Well, here we are — Floridians for an entire year already and not one, but two hurricanes under our belts! We evacuated for Hurricane Dorian (we do NOT screw around with evacuation orders), but are here and chilling for Isaias, since luckily it looks like he’s all bark and no bite… and he may miss us entirely if we are lucky!
I’ve read several amazing articles to help get our flock ready to properly evacuate (or, in this case, weathering the storm), but I’ve found that there are a few additional things we do that may help you if you ever need to prepare your flock for a potentially lengthy evacuation. Please note that this requires time, preparation and forethought (especially during COVID), so if you’re looking to create a FAST escape plan, this article may be more useful for you. 🙂
What does our hurricane prep with parrots look like?
Most Important: Food & Water Considerations
Prep Water and Dish Soap
According to a veterinarian who was interviewed for this fabulous article, the biggest problem parrots faced after the storm was clean, potable water. And, real talk, you’re going to need significantly more water than you might think. Not only will they need water to drink, but you’ll also want it for:
- Cleaning their food/water bowls. Consider how messy birds are–my parrots are “dunkers” and will dip their pellets in their water all day long, which gets scuzzy fast. It’s important to be able to properly sanitize each dish, every day.
- Spritzing your birds down in the summer heat; if you’re a Floridian, chances are, if you don’t have water, you won’t have an AC!
- Wiping down and sanitizing their travel cages. When you evacuate, you’re not likely to bring their giant cages with you–travel cages (or in our case, travel backpacks!) and that’s going to get messy fast.
Our Water Preparedness List:
- A gallon of drinking/cleaning water per big parrot per day, and one for the littles.
- Dawn dish soap, hand-held size, and a lot of paper towels! These double as cage liners in a pinch, so definitely have a few rolls ready to go.
- Spray bottle for water.
- Apple cider vinegar (you have to get the kind that says “with the mother” on the label, says my avian vet) to put a teaspoon or two in a parrots’ drinking water–while this DEFINITELY won’t sanitize undrinkable water (like, don’t give your birds water from a lake, obviously), it can help normalize the bacteria in a parrots’ crop and prevent infections. So, if your bird is boredly eating nasty, several-hours-old banana off the bottom of his or her travel cage while you’re driving as fast as you can to safety, this can definitely help stave off a bacterial infection.
We have a diverse flock; presently, we have an Amazon, an Eclectus parrot, two cockatiels and a parakeet. And, until very recently, all three of our little birds were eating different kinds of food. So, our travel kit contained big pellets for the large parrots (enough for two weeks), little pellets, nutriberries, and seed.
This is your gentle reminder to not make the mistake of assuming that, if your birds are on different diets, they’ll eat each other’s food in a pinch–they probably won’t. Make sure to have the kind of food your parrots are accustomed to eating regularly. 🙂
We also include some of Bird Street Bistro’s glorious, pre-made and water-tight cookable parrot food. In a pinch, I could cook this on a camping stove and have fresh mash for the babies; this is especially important for our Eclectus, because he has a longer digestive tract than other types of parrot, and thus special dietary needs. With that in mind, I also make sure I have fresh food on hand in our kitchen that I know he will eat at all times during hurricane season–we all need our comfort foods!
Our Food Preparedness List:
- Dry food–big and little varieties for different sized birdies!
- Nutriberries and millet–good as a treat!
- Quickly Cookable Bird Mash
- Fresh food on hand that I know that they’ll eat–apples, bananas, carrots and celery, oh my!
- Cuttle Bone–it’s not food, but if either Rowena or Vi decide she is in a maternal way and decides she wants to start laying eggs, better safe than sorry!A Tip: Make sure to rotate the food out of your birdy grab-and-go emergency kit every time you order new food packages; you don’t want it going stale!
Expect the Unexpected
Our birds don’t have any medications, but if they did, I would definitely put a note to myself in each travel backpack to grab anything perishable medication out of the fridge–you’ll want a cooler to keep that from spoiling too! However, Rowena (our budgie) likes to pluck the feathers out of her neck (per two avian vets, she’s fine, medically, if a little masochistic); sometimes, she gets a little carried away and ends up pulling off a scab on her neck–and bleeding. It’s not fun. Therefore, we include a little crocheted necklace for her to make sure that she can’t hurt herself while we’re on the road evacuating.
With that in mind, it’s also important to throw in a birdy first aid kit and some styptic powder. We usually stay with someone who has another dog and a cat, and while we take every precaution, you never know what may happen. In a new environment, they might have a night fright, fling themselves around their cage, and break a blood feather–any ANY blood is an emergency when it comes to birds.
The Life-Saving Effect of Corn Starch
- In a pinch, corn starch and consistent, gentle pressure will often work to stop bleeding, so worst case scenario, pack a can of corn starch! Since birds don’t clot on their own, corn starch helps them to do so.
Medical Preparedness List
- Any medications/health needs for your individual babies.
- Corn starch or styptic powder.
- Birdy first aid kit–in a pinch, corn starch, vet wrap, and what you can find in a general first aid kit will do, but definitely invest in one of these!
- Towels–either to restrain an injured bird, or cover them when they are sleeping/to keep them warm!
Do. not. skip. the corn starch. Seriously.
Prep Travel Cages/Carriers
You’ll want these ready to go. We have both larger-but-portable cages in which our babies sleep every night (I’m paranoid about fire and want to be able to just pick a cage up and RUN), but we also have these incredible birdy backpacks:
Both of these are set up with clean food/water cups and toys and are kept ready to go at a moment’s notice. I really like having both for an evacuation–it can give your parrots a little more variety rather than one single cage they’re stuck in, allow them to accompany you as you go about your business out and about (not that we do much of that right now with COVID anyway). Because they are rescues, our birds are not harness trained (although we are working on it!) so a birdy backpack can allow them to stay safely with us without fear of flying off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
We also have a few small bird stands that we can bring with us to give them places to perch, including one that doubles as a scale so we can keep track of their health that way!
Carrier Preparedness List
- Travel carrier/backpack, set up with water, toy, and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Small sleep cages, similarly set up with a toy or two.
- Harness, if your parrot is harness trained!
- Perches to give your birds some variety.
- Worried about birds getting cold? Consider hot water bottles or heat lamps–Florida doesn’t have this problem so much, but folks who live in Northern states might, so make sure to look into options for keeping your birdies warm if you don’t have power for a week or two!
We also make sure to label each carrier with the birds’ names, our names, our contact information, our emergency contact’s information, our vet’s name, health conditions (Louie is allergic to corn, for example–I play this up a little to deter any wannabe bird-owners from potentially keeping him), and “REWARD WHEN RETURNED TO OWNER”.
The Bottom Line
With all this ready to go, when we are given an order to evacuate, we will absolutely leave. Our stuff isn’t important to us; our creatures are.
A reminder to all that it’s important to evacuate when given the orders to do so; staying at home with your animals when this happens not only endangers you and your flock, but also the first responders who are there to save you (not to mention, they may not be able to bring your animals!) And never, ever leave your animals alone at home during a natural disaster; that’s the whole point of this post!
Be ready so you can keep yourself and your flock safe.