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Have you ever sat on your patio and watched sparrows kicking up their heels in your bird bath or watched a robin dancing around in a rain puddle? No doubt, these birds look like they’re having fun. Besides being fun, however, the bird bathing routine is essential for a bird’s health. Healthy feathers are important for flight, insulation, and warmth. Additionally, birds use their feathers for courting, warning others of danger, and camouflaging when predators are near. Infrequent bathing can lead to dry itchy skin, dusty or greasy feathers, feather plucking or self-mutilation, and even respiratory issues.

Many of our parrots originated from rain forests, yet some of our pet birds dislike baths. We often hear that owners have attempted to bathe their birds, but gave up because their birds didn’t like it. Bathing is an important part of your bird’s daily routine, and with a gentle approach, you will be able to teach your bird how to enjoy this activity. The following are some useful tips for making bath time fun for both of you.

Choose a neutral place in the house to work on bathing. This may be in the bathroom or a safe place in the kitchen. Don’t corner your bird in the cage and start squirting water – as you can imagine, this would be terrifying.

Use clean, fresh water for bathing. It can be room temperature to warm, but be cautious about extreme hot or cold temperatures.

Bathing does not necessarily mean a full shower with complete soaking of your bird. While this is important to do occasionally, it is more important that your bird receive just a light misting of water every day. This is enough to encourage preening and keep the feathers healthy. Purchase a small water bottle that can provide a light mist of water. Some birds love to be squirted directly while others need to be gently introduced to this method. Start by squirting upwards so that the mist falls lightly over your bird or just to the side of your bird. Sometimes you need to hide the water bottle under a shirt or towel until your bird is used to the misting, then you can introduce him or her to the source of the rain shower. Keep in mind that bright colors, such as red or orange, are danger colors to some species so choose a water bottle that is a neutral color.

Make bath time fun by talking to your bird, exclaiming “It’s bath time!” If the other flock members (including you) are excited about it, it must be exciting.

Some birds really do enjoy a drenching bath. It is important that you dry your bird and provide a warm environment after these types of baths, especially if it is cold. Work with your parrot to make toweling a safe and fun experience. You can use a hair dryer to dry your bird, but you must be very careful. Make sure the dryer is not too hot. In addition, many of the newer hair dryers have coils that contain a potentially toxic nonstick coating so make sure your hair dryer is safe.

Many birds enjoy showering with their owners. There are a number of bird stores that sell perches with suction cups that will attach to the inside of the shower. Make sure the water isn’t too hot!

Some birds enjoy bathing in a water bowl at the bottom of the cage. Make sure it is a shallow bowl that your bird can get in and out of easily. Other birds enjoy climbing into a sink with water or standing under a running faucet. Some parrots will bathe in a dish filled with soaked leafy greens such as collard, kale, or turnip greens.

With these tips and a calm, gentle approach, you can teach your bird to enjoy bath time! I guarantee that you will have a healthier, happier bird.

Content prepared by St. Francis Animal and Bird Hospital, 1227 Larpenteur Ave. West, Roseville MN. 55113