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How to Take Your Pet Bird Outside

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Taking your bird outside is a fun way to spend time with your pet! Always use either a bird harness or a cage to keep your bird safe while you both enjoy the outdoors. To use a bird harness, use treats and affection to help your bird get used to the harness first. If you are using a cage or carrier, pick the right size for your bird and drape a towel over 3 sides of the cage to help your bird feel secure.


Using a Bird Harness

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    Purchase a harness that fits your bird. Bird harness can be found at most pet supply stores and online. The harnesses are sold in sizes such as small, medium, and large, and the label on each harness will specify the breeds that each size is suitable for. There are often a range of different colors to choose from.[1]

    • The size of the harness can be adjusted slightly using the straps.
    • If you are unsure about what size harness your bird needs, ask a sales representative in a pet supply store. They will help you to pick the right size for your bird.
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    Get your bird comfortable with being handled. Use treats and affection to help gain your bird’s trust. Practice picking up your bird and touching its head, back, and wings. Your bird needs to be comfortable being handled to be able to accept the harness.[2]

    • When you are training your bird for handling, be as slow and gentle as possible. Work in short sessions of 10–15 minutes, once or twice per day.[3]
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    Let the bird inspect the harness to get used to it. Place the harness next to your bird to help your bird feel comfortable around the new object. Give your bird enough time to look at, approach, and touch the harness. Use treats to reward your bird for being confident and not afraid of the harness.[4]

    • Watch your bird carefully as it inspects the harness. This is because some birds like to chew on harnesses, which can ruin them.
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    Teach your bird to put its head through the harness. Once your bird is comfortable being around the harness, slowly guide your bird’s head through the head component using a treat. When the bird’s head is in the harness, give it the treat and remove the harness while it is eating. Practice this action until your bird is confident putting its head through the harness.[5]

    • Once your bird is comfortable having its head in the harness, keep the harness over its head while it eats the treat. This helps your bird to get used to the feeling of the harness around its head and it creates a positive association.
    • Harness training your bird is about teaching it to volunteer putting itself into the harness. This helps your bird to feel confident and willing to be in the harness. Never force your bird into the harness as this creates a negative association and your bird will be reluctant or scared to wear the harness in the future.[6]
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    Fit the harness over your bird’s wings and gently tighten the straps. Once your bird is comfortable wearing the harness over its head, gently lift each wing through the wing straps. Give your bird more affection and another treat after it lets you put each wing into the harness. Adjust each strap so that it feels snug, but not overly tight, against your bird’s body.[7]

    • Bird harnesses have 3 main parts. The head component is the smaller gap at the front of the harness. The wing component includes the straps that go around each wing. The wing component is separated into 2 sides, one for each wing, with a small strap that sits flat against your bird’s chest. This is where the leash connects to the harness.
    • Practice putting the harness on in short sessions over a few weeks. Never rush your bird and only work at a pace that your bird is comfortable with.
    • Each time before you put the harness on, check it for damage caused by chewing. Your bird can escape or be injured by a damaged harness.[8]
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    Secure the harness to your hand while your bird enjoys the outdoors. Place your hand through the loop at the end of the leash and then hold onto the leash, rather than just holding the leash in your hand. If you are exchanging the leash to a different hand or passing it to another person, keep it wrapped around your wrist while you are doing so.[9]
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    Watch your bird constantly while it is in the harness. Make sure that it is safe from hazards such as cats, dogs, and cars. Watch where you walk to avoid standing on your bird.[10]

    • Avoid securing the harness to a perch. This is because a tethered bird is defenseless against predators. Your bird could also become injured by the perch if it tried to fly off suddenly.[11]
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    Use the harness for 5-10 minute sessions to start with. Begin with outdoor sessions that are just a few minutes long and slowly work your way up to longer stretches. Keep track of the length of time that you have been outside. Make sure that your bird has plenty of time to rest after being in the harness and that it has access to food and water after each short session.[12]

Using a Cage or Carrier

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    Pick a suitable cage for the size of your bird. For smaller birds such as cockatiels and conures, a 12 in × 12 in (30 cm × 30 cm) cage or carrier is adequate. Use a 24 in × 24 in (61 cm × 61 cm) cage or carrier for larger birds such as a cockatoo or an eclectus. Make sure that there is enough room for food and water, and for your bird to stretch out its wings.[13]
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    Use a mini padlock or a metal clip to secure the cage door. Many birds are escape artists and can learn how to open the doors for cages and carriers. Prevent your bird from opening the cage door while it’s outside by using a small lock to connect the door to the cage wires. This means that the door cannot open without it being unlocked from the outside.[14]

    • You can use the same type of clip or lock that is used to hold bird toys to a cage.
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    Place a towel over 3 sides of the cage. Use an old towel to cover the sides and the back of the cage so that your bird can see outside from a single direction. As your bird becomes more confident being outside, slowly pull the towel back so that it can become more comfortable being exposed.[15]

    • You will be able to tell that your bird is ready for the towel to be removed when it no longer seems frightened to be outside. Instead, your bird will seem curious and excited about being outside.
    • While your bird is getting used to being outside, the towel helps it to feel secure and also provides shade in warm weather.
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    Place the cage in a spot with both sun and shade. Make sure that your bird is able to be out of the sun while in the cage to avoid overheating. Under a tree is a good spot.[16]
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    Start with 5-10 minute sessions and watch your bird closely while outdoors. Always supervise your bird while it’s outside to make sure that it is calm and happy. Many bird owners like to read a book while their bird is enjoying the outdoors. Gradually build up the length of time that you spend outdoors.[17]

    • If you are taking your bird outside for extended periods of time, make sure that the food and water dishes in the cage or carrier are full.

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