place before the final move does not play out the way you intend it to. Since we know that moving is stressful for a bird, it makes no sense to prolong that stress. Let there be one awkward move for the bird to cope with, not several that take place over a series of weeks.
- Putting a cover over your bird’s cage while movers take out or bring in furniture and boxes does not create a barrier between your bird and any unsettling commotion. It just makes it difficult to see what is going on. This will only add to your bird’s insecurity about the situation and make the move harder in the end.
- Don’t force your bird to explore the new house. Let him grow comfortable with the room where he will be mainly located before you require him to address any other strange, new rooms. They will still be there when he is ready to experience them.
The success of a move with a parrot lies more in the advance prep work than anything else. You have to know your bird well enough to know how to avoid exceeding his threshold of tolerance. You have to be able to anticipate problems that might arise and be prepared for them. Your aim should be to make the move as seamless as possible.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.