Giving Your Parrot a Bath
by Sally Blanchard (reprinted with the permission of the Companion Parrot
Quarterly (fka --Pet Bird Report)
Baths and Showers
In the wild, excellent
feather condition is essential to the survival of any bird. In addition
to flight, feathers provide insulation and temperature control, waterproofing
and protection from the elements and are used both for camouflage and
'advertising'. It is instinctive behavior for our pet birds to keep their
feathers in good condition and bathing encourages them to preen. Poor
feather condition can be caused by malnutrition and disease but is often
the result of bad hygiene caused by a lack of bathing opportunities. Most
wild parrots bathe often and many come from rain forest areas with high
humidity. Bathing or showering is also beneficial to the skin, body tissues
and the respiratory system.
A highlight of
a bird-watching trip that I took to Costa Rica was watching a small group
of Yellow-nape Amazons bathe in a small waterfall pool. Ducking in and
out of the falling water, furiously splashing in the pools, prancing about
with spread wings and screeching with delight, they were an exaggeration
of my pet Amazons at home during bath time. If your parrot seems afraid,
work slowly and gently to pattern him to accept 'bath time'. Misting,
spraying, bathing and occasional 'drenching' are important parts of a
daily routine to keep our parrots in tiptop shape.
- Bathing is
often a part of a wild parrot's daily routine. Parrots take their showers
and baths in rain showers, small waterfalls, and streams or in the pools
of water that form among the leaves in the tree canopy.
- Large sopping
wet leafy greens such as collard, turnip, mustard or kale can provide
a fun bathing experience while providing good vitamin A nutrition if
the bird decides to eat them!
- Some parrots,
like Lories and Caiques, enjoy a good drenching. Once they become used
to it, if the owner is careful about the eyes, ears and mouth, these
birds can be held under the faucet for their baths.
- One of the
major causes of 'environmental' feather plucking in parrots is infrequent
bathing. Humidity and moisture are essential for good skin and feather
- Many small
birds will bathe in shallow bowls or 'bird baths' available in pet shops.
Keep the water shallow and make sure that the bird can climb out if
he needs to.
- Most parrots
love taking a shower with their owners. If you want to take your parrot
into the shower but don't want to hold onto him there are several companies
that make shower perches for parrots! Editors Note:
The problem with this is that our bathrooms contain so many chemicals
and when steamed up they can potentially cause toxins for our birds.
Also the water coming out of your shower is most likely not purified,
containing chlorine, ammonia, benzene, etc. All of these chemicals are
not natural for your bird and in some cases can lead to feather picking
and respiratory problems. At Parrot Island you can purchase a pressure
mister that works wonderful and can be filled with purified water. For
more on this subject, talk to any of us at Parrot Island. Don't get
me wrong - for socialization I think it is fine to take your bird in
the shower with you once in a while just for the pleasures of time together
but for the most part use the purified water method.
- Some parrots
like to take baths in their water bowl, especially when their owner
is vacuuming. Perhaps the roar of the motor is like the sound of a rainforest
- It is best
to use clean, fresh water to give your parrot a bath or shower. Additives
or commercial preparations are not necessary unless 'prescribed' by
your avian veterinarian. Water can be room temperature to warm but not
cold or hot. Editors Note: It is recommended to use purified
or RO water for your bird's bath as well as drinking water.
- If your parrot
seems afraid of being sprayed, buy a small glass plant mister and use
a gentle mist from above. Once he is used to this, gradually switch
to gentle spraying from a larger bottle. All birds need showers or baths.
Letting your bird remain afraid may eventually be harmful to his feather
condition and health.
- Drying a parrot
with a blow drier works very well if the bird is used to it. Some parrots
get quite excited if they are blow dried after their bath or shower.
Check the heat level frequently to keep it warm and not hot! On warm
days, most parrots can 'drip dry' safely but on cool days the blow drier
can help. Be sure that the area under the wings is dry. Editors
Note: When blow dying your parrot make sure the dryer is on a low
setting and do not dry them completely as this can dry out their skin
and cause irritation. Also bathing should be done early in the day so
that your bird is completely dry when he or she goes to bed for the
- Mattie Sue
Athan 'prescribes' FREQUENT DRENCHING SHOWERS for parrots for their
physical and psychological benefit. Editors Note: Quality
Avian Veterinarians recommend a good drenching one day and a quick spritz
for a few days in between. Remember in the wild, bathing is not a choice
for your birds, they just get wet. The worst thing you can do is not
bathing your bird regularly regardless if you think they like it or
- Misting a
parrot on a daily basis is very good for their feathers and respiratory
systems. Some birds are afraid of the bottle. Often it is the red nozzle
that threatens them so buy a bottle with a blue nozzle instead. Hide
the bottle in your clothes so the water comes out of your shirt. Misting
parrots is so important that owners need to be clever enough to find
a way to get their bird to like it. My African Grey hated the squirt
bottle until I turned it into a game. I come up to her with the bottle
behind my back. She knows it's there and says 'Gonna getchew!' I pull
the bottle out and squirt her and she goes 'POW POW - oh oh ya got me!'
your parrot from the front in a friendly manner will make it possible
to accustom him to being towel dried after his bath or shower.
- Parrots don't
need to be given a 'real' bath with soap unless they have become very
dirty or greasy. The law of the jungle is to 'preen until your clean'
and a very dirty bird may pluck to try to get his feathers clean. Put
the bird on a folded towel in the sink. Soak him with a spray attachment
being careful not to get water in his ears or nostrils. Once he is sopping
wet, rub a quality gentle dishwashing detergent into his feathers. Then
make sure he is rinsed completely! Towel dry him as much as possible
and place him in a warm room. A blow drier can be used but be very careful
that it does not get too hot by frequently placing your hand in front
of it as you dry the bird. Editors Note: At Parrot Island
we have specialty shampoos that can be used on your parrot. We recommend
these shampoos being used only a few times per year. Frequent bathing
should be done with plain purified water. Adding things like aloe, etc.
to your birds bathing water only puts something unnatural on their feather.
Birds with picking disorders often pick more to rid their feathers of
to top of page
other articles on our site: