Bathing is very important to your bird’s physical and emotional health. In the wild, birds will bathe anytime it rains, and they also bathe frequently in small pools and puddles. Water helps to keep their skin from being dry and itchy, which can lead to feather picking. The activity of bathing also gives the bird some exercise and mental stimulation, and can help to cut down on the amount of dust your bird produces.
You would think that bathing is a fun activity for all birds. However, some birds who haven’t bathed before are absolutely terrified of water! Here are a few things you can do to help entice your bird to have fun in the water:
• Use a small bowl. Try placing a shallow bowl of tepid water in a place that your bird hangs out frequently, like at the bottom of a play stand, or on top of his cage. You might just have to let it sit there for a while before the bird decides to go over and investigate. You can try putting one of his favorite toys in the water to see if he’ll go over after it. Play around with the temperature, too. Some birds like water a bit warmer, and in the summer many bird enjoy cool water.
• Use food! Get some greens (like collard or kale) really wet and then weave them into the bird’s cage bars. Smaller birds like budgies really enjoy rolling around in wet greens. Placing them on top of the cage will allow them to really get into it.
• Use a mister. Use a small plant mister filled with tepid water. Gently spray your bird from overhead a little and see how he reacts. Some birds just love being “rained on” and will relish in the warm spray, but other birds react as if they’re being doused with battery acid! Don’t force your bird to bathe if she seems frightened. Just back off and try another method. You can also try using the sprayer on your sink or a shower head with the water turned on low.
• Take your bird in the shower. Get a shower perch and take your bird into the shower with you! Place the perch out of the direct stream of water, but in a spot where she can get sprayed lightly. See how she reacts to this. At the very least, the steam and humidity from the shower will benefit your bird even if she doesn’t want to get wet.
• Use the sink. Fill up your sink with about an inch or so of water (depending on the size of your bird – you’ll want the water to come up just over her feet) and see if she’ll explore this pool.
• Don't bathe in the evening. If your bird does love to bathe, be sure to bathe her at least once per week in warmer weather. A good soak down to the skin is wonderful for birds! Just be sure to bathe your bird early in the day so that she will be dry by night. A wet bird at night is just asking for trouble!
• Keep your bird warm. Use a heat lamp or other source of heat in the cage for after your bird bathes in cooler months. Your bird may appear to be shivering after a bath, but she probably isn’t. With the feathers all wet, you can see the chest moving much better. Birds breathe very fast, and this is just the bird breathing.
• Use manufactured “bird bath” sprays. Birds don’t need anything more than clean water to bathe. Additional ingredients aren’t necessarily good for your bird.
• Use any other soaps like baby shampoo. Water is all that is needed unless your vet tells you otherwise.
• Force your bird to bathe. He might be bathing when you’re not looking! My African grey always shied away from bathing, and I figured that a humidifier in the room would have to suffice, until I caught her taking a dip in her water dish!
• Use a hairdryer to dry your bird off. Many hairdryers have a non-stick coating that can be dangerous for your bird to inhale. Also, many hairdryers get very hot and could injure your bird. If you feel the need to dry your bird off, gently run a towel over her body. She’ll preen herself dry in a few hours.
• Go at your bird’s pace. Not all birds take to bathing that quickly. You may have to try for months or even years until your bird is comfortable bathing!
• Keep your bird warm during and after bathing.
• Bathe your bird during the day, not at night.
• Have fun!
Bathing your Bird