Bathing and showering are incredibly important to a bird, promoting good feather health, acting as a source of enrichment, and helping an avian respiratory system be at its best. In answer to the question of ‘how often should my parrot bathe,’ baths should be offered once a week in the winter, and as many times a week as it will take one in the summer! Note that for maximum health benefits, this should be letting your bird get soaked to the skin and then air-dry.
Plucking parrots are said to pluck or barber less when their diet is changed to fresh greens and fruit, and baths are regularly offered!
Tips for convincing your parrot that water is fun:
- Group Activity: Make showering a group activity – and show through doing how much you enjoy getting clean. You can install some shower perches in your human shower and get everyone in the flock involved – the mist off your back is something many birds appreciate. As with many things, if a parrot sees one person or bird enjoying it, he will be more likely to give it a try.
- Perch or Tub? When using the ‘people shower’ your bird may or may not enjoy you being there – and he may prefer to sit at the bottom of the tub rather than on that perch you so lovingly installed. So long as you supervise and don’t directly spray your pet with the shower head, this is more than okay. Just don’t let the tub fill up!
- Spray-Showers: Some birds find the bathroom intimidating, so you can use warm-ish water in a spray bottle right on his cage. Gently mist this above or to the side of your bird, never into his face. And make sure the water won’t scald or freeze him!
- Greenery is Good: Try setting some fresh, yummy greenery into your bird’s usual bathing space. Kale, lettuce, fresh mint leaves, even broccoli work well. Our canary loves this, and it is rumoured to be a great favourite of small birds.
- Pie Plate Fun: Fill a pie-plate or shallow bowl or dish with an inch or two of water. Then show him how to splash around in it. Some birds prefer this to a shower.
- The Infamous Drive-By-Bath: Many parrots will bathe in their water dishes directly after you replace them. Not ideal, but if you’re desperate…! I’ve also heard multiple reports of parrots who like to do this when the vacuum cleaner is running in the other room.
- Nature Knows Best: Can you get your bird outside to bathe in the natural rain? Consider harness training your parrot and this can become an option. Remember, though, that clipped birds can fly, so only do this if your bird is highly flight-trained, or secure in its harness. Another option is an aviary. Leave your bird out in its aviary for some enjoyable bath-time. Finally, you can try taking your bird out in its carrier during some gentle misting.
- The Sink isn’t Just for Dishes: Parrots often love to plunge into the stream from your tap or faucet. Just make sure the sink’s clean and not coated with chemicals or food residue, and this can be an excellent way to coax a reluctant parrot to bathe.
- Make it a Game! Bath-time should be an enjoyable time, and you can show your bird how. Enjoy it, in other words, and your parrot will too. Splash in the sink. Squirt yourself with a spray bottle. Make up a game to be played in the shower.
- Warm or Cool? Birds being individuals, it makes sense that some love it warm, but others prefer cool. Change it up and see what your parrot responds to best.
- Persistence: Keep at it! It can take a very long time for a bird to enjoy bath-time. Some are naturally afraid of the water and need to be taught that it’s good, and others will simply never enjoy it as much as others.
::Bonus:: Try bathing at different times during the day – just not late at night, though, or your bird will go to bed wet (which isn’t ideal). Offer a bath early in the morning or late in the afternoon – even at night can be okay, so long as you make sure everyone has time to dry! Sometimes birds just don’t want to bathe at certain times of the day.
The don’ts of bath-time:
- Never fill a bath too deep: A full bathtub or deep bowl presents a serious danger to any bird. Parrots and finches cannot swim, so it’s safest to keep water at about knee-level of your bird. Remember, it takes only a few seconds for a pet bird to drown.
- Don’t immerse your bird directly. Besides being dangerous, this is a quick way to make your parrot associate baths with force and other negative things.
- Don’t force a bath if it isn’t wanted – that’s the single best way to ruin bathing for your pet. Let your parrot say no, and he’ll be more likely to accept it next time. Sometimes they’re just not in the mood.
- Don’t use too-hot or too-cold water. Either one can do your bird harm, one (hot!) more physically than the other.
- Never use spray-bottles or water-guns as ‘punishment’ for a bird, as this will also ruin any chance of it enjoying a shower (besides just plain not working). Here’s how to more efficiently make your point with a parrot.
- Never blow-dry a pet parrot or use shampoo/soap. Both of these undo the wonderful benefits of bath time.
- Don’t leave a bird unattended during bath-time. Accidents happen, and with an animal that takes a few seconds to drown, it’s better safe than sorry.
Want to make your own shower perch? Try these instructions here, from A Bird’s Best Life Blog.