Bathing Pet Birds: All Your Questions Answered

Should a bird have a bath? Does it even need one? How can you give a bath to your bird? I will answer many questions related to bathing pet birds below.

For birds, bathing is almost a ritual that is an essential part of their grooming process. However, domesticated birds may react very differently to it.

Some may not bathe at all, some may bathe too often, and yet some may only prefer to take dust baths!

Bathing has many benefits and should be encouraged. In this article, we look at the best practices surrounding this.

Bathing Pet Birds: All Your Questions Answered

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    Do Pet Birds Need a Bath?

    Pet birds should be offered a bath daily; however, whether they bathe or not will depend on your bird’s temperament.

    In humid areas, birds might take a bath on a regular basis, whereas in less humid conditions, it might be only once a week.

    Some may enjoy baths in shallow bowls, whereas others might be partial to misting and light water sprays.

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    Regular baths improve feathers, and as a rule of thumb, most birds should bathe at least one or two times a week.

    If your bird does not take a bath, you need to gently encourage them to do so by training them using a process called systematic desensitization.

    Bathing should never be forced or used as a punishment tactic.

    What Happens When You Wash a Bird: Benefits of Washing

    Some benefits of training your bird to take regular baths include:

    Dirt removal

    Bathing can soften the dirt on their feathers, encouraging the bird to engage in preening.

    The loose dirt is easier to clean, and the ruffled feathers will automatically cause the bird to start preening them once it starts drying.

    With regular preening, their plumage will remain clean, fluffy, and waterproof.

    Clean feathers also prevent skin irritation and feather plucking and can help owners clearly see the bird’s physical condition.

    Moreover, it will ensure that your bird does not ingest any foreign or toxic items from their body while preening.

    Less dander

    Some bird species, such as cockatiels, give off a lot of dry powder and dander.

    Long-term exposure to dander can be harmful to people with breathing conditions (such as asthma) and can even cause others to develop allergies and throat infections.

    Bathing can minimize the quantity of dander.

    However, if your bird is kept in an indoor environment, it’s best to invest in an air filter for its health.

    Dry indoor conditions can increase the amount of dander a bird gives off.

    Research your bird’s native environment and invest in a humidifier to maintain a similar environment.

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    Molting

    Regular cleaning keeps a bird’s plumage vibrant and in order.

    Bathing during molting ensures that the new pin feathers are softened, making it easier for the bird to remove the sheath.

    Alternatively, you can spray your birds with Aloe Vera spray. Make sure the spray is made from distilled aloe without additives.

    Misting can be done in between bathing sessions. Some birds prefer misting sessions during molting.

    In this case, you can take them into a humid, enclosed space, such as a bathroom, and mist them gently.

    Leave them in for a few minutes so that their feathers soften before taking them out.

    Bathing will also allow the owners to identify the molting season by observing the presence of pin feathers.

    Breeding

    Bathing helps birds that are breeding keep their nesting box sufficiently humid. The level of humidity is an important parameter in the growth and development of chicks.

    Bonding time

    If you have trained your bird to take a bath, this can be a fun bonding experience for you. It can also help teach a scared bird that showering is a safe and fun activity.

    Improved flight

    Well-kept feathers aid in a bird’s flight. Feathers that are washed and preened more often are shinier and less ruffled than those that aren’t.

    In an experiment conducted in 2009, birds that were deprived of a bath prior to a flight fared much worse than others that were allowed to take a bath.

    It also seems that birds are aware of this. In the experiment, those birds who were not allowed to take a bath were more cautious as they knew their flying was impaired.

    It is theorized that this is one of the main reasons why some birds bathe so often, but there is little concrete proof for this.

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    Other benefits

    Some aviculturists believe that regular bathing improves the bird’s respiratory system (for some tropical bird species).

    How Often Do Birds Need to Bathe?

    Generally, bathing once or twice a week is enough to get all the benefits that I mentioned above.

    In the wild, the frequency is seen to vary based on the species, but birds bathe all year round. Some, like warblers, starlings, and finches, bathe every day.

    In the summer, some birds may bathe multiple times a day.

    The frequency is lower for parrot species and larger birds.

    The bottom line is – if you have a pet, provide them with a shallow bowl of water and change it every day to allow your bird to take a bath as needed.

    Bird baths are excellent for giving a bath to your pet bird

    Source: Duncan McCaskillCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    What Grooming Supplies Do Birds Need For Their Bath?

    Some basic grooming supplies you can invest in are:

    Nail clippers or filers

    Birds’ nails grow continuously, so regular trimming is necessary to prevent them from becoming overgrown and causing injury to the bird, its cage mates, or yourself.

    Thin nail ends can get caught in materials like linen and rough wood.

    Make sure to cut the very top of the nail and not the quick (which has nerve endings). New owners may consider filing to prevent mishaps.

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    Beak conditioner

    A beak conditioner isn’t a conditioner per se but an item that allows the bird to use its beak and keeps it from becoming overgrown. Mineral blocks, cuttlebones, foraging items, soft wooden blocks, and specially designed beak conditioners are all good options. Parrot species especially need things they can chew on.

    Bathing supplies

    Bathing supplies include a shallow dish of water, a bird bath, or a spray bottle.

    You can also get bird shampoos, but make sure your bird is not allergic to them by performing a patch test.

    Generally, it’s best to simply use filtered tap water with no frills or additives. Occasionally, you can take your pet to the groomer for a proper session.

    Never Use Soap For Bathing a Bird

    Bathing solutions for a bird should only contain ambient temperature water and a mixture of bird shampoo at the maximum.

    Soap or other chemicals should not be used for bathing a bird.

    Commercial soaps contain many chemicals that are harmful to birds. As it will remain on the bird’s feathers, they might ingest it while preening, causing further complications.

    Soap will also strip the bird’s skin and feathers of their natural oils, making them dry and itchy. Itchy skin can lead to feather plucking and general discomfort.

    It can also reduce Vitamin D3 absorption and make it difficult for them to find a mate, as the strong smell overpowers their natural smell and instincts.

    For some species, preening helps establish a social order. Hence, it’s best not to use things that can interfere with a bird’s natural preening routine.

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    How to Bathe a Pet Bird? Different Ways

    There are many ways in which you can bathe a pet bird, based on what they like. Some common methods are:

    Misting

    Many wild birds, such as woodpeckers, take a bath in the rain by fluffing and spreading out their feathers.

    To mist your bird, fill a clean spray bottle with lukewarm water and mist the bird’s feathers from a distance, aiming at the space above them (to simulate a rain shower).

    Avoid spraying water directly on the bird’s face or eyes, as this can be stressful for the bird.

    You can do this by placing your bird in a humid space, like a bathroom. However, not all birds enjoy being misted. Some may get scared by the spraying of water.

    In such cases, showering might be a better option

    Showering

    You can allow your bird to take a separate shower or take a shower together. Both require different precautions:

    Bird showering

    Place your bird on a perch or on your hand. Open the shower at very low pressure.

    For smaller birds, simply use a large sink.

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      Allow the bird to move under the water’s flow, and let it enjoy the bath in the way it finds most comfortable.

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      Showering together

      If your bird has seen you showering and wants to join in, you can install a special shower perch for them and allow them in.

      First, invest in a shower filter to remove excess chlorine, fluoride, other chemicals, and debris from the water.

      Allow your bird to observe you and then move in. Make sure you use room temperature or lukewarm water at the most.

      The bird’s perch should extend beyond the shower area so that your bird can take refuge away from the water stream if needed.

      Precautions to take when showering with your bird

      Many bonded birds enjoy showering with their owners, and it can be a great shared activity.

      However, you need to ensure that the shower is fitted with the necessary items to cater to a bird.

      Birds have a more sensitive respiratory system and should not be exposed to highly treated water.

      Avoid using any chemicals when you share the shower with them.

      For the owners, it’s important to ensure that they clean the shower with cleanser or vinegar after the bath.

      This is to prevent dander, mites, or bacteria from the bird’s droppings (which can fester in a humid environment like a bathroom).

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      Using the sink

      This is similar to allowing your bird to use the shower. You may or may not plug in the sink, but ensure you have added a tap filter to remove excess chemicals.

      Open a gentle stream of water and allow your bird to bathe themselves.

      Many birds are attracted to the natural sound of running water. In general, a bird will spread its wings and move under the flow to get their entire body wet.

      Once they move out of it, take them to their perch to dry off.

      Lovebirds taking a bath in a sink

      Source: “Fight” flickr photo by BékiPe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

      Do birds like being sprayed with water?

      Whether or not birds enjoy being sprayed with water depends on the individual bird’s preference and personality.

      Some birds enjoy it and will actively seek out opportunities to bathe, while others may find it stressful or unpleasant.

      If your bird has never been sprayed with water before, it’s important to introduce it slowly and gently.

      Start by misting the bird from a distance and observing their reaction.

      If the bird seems comfortable, you can gradually move closer and increase the intensity of the spray.

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      Can birds bathe in a water dish or planter saucer?

      A planter saucer or dish is one of the best ways to allow your bird the freedom to take a bath as and when they want.

      This is also good for wild birds. In summer, it’s good practice to leave out a large water dish for both drinking and bathing purposes.

      In fact, it can be quite fun to see your bird figure out the logistics of the saucer and maybe even take a tumble once or twice!

      Either way, shallow and wide saucers are great introductory bathing tools.

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        What Should You Do If Your Bird Does Not Like Taking Baths?

        If your bird isn’t inclined towards the bath, it could be that they don’t know how to.

        Place a shallow dish of water and let them interact with it for a few days. You might eventually see them exploring it.

        If your bird is scared of water, you can train it to eventually dissociate itself from danger.

        To do this, introduce misting as an alternative or offer them treats when they do drink or interact with water.

        Another way is to get your bird used to a constant stream of moving water. For this, you can buy a water bowl that offers a slow fountain or similar moving water systems.

        In the wild, moving water signifies that the water is fresh and alive, whereas still water fosters insects, larvae, and bacteria.

        Hence, most birds and animals are naturally inclined toward moving water.

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          Can We Give Bath to Love Birds?

          Lovebirds don’t need to be bathed specially. As long as they have access to a shallow body of water, most will bathe on their own as needed.

          Make sure the dish has an edge that they can use to first dip and roll their heads.

          If you don’t see them approaching it, try encouraging them by playing with the water yourself by dipping your fingers and spraying it around.

          Can I Bathe My Bird at Night?

          It’s best to avoid giving your bird a bath at night. However, many birds will have access to water and may take a bath after the sun goes down.

          This is nothing to fret over unless the temperature is cold and you are worried about your bird catching a cold.

          You can try drying your bird quickly by wrapping it in a towel or running a dryer from a distance.

          If this becomes a routine that you want to discourage, take out the bathing bowl during the evening.

          Make sure your bird is nice and dry before going to sleep. Some birds might do this purposely to get a nice drying (and hugging) session at night!

          Bird before and after taking a bath

          Source: “birdy bath” flickr photo by normanack shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

          How to Dry Your Bird After a Bath?

          Most birds will fluff their feathers and dry themselves. Their feathers are waterproof, and in good weather, drying barely takes an hour.

          Natural drying is the best way, as it teaches birds how to fluff and shake off excess water from their feathers.

          However, you can use the following methods to dry your bird quickly:

          • Towel dry: Gently wrap your bird in a soft towel and gently pat them dry. Do not rub their feathers.
          • Hair dryer: Use a hair dryer on the lowest setting from a distance, while constantly waving it from one spot to another.

          Your bird should dry off fully before going to sleep.

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          Frequently Asked Questions

          How do you wash a pet bird?

          You can wash a pet bird in many ways, and most often, birds love taking baths on their own. 
          For example, you can mist your bird, shower it, or even let it wash in a saucer. 
          Misting involves using a spray bottle to lightly mist the bird as it stands and lets the fine water droplets run over its body.
          Showering is nothing more than letting the bird sit under a source of running water and then allowing it to take care of the bath itself.
          You can also use a water dish or planter saucer in which your pet can take a dip on its own and enjoy the bath.

          Is it OK to wet your bird?

          Yes, in fact, you should let your pet birds take a bath daily, but whether they bathe or not depends on their temperament.
          In humid areas, birds may bathe more frequently than in less humid conditions.
          Regular baths improve feathers, and most birds should bathe at least once or twice a week.
          If a bird does not take a bath, it can be encouraged through gentle training using systematic desensitization.
          Bathing should never be forced or used as a punishment.

          How do you bathe a bird that hates water?

          If your bird doesn’t like taking baths, try introducing a shallow dish of water and letting them interact with it for a few days.
          If they are scared of water, you can train them by introducing misting as an alternative or offering treats when they interact with water.
          You can also get them used to a constant stream of moving water by buying a water bowl with a slow fountain or similar system.
          Moving water signifies freshness in the wild, while still water fosters insects, larvae, and bacteria, making most birds and animals naturally inclined toward moving water.

          When should I start bathing my bird?

          Once a baby bird is fully weaned and feathered, it can start taking baths.
          A minimum of once a week is best, but many birds enjoy doing it more often.
          You can offer a shallow pan of lukewarm water or spritz the bird with a fine mist of water using a dedicated spray bottle filled with pure, clean water.
          You can also give your bird a shower bath as I discussed earlier.

          Wrap Up

          There is little understanding of the extent to which bathing helps birds.

          Whether they do it for “cleanliness” (or are even aware of it) or to maintain their feathers, what we do know is that all wild birds engage in it.

          For domestic or cage-born birds, the behavior might need to be taught.

          If your bird is too scared of water to take a normal bath, consult an avian veterinarian for the best course of action.

          Thank you for reading!

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