Author: Pattie Larson, LVT
Emergencies can happen at any time. Without warning, you may suddenly need to pack up and leave your home as quickly as possible. For bird owners or owners of any type of pet, the stress of emergencies is compounded. In addition to your own well-being, your pets rely on you for safety in the face of an emergency.
As a bird owner, the key to handling any emergency is to be prepared beforehand. By gathering essential equipment and supplies before an emergency happens and keeping it all in an easy-to-find spot, you can alleviate unnecessary anxiety for you and your birds when facing the unexpected.
In this article, we will cover the following important emergency preparedness topics for bird owners:
- How to create an emergency preparedness kit for your bird
- How to create an emergency preparedness plan
- Emergency first aid training
- Key steps for success during an emergency
How To Create An Emergency Preparedness Kit For Your Bird
Your bird’s evacuation kit should include the essentials you’ll need to safely relocate your bird for a temporary but potentially undetermined amount of time. Keeping the following items on hand and stored in a central, easy-to-grab location will set you and your pets up for success in the face of an unplanned emergency.
Note: Having the below items available and easy to grab will make emergency situations less stressful. While you may be tempted to add in a lot of “I might need this” items, remember that it is important to keep your kit light and mobile. Try to keep it to absolute essentials (although you can make room for your bird’s favorite toy).
Include the following items in your bird’s Emergency Preparedness Kit:
- Travel cage or carrier
- Your bird’s food
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Hand mister
- Hot water bottle
- Cage cover
- Cage liners and cleaning supplies
- A backpack or larger bag
Keep your bird’s travel carrier stored near or under the cage. This will prevent you from having to spend time locating it in the garage or basement when time is critical. If you own multiple birds and carriers, label each with your bird’s name, your contact information, and your vet’s contact information.
Your Bird’s Food
Keep your bird’s emergency food in an airtight container and include at least a 7-day supply per bird. Make sure you rotate this out often to make sure you don’t have expired food when an emergency occurs.
Keep at least a 7-day supply of bottled water in your bird’s emergency kit. Alternatively, you can utilize a bird-friendly water sterilization system such as a gravity filtration system you can find at camping stores. This will provide fresh water for you and your pets.
Prepare at least a 7-day supply of your bird’s medications and rotate often so that you don’t have to worry about expired medications.
A small toolbox or fishing tackle box makes a great first-aid kit for pet birds. If possible, find one with hard sides to protect the contents from getting damaged.
Your bird’s first aid kid should include:
- Disposable gloves
- Magnifying glass
- Wire cutters
- Nail clippers
- Kitchen towel for gentle restraint
- Leather protective gloves (for larger birds especially)
- Hemostatic products to control bleeding
- Cornstarch or commercial hemostatic products like Kwik Stop and sterile gauze pads
- Antibacterial products and sterile wash
- Chlorhexidine, triple antibiotic ointment, eye wash, and sterile saline flush
- Bandage material
- Nonstick pads, first aid tape, bandage rolls, cotton swabs, and wooden tongue depressor sticks
- Rehydration and emergency feeding supplies
- Feeding tubes, avian rehydration/feeding solution, syringes of various sizes, and an eye dropper
NOTE: Larger wounds or those that may penetrate the chest or belly should not have these applied. Instead, apply gentle pressure (ensuring that your bird can still breathe) and seek a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Be sure to important paperwork including proof of ownership papers and a copy of veterinary records in your bird’s emergency preparedness kit. Update these as needed and keep them in a water-safe Ziplock bag.
Create a “Vital Information Form” with all the information for your bird:
- Identification information (name, birth date, breed, color, band number)
- Any important medical history (medical conditions, medications and doses, special diet considerations, feeding directions, and any known allergies)
- Contact information (your vet and local emergency veterinarian, neighbors or friends who can watch your pet, and contact information for local pet-friendly motels, boarding facilities, and shelters)
A hand mister is an important addition to your bird’s emergency kit. Hand misters are very portable and can be used for bathing and keeping your bird cool during hot weather.
Hot Water Bottle
If cold days are even a remote possibility during your emergency-related travels, a hot water bottle is an essential inclusion in your bird’s emergency kit. A water bottle filled with hot water is a simple and effective tool for providing your bird extra warmth during a temporary relocation from home.
A cage cover provides comfort and sanctuary for your bird. Providing a sense of security for your bird during emergency travel is likely to be especially important, so make sure to include a cage cover in your bird’s emergency kit.
Cage Liners & Cleaning Supplies
Cage cleanliness is always important for your bird’s health and emergency situations are no exception. Include these essential supplies to keep your bird clean and comfortable while traveling.
A Backpack or Larger Bag
Utilize a backpack or larger bag to house all the emergency supplies we’ve outlined in this article. Make sure your bag of choice is easy to carry and allows you to have your hands free when necessary. Remember that you will be carrying your bird as well.
Emergency First-Aid Training
To be even better prepared to support your bird’s health during potential emergencies, set up some time to talk with your veterinarian about other recommended supplies and emergency first aid training.
Suggested bird first-aid topics to discuss with your veterinarian include:
- How to restrain your bird in an emergency
- How to bandage different areas of your bird’s body
- How to use a feeding tube and syringe feed
- How to remove a blood feather or broken toenail
- How to clean a wound and how to deal with wounds that require a pressure bandage
- Applying too much pressure can prevent your bird from breathing so it is important to know how to deal with these unique wounds
How To Create An Emergency Preparedness Plan For Your Bird
Okay, you have your Emergency Preparedness Kit, now what? Next, you need to put together an Emergency Preparedness Plan.
Start this by asking yourself these questions:
- How will you receive emergency updates and warnings?
- Do you have a weather radio in your home?
- Can you save important links and emergency numbers on your phone?
- What is your plan for shelter?
- Where will you go if your home is not an option? Having more than one option is beneficial in case your first choice is not available.
- Identify pet-friendly hotels nearby that you can evacuate to if necessary.
- If you are sheltering in place at home, what do you need to do to make your house safe?
- What is your evacuation plan?
- What is the fastest way to get to these shelter areas?
- Plan ways to get to your shelter areas by car and by foot or public transportation if necessary.
- What is your communication plan for your household, family, and friends?
- How are you going to get in touch to let everyone know you are safe?
- Will there be a specific meet-up spot?
- Creating a phone tree may be beneficial so that you aren’t dealing with a lot of calls at once.
Creating a plan for each of the most common emergencies in your area is ideal as each one will have a different course of action. For example, if you live in the Midwest, tornados are prevalent. On a coast? Then hurricane preparedness is key.
Key Steps For Success During An Emergency
The unexpected has happened and you are facing an emergency, whether that may be an evacuation order, a home fire, or a flood. There are key steps to keep in mind.
Staying calm may be your single most important step in the event of an emergency. Having a plan and emergency kit ready to go will assist you in this. If you find yourself becoming scared, anxious, or unsure, stop and take a few deep breaths to center yourself and override your body’s reaction.
This will keep you in touch with your critical thinking and remember that your pets can read your anxiety. Your ability to remain calm will help keep them calm as well.
Assess the Emergency
What type of emergency are you dealing with? Do you need to evacuate or shelter in place? What part of your Emergency Preparedness Plando you need to activate?
Seek Help if Necessary
Do you or others in your home need immediate assistance? If so, take the appropriate step to contact the right individual or agency. If you or someone else in your home is injured, contact 911 immediately.
Remove Yourself and Your Pets from Danger
Gather your Emergency Preparedness Kit and activate your plan. Take steps to get yourself and your bird to a safe place before assisting others.
No one wants to experience an emergency and dealing with one with your bird can seem especially daunting. By planning ahead, you can alleviate anxiety and put yourself (and your pets) in the best position for a successful recovery. By creating an emergency preparedness kit and plan and discussing key emergency topics with your veterinarian, you’ll be well on your way to keeping yourself and your bird as safe as possible when facing the unexpected.
For additional emergency preparedness tips, visit the United States Government’s Emergency Preparedness Website.