by Linda Greeson

Last November we transported our collection of more than four hundred exotic birds 250 miles to our new home. It was an experience we will never forget.

Our home, and my Mother's next door, were condemned by the county for use as a support area for the local airport. We, and all our birds, were happily settled in our homes. For more than a year prior to the move we refused to believe that we were actually going to be forced to leave. The ax finally fell; the courts said "Move." After months of discussion on how we would transport our birds and consideration of any number of far out ideas, the day had arrived when some definite plans had to be made.

We discussed the problem with a half dozen different moving companies. They were all interested in a contract to move two large households of furniture, but refused even to consider taking on the birds. We finally found one company willing to supply the tractor trailers and the manpower but the details of how to accomplish the job were left to us. The price quoted was astronomical, but we had little choice.

A few years before we had constructed a large, new aviary and had built uniform sized breeding cages for all but the large Macaws. We also had walk-in resting flights for smaller birds to consider. The breeding cages would stack well, fitting in three high in their largest size truck. We proceeded to work out the space requirements for the number of cages we had set up. We then realized that with cages stacked close together for four to five hours, we would certainly find many bloody toes on our arrival. Some spacing had to be arranged for most species.

We considered many materials, all not workable for some reason. Our final decision was to double up enough of the smaller birds who would tolerate each other to provide empty cages for spacing where necessary. We planned to keep the nest boxes in place, fastening them securely. This was a convenient way to move all those nest boxes and it also provided a familiar , safe place for the frightened birds to retreat. To avoid accidental opening and escape during transit, we tie wired all cage doors securely.

Our plans with the moving company were finalized. Three tractor trailers would be required. They were to load our furniture and my Mothers on Thursday, and early Friday morning load the birds. By noon, according to the plan, all the tractor trailers and our four automobiles would caravan up to the new house together.

We also arranged that the trailer used for the birds would not be fumigated prior to our use, as was the customary procedure. With not too recent use of chemicals, and thorough airing out we felt it would be safe for the birds.

Another worry was how to provide sufficient ventilation. The temperatures in South Florida at the time of our move were in the high eighties. We planned to secure one side door in the open position as the birds would not have survived being totally enclosed.

The large Macaws and Cockatoos had to be temporarily placed in smaller cages and their flights dismantled and secured for shipping. Part of the cedar fence separating the aviaries from the side street had to be removed for easier access to the truck. We also realized that our patio had been screened in around two very large wrought iron cages, housing some of our pets. Part of the patio structure also had to be demolished with the chain saw in order to get these cages out.

Our pets were placed in carrying cages for the trip; we just could not face the idea of loading them into a truck. We also had two dogs and a cat to transport. New problems seemed to arise hourly!

The Thursday set for the loading of household goods and furniture passed with less than half the required work done. This left a great deal of the loading for Friday. The movers promised to be there bright and early Friday morning with extra manpower. Luckily our beds remained, but in spite of our attempts to remain optimistic we slept very little. I was haunted by fears for the welfare of my precious blue Quakers but could think of no better plan than those already underway.

"Bright and early" Friday morning turned out to be well after ten. The "extra manpower" turned out to be that of several of our bird loving friends who came to our rescue. Even with their help the birds were not finally secured in the tractor trailer until almost three in the afternoon. Neither house had been emptied of furniture and various piles of equipment and bird cages were scattered over the lawn.

I decided to close up the houses and have my husband follow the van full of birds in his pickup. My Mother and a good friend had already taken off with cars loaded with heirloom crystal, house plants, one of the two dogs, and her pet canary. Mother's night vision is so poor they had to arrange to arrive before dark.

The decision to have my husband stay close to the birds was a wise one. The first stop the movers made was just a few miles away. The driver and his helper left the van loaded with our valuable birds in the parking lot, the large side door wide open, and went inside for a leisurely lunch. It was fortunate that my husband was there to stand guard. In the open lot the hot tropic sun beat down on the metal roof. Our poor birds who were without water.

The next stop was for gas, and the same situation was repeated. The driver finally returned to the van and agreed to stay with the birds long enough for my tired and thirsty husband to have a quick snack and a cold drink. After waiting for some time for the helper to return, a search finally located him in an adjoining building happily playing the pinball machines!

Meanwhile, back at the house we were leaving, we discovered that yet another tractor trailer was needed to carry all the cages and various items of furniture. This took several hours. By the time everything was loaded, they decided that it was too late to start the trip. They promised that all three tractor trailers would arrive before noon the next day.

I set off on my long, lonely trip, my station wagon loaded with pet birds and the dog and cat, worrying over whether the unloading would be of cages of dead birds. I knew that the driver was obviously working well past retirement age and was crippled by arthritis. His young helper was strong enough, but had already given us evidence of his dislike for work of any kind. My usual optimism was failing.

I arrived at our new home by eleven that night. The work of carrying the cages to the building where the birds were to be temporarily housed had just begun. The noise and screaming were music to my ears. They had to be alive to scream! The only light available was from the head lights of our parked cars and several dead batteries added to our problems the next day. An unexpected cold front had moved into the area and from the eighties in South Florida we faced forties in North Florida. Our poor birds now were to face temperatures to which they had never become acclimated.

An important feature of this new home of ours was the thirty by sixty foot metal outbuilding equipped with a cement floor. It appeared huge when empty, but rapidly filled to overflowing with cages of screaming birds. After midnight, the task of feeding and watering still had to be done. Sleeping on the floor of our empty house presented no problem to weary humans that night. We were all completely exhausted.

In the morning we found our birds stressed out and cold, but only two cockatiels had not survived the ordeal. One little budgie had fed and cared for her two babies with no interruption. We were afraid to count our blessings too soon and waited and watched for delayed effects.

Luckily a small amount of bird food had ended up in the miscellaneous equipment piled into the back of the pickup. There was enough food for short rations until the trucks    were due to arrive that day.

The day came and went, while we anxiously watched the road and hovered over the birds. There was no sign of the moving company. We had no telephone service and made several trips to call the office. The only satisfaction from that effort was to hear the machine announce that there was no one in the office -etc. etc. We obtained supplies of toothbrushes and such necessary articles and prepared for another night on the floor. Good friends arrived in their motor home to help us get settled and provided more necessities as well as much needed moral support. The birds were definitely not happy with their cages on the floor. Many were close to unwelcome neighbors. While waiting anxiously for the trucks to arrive we did some arranging and sorting out of species and watched the food bowls empty.

By Sunday morning we faced the fact that our movers were not coming and food of some kind had to be located for our hungry birds. All the feed stores and usual sources of supply were closed for Sunday. I finally cleared the shelves of their supply of wild bird seed in the local super-market. The clerk was too polite to ask the reason for this unusual purchase, and I was too tired and upset to try to explain.

We knew that it was important to get those cages up off the floor. We had carefully gathered all the equipment needed to suspend them from the rafters, but it was all back in South Florida with everything else. While we had willing helpers we made the rounds of local stores, buying up their limited supplies of chain and conduit pipe to at least start the job. Again we had wondering looks from clerks! Again we slept on the floor, afraid to leave our precious birds alone even for the luxury of a motel bed. That night the floor seemed harder and colder, and the lack of blankets and pillows more uncomfortable.

The long awaited three tractor trailers finally arrived late Monday evening. It is hard to believe, but one broke down half way up the drive and several more hours passed before repairs could be made. At midnight that night they were still carrying in furniture. We were looking forward to again sleeping in our beds and the luxury of clean clothes and warm sweaters. Our pets could come out of their cramped carriers to their cages, and most important, we had ample supplies of bird food.

Four months later, I am delighted to report that our birds are all doing wonderfully well. A few are already going to nest. In spite of this experience we are looking forward to an excellent breeding season.

We have learned some valuable lessons: First that our exotic birds are far more hardy than we ever thought. Secondly, despite colorful brochures and friendly sales representatives, we will never again put our faith in the promises made by moving companies. The final lesson is that we will never, ever, come what may, again attempt to move 400 birds 250 miles! Once was enough!



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