Bathing Your Parrot, Simply and Safely

Most parrots love to bathe, which softens dirt on the feathers and skin and encourages preening. If you bathe your parrot regularly, you will notice that his feathers will begin to become waterproof due to his preening duties. Bathing is important for parrots, whose skin can become dry and itchy, leading to plucking. It's also important that any pollutants be removed from the bird's feathers so that it doesn't ingest any toxic stuff while preening.

Here are some bathing tips:

  • In warm weather, or when you can provide enough warmth after a bath, you can mist your parrot with a handheld spray bottle that you can buy in any drugstore or supermarket. If he's interested in the bath, he'll spread his wings, put his head down, shake around, and delight in every drop.
  • Try misting above the bird so that the water simulates a rain shower. You can do this outside (in a safe place) with a hose for larger, ardent bathers.
  • In the summer, you can completely soak your parrot to the skin a couple of times a week. This is very good for your bird.
  • In very cool weather, keep bathing to a minimum unless you can offer heat after the bath. A bird lamp will do.
  • Bathe only in the daytime hours — a bird that goes to bed wet can catch a chill and will be uncomfortable.
  • Some companies make a suction-cup shower perch that you can use to shower with your parrot. Make sure, though, that the water isn't too hot and that the bathroom is parrot proofed. If the parrot doesn't like to bathe in the shower, merely being in a steamy room will add moisture to the skin. Always supervise your parrot when the water is running.
  • Washing dishes is another bathing opportunity. Put your parrot on your shoulder during this time, and he may hop into the sink for a bath under the faucet. Make sure the water temperature is mildly warm.
  • Never spray a bird that's freaked out by the whole affair. This bird will need to come to bathing on her own. Allow her to be near a stream of water (in the shower on a shower perch) and enter the water by herself.
  • Don't blow-dry your parrot. Some blow-dryers contain nonstick coating on the heating coils, which can be deadly to your bird.
  • For the reluctant bather, a flat plastic or ceramic dish filled with wet spinach, watercress, curly kale, or other greens may encourage bathing (the greens are also fun to play with and are good to eat).

Don't ever use soap on your bird unless it's for a very good reason — for example, if he gets oil on his feathers. Make sure to use very mild glycerin soap, and rinse your bird thoroughly. Wash only his body (not the face), and don't scrub. Your best bet is to fill a plastic tub with warm soapy water about chest-deep to your bird and set him in it, if he'll tolerate that. Remember, when doing anything unnatural, such as a genuine bath (not a mist or shower), be gentle and compassionate, and realize that your bird may become frightened. When in doubt, call your avian veterinarian.

There are bathing products that you can buy in your local pet shop that contain ingredients such as aloe that are good for the skin. The simplest approach to bathing your bird to use plain, tepid, clean water. Many of the store-bought products can irritate the eyes and contain unnecessary fragrances.

A parrot's chest muscles contract rapidly and repeatedly after a bath. This looks like shivering, but it's not. It's actually the way the parrot creates body heat after getting wet, and it's nothing to be concerned about.

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