Photo by Kai Bansner Location: Moab, UT Shown: Our truck for freeflying parrots
It seems like when you freefly your birds, or when your life involves birds as heavily as mine does, that EVERYTHING I do is made around them.
Soon I will be making the long drive from Florida to Idaho and I got to thinking how to do it without my huge white trailer, if I needed to. Or how would I take freeflight trips along the way without the trailer and have the birds be comfortable? Since my last truck broke down and we traded it in for a new one, I've been thinking about what I can add on to the new one to make it more bird-friendly. The best selling features were that it was a "work truck" and plain, simple, and could be literally washed out from the inside. I immediately thought, I can wash the bird poop right out? The berry stains? There's nothing for them to destroy? Sign me up! Now I've been thinking how to properly add on to it with the birds best interest in mind... mainly for freeflight trips and not having to drag out trailer all over the place (kills us on gas mileage!) Here's how I went about prepping my truck for use with my birds: Step 1: Buy a canopy.
Photo by Dave Womach Location: Moab, UT Pictured: White truck with canopy for freeflying parrots
I immediately looked into canopies because I thought it would be great to be able to have my birds in the back of the truck on short freeflight trips. But the problem was that if there was a storm, I didn't want them all to get soaked and I didn't want to get stuck somewhere where they couldn't be covered. I also wanted to be able to drive long distances with them back there instead of needing the trailer so the canopy was necessary to keep out crappy weather. I went for the biggest, tallest canopy I could. Why? Because I have macaws and wanted them to sit as tall as possible without damaging (breaking) their tail feathers. This was a must - bird comfort. The bigger, the more space for them. Traveling is already uncomfortable so may as well make it as comfortable as possible, right? Next was air circulation... I needed lots of air circulation because of all the dander our birds put off. I wanted lots of windows that could be open on the drive. Many opened out and upwards and couldn't be open while driving. I wanted large slide windows but they could only be open and closed from the INSIDE of the canopy which would be impossible to get to with a bunch of bird cages back there - defeating the purpose of getting them out of the bad weather only to have to stick them in the bad weather to get in there and close the windows. So we went for the option of power outlets with fans, along with the windows that open out and up with a partial slide. That way they had circulation from a window that could be closed from the OUTSIDE, as well as get their windows opened completely when we stop somewhere. But we could also easily keep the weather elements out by having control from the outside while the fans would keep a circulation of air. We also opted for a sliding window to the inside of our truck so that we could use the AC and/or heat from our truck to help change their temperature as well and be able to see them better. Step two: A slider bed.
Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Moab, UT Pictured: Sliding bed in truck with travel carriers
In the shop we saw this wonderful slider bed that was used for working men and their trucks so that they could slide it out, put a bunch of stuff on it and slide it back in. We thought that would be great for our bird cages if we could slide them out, open them up and a flying they will go! Normally we pack and unpack every single cage and then let them out, but this system was way better. We got it! It changed the inside space we had a bit but it was worth it to us so not have to bang cage after cage against one another trying to move them all the time.
Photo by Nathan Slabaugh Location: Moab, UT Shown: Sliding the bed of the truck out
Step 3: Food and supply storage.
Photo by Dave Womach Location: Moab, UT Shown: Freeflying parrots fully equipped
With the space cut out from using the slider we are able to keep our training supplies and packs of bird food in that space and not have it be a big deal or in the way at all. It was great for being able to pack everything we needed for a freeflight trip. While the back seat of our truck has space for Rocko and his travel cage if needed (we worry about parrot dusk for him to be breathing in a small space no matter how great the circulation) so we're feeling pretty darn good about our newest investment. And last... Step 4: Parrot perches.
Photo by Daniel Kuykendall Location: Moab, UT Shown: Truck "perches" on top for freeflying birds
Yes, we opted to add the racks on top, as tiny and short as they are as makeshift parrot perches so that the birds won't land and scratch the truck as much, but will utilize those instead. We even changed the direction in which they were installed on our truck just for them! This way our truck is less likely to get scratched up when they land on it. Now they land on these!
Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.