Many new owners ask me how they should bathe their bird and how often it should be done.
Generally, I recommend a bath be given at least once a week. My birds sometimes get a bath three times
a week, with two light baths and then one drenching one. There are many different ways to give your bird the benefit of a bath, it is simply a matter of finding
what your bird enjoys most!
As a rule, I do not bathe any of my birds until they have gone through their first molt. I
feel they are too young and delicate for the bath procedure until this time. Always make sure your
bird is in a warm, draft-free location before bathing your bird. Always bathe your bird early in the day,
so they have plenty of time to dry before noon.
The Spray Bottle
Most bird owners use a spray bottle to bathe their birds. You can pick one up from the grocery
or a dollar store, they are fairly inexpensive. Don't reuse a bottle that has had something else in it! Just
spend the dollar and buy a new one. You'll want to refill the bottle at every session with warm tap water.
Do not add anything else to the water unless your avian vet has specifically told you to.
Spray the bird through the bars of its cage, with the bottle on "spray," not "stream." You
can douse the bird liberally. Many owners have told me their birds do not enjoy being sprayed. All of my
birds start this way. It may take a month or more, but eventually your bird should start raising his
wings and enjoying the warm, gentle shower. I do have an exception to the rule, my Etcetera thinks water
in any form is the devil and so she generally runs around in circles during her bath, waiting for it
to be over.
If you are just doing a light bath, five spritzes or so should be plenty. A good drenching
should only be done on mature, healthy birds. You'll notice that a bath stimulates preening behavior. It
also stimulates mating behavior, so bathe accordingly!
Some owners, particularly those of finches and canaries, find that their birds enjoy bathing
from a shallow bowl more than the owner-induced shower method. Indeed, it is not unusual to see a parrot
happily splashing around in its water bowl - which of course you just refilled! For the bathtub method,
you simply add a low shallow bowl filled with lukewarm water to the cage. Remove it after an hour or so, or
whenever it gets any debris in it.
Yes, some birds enjoy bathing on their veggies!! A shallow bowl with some heavily rinsed lettuce
is placed in the bottom of the cage. It makes perfect sense - after a rain, the bird in the wild is naturally
left with all these wet leaves! Remove after a few hours or whenever any debris gets in it.
Bathing with your bird
Some owners enjoy a closer bonding experience by bathing with their bird. This is accomplished
by the use of a special shower perch you should be able to find at your local pet shop. In some of the more
skittish species, like cockatiels, you may have to acclimate the bird to the shower. This involves putting
the bird on the perch in the shower for a few days, without actually turning on the shower! Next, you
may want to place the bird on the perch, and turn on the water, but not the shower portion. After a few days
of this, you can turn on the shower, but keep the spray as far from the bird as possible. At NO point will the
bird ever be in the direct spray, even after acclimated. You should position the perch towards the rear
of the tub so it gets whatever spray bounces off you. Do not shampoo your bird.
I have found that some birds simply do not enjoy this method of bathing. My dear Etcetera
hates it to the point that she will fly out of the shower and patiently perch on the faucet until I am
finished. I have other birds that relish bath time with mommy, and act pretty much the same way as they
do during a spray bottle bath, excepting that they usually want on my shoulder! I've had them beg for head
scritches during the shower, too.
Whichever method of bathing works best for your bird depends on your bird! Just remember that the bird needs
to be away from drafty areas in a warm part of your house. Bathe well before noon, and never give the bird a
bath before bedtime. Birds that go to bed wet may get chilled and become ill.