It’s been three years since your last vacation and you have the opportunity to go to an exotic destination somewhere in another part of the world. You’ve wanted to go there for a long time and here’s your chance. But you have a parrot. What do you do? You want to go, but you don’t want to leave the little guy with anyone else because you’re afraid that:
1. He’ll be traumatized for the rest of his life.
2. You feel you are the only one that can properly take care of him. 3. He may not be traumatized, but he’ll be mad at you and sulk and perhaps never forgive you.
This will most likely never happen and here is why.
Many people are concerned that this is going to traumatize their bird. They feel that if they leave, their little guy is going to sulk and get all worked up because they’re gone.
I’m going to break it to you gently: This probably isn’t going to happen.
Parrots are pretty adaptable creatures that adjust to change. They’ve been doing it in the wild for eons and will continue as conditions change. In Nature, they have to be flexible and they have to figure out problems. This adaptability comes naturally to them or they would not survive.
They’re pretty good little problem solvers and if you leave in the morning to go to work, or step out to go to the grocery store, they don’t have a cow about that.
This may be for a longer period of time, but they will adjust.
I’ve boarded a few birds for friends in my home in my time and I’ve never seen a traumatized or angry bird when the family member returned to pick him up. Rather they seemed genuinely happy their family member came back and they were very happy to be reunited with them.
I’ve had to board my 3 Greys a time or two. I brought them to a friend’s house who has far more time and far more experience with birds than I do. As a matter of fact, two of of the Greys I adopted were placed with me by her so they lived with her for a few months before they were placed with me. She is also their groomer and despite this “grooming trauma” every now and then, they still like her.
When I went to work at the Cincinnati Zooas a guest keeper for a writing project, I schlepped them over to her home to stay with her and it wasn’t a problem. I returned from Cincinnati, they came back home with me and life went on. No fuss, no trauma and no hurt feelings.
Occasionally you might see a little bit of “acting out”; a parrot that returns home will turn his back on you or appear put out for a while, but that never has lasted more than a day or two from what I’ve heard. So I wouldn’t be too concerned about this if it happens.
There are two ways you can ensure your birds are cared for while you go on a vacation. You can board your bird with a reputable person, or you can have someone come in daily to care for them. Some people prefer having someone come in a few times a day because they feel it’s less traumatic than moving the bird and all of his stuff to another location.
I’m pretty lucky. I have two close friends who help me with my three parrots. My home is in a condominium building and two of my neighbors in the building are totally competent in caring for my birds. They have established friendships with them that are completely separate from their relationship with me. When I returned from a two week volunteer stint at Best Friends Animal Society, I walked in the door of my home and found Bill sitting with Pepper on his foot and Nan with Parker on her knee. They looked at me and it was as if they were saying, “Oh, hello. Where have you been?” But there was no sulking, no issues and no unusual behavior of any kind. It was as if I had just gone to work and come back that night as usual.
The ones that occasionally act up are the human families. When my friend Bill, who lives in my building had to leave to help a friend work on his house, he would call almost every night so I could put the Greys on the speaker phone.
He would have me get a nut and he would ask them to do tricks over the phone. And yes, they did recognize his voice and did the tricks for him!
It was funny the first few times but after about two weeks it got a little old. But I did it for Bill. I don’t really think the birds gave a hoot one way or the other aside from the opportunity to earn a nut, but Bill needed the contact despite the fact that he couldn't see them. He did enjoy hearing them say “Thank you.” when he asked them what the magic words were as well as hearing them say their name.
We all need a bit of a change. So I simply wouldn’t worry about taking some time out for yourself. You’ll come back refreshed, relaxed and renewed. And this will do nothing but improve your relationship with your flock.
I also feel that the change-up in routine is good for them. Keeping things fresh with new routines, new people and even a different environment once in a while is something we all need. I believe it’s in everyone’s nature to enjoy meeting new people, seeing new things and trying something different. I feel that our birds are no different than us in that sense.
Which is why you need to take that vacation.