When the weather is warm and beautiful, you naturally want your bird to be able to enjoy it with you. Because birds are capable of flight (even if clipped!) and easily frightened, it’s important to implement safe procedures when taking them outdoors.
Domestic birds are also prime targets for predators, who may even try to attack them through a cage or in flight.
So, how can you take your bird outside without worrying about frightening him, exposing him to danger, or losing him? Some may be surprised to learn that wing clipping is one of the least effective ways to ensure your bird doesn’t fly away and get lost.
The safest way to allow your bird to enjoy the outdoors is in a secure cage or aviary, but harnesses or free flight training are also becoming more and more common.
Read on to learn about the different options you can try to keep your bird safe during outdoor time.
Unless you have trained with an expert to free-fly your bird, the best way to allow her to enjoy time outdoors is in a cage or with a harness made specifically for birds. This is also the best way to transport a bird from the house to the car or between buildings.
No matter how briefly your bird will be outside, she should be secured in a cage or harness.
If you have a small bird, his regular cage may be small enough to be moved outdoors when desired. If your bird’s cage is large or unwieldy, you may benefit from keeping a second more portable cage for outdoor use.
Always transfer your bird to and from the cage while your bird is safely indoors.
Securing Doors, Latches, and Fasteners
Especially if your bird is a bit of a Houdini, you should take extra precautions to be sure he can’t open any doors or slip out of the cage while outdoors. Make sure all the latches are firmly closed and – if necessary – use locks or clothespins to fasten all cage doors firmly.
Harnesses and leashes should be high-quality pieces specifically made for birds. They should fit correctly, fasten securely, and be made so that if the bird does take flight, he will not be injured when stopped short by the harness and leash.
Leaving Your Bird Unattended Outdoors
Unless you have a large aviary made with your bird’s safety and comfort in mind, never leave your bird unattended outdoors. Far too many pet birds have been injured by outdoor dogs, cats, raccoons, or hawks (to name a few) who have reached through the bars or broken into an unattended cage.
You should always be within eyesight of your bird’s temporary outdoor cage, and he should never be left outside overnight. If your outdoor cage is a smaller, portable affair, you should also avoid leaving your bird in it for more than two or three hours a day.
Optimal Temperatures For Tropical Birds
Most pet birds are native to warm southern continents like South America, Africa, or Australia. They are not capable of thriving in colder northern temperatures.
At the same time, overheating can be a danger, since they are limited to wherever you have placed them rather than being able to seek out cooler, sheltered areas on their own.
These birds do best in temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are taking your bird outside on a warm, sunny day, be sure to give him access to shade and remember to check frequently to make sure he’s not in full sun or overheating.
On cooler days, place your bird’s outdoor cage close to the house and make sure he is not in a drafty area and has access to the sun. Never leave your bird outside during inclement weather.
Providing Shelter and Desensitization
Many birds will be frightened the first time they are outside. Covering part of your bird’s cage will give him a place to hide from anything he deems a possible danger.
If you are taking your bird out on a harness, start with short trips and stay close to the house until he has had a chance to look around and relax. Pay attention to your bird’s body language and don’t push him too hard too fast.
Give him time to adjust and feel comfortable with his gradually broadening world.
A Word About Outdoor Aviaries
Most birds will see an outdoor aviary as an absolute luxury. The space and stimulation a well-prepared aviary can provide are well worth the cost and work that goes into it.
An aviary needs to be situated in a safe place out of the wind. It should be secure. It should be able to keep the birds in and predators out. Finally, it should only be utilized in climates and temperatures in which your bird can truly thrive.
Training birds to fly outdoors and return when called has long been common among falconers. However, it has become more popular among parrot owners in recent years.
The incredible fulfillment that both birds and their handlers experience is obvious and attractive.
Is free flight the right choice for you and your bird?
The birds most commonly trained to free fly are macaws, Amazons, and other large parrots, including larger colures. There are several reasons for this.
- These birds have large wingspans and need huge amounts of space to truly experience flight—unlike smaller birds like cockatiels and budgies that can enjoy flight indoors or in a medium-sized aviary.
- They are brightly colored and large enough to keep track of with some ease. Smaller birds and birds with more camouflaged coloring (like green-cheek colures and gray tiles) are more difficult to keep in sight and therefore easier to lose track of.
- Their larger size makes them less likely to be seen as prey to raptors or other predators—although owners who allow free flight are still always on the lookout for these threats.
Large amounts of time and patience are essential for free flight training. Teaching your bird to fly to you on command is only part of it. Birds also need to practice proper landings and learn to descend at steep angles.
They need consistent practice to build their skills and endurance. They also need to become used to being outdoors in various places, so they won’t be overwhelmed or frightened into forgetting their training.
Experienced Trainers are Essential
Always seek the help of an expert before attempting to free-flight your bird on your own. Experienced trainers like Dave and Jamieleigh of BirdTricks offer video courses and in-person consultations.
They will walk you through the steps of properly training and preparing your bird to avoid the danger and heartache of losing him or her while free flying.
Why Everyone Should Do Recall Training
Even if you never intend to free-fly your bird, training her to fly to you when called is never a waste of time. Birds are small, swift, and smart, which can lead to one occasionally escaping into the outdoors.
If you have allowed her to become a skilled flyer, desensitized her somewhat to the outdoors, and trained her to come when called, you will have a much higher chance of safely retrieving her should this happen to your bird.
Recall training is also simple, fun, and a great way to spend time with your bird and give her the exercise and interaction she craves.
Birds are built for flight. They are lightweight, and their wings are designed to make them airborne.
Many birds can still fly short distances even with their flight feathers trimmed. If they catch a gust of wind, they can be carried hundreds of feet in seconds.
Just as dangerous is the fact that birds that have had their wings clipped never learn to fly effectively. This can make it more dangerous if they escape outside as they will have no control over their flight.
Pet birds have been known to sit for hours in trees, willing but unable to fly down because they have never learned.
A bird with clipped wings should always be in a cage or harness when taken outside.
A bird’s leg band can function almost like a dog’s license if he should ever be lost. Be sure to write down the information from your bird’s band so that you will have some way to identify him (and prove that he is yours) should he ever be lost and picked up by an individual or bird rescue.
Microchipping is also available for birds and can be even more effective.
Finally, if you are free-flying your bird, you can ensure your peace of mind by using a GPS tracker made specifically for birds.
Whatever option you decide is best for taking your bird outdoors, be sure to always place his safety and comfort at the top of your list and minimize the various dangers as much as possible. Birds love sunlight, open air, and the goings-on of life.
Finding a way to let them enjoy the outdoors is always worth the effort involved.