Should My Caged Bird Have a Bath?
A bird bath is a popular outdoor fixture that wild birds enjoy, but what about your pet cage bird? Should there be a bath available for your bird, or should you take the time to bathe your feathered friend?
The Importance of Cleanliness for Cage Birds
Your bird's cage can quickly become a filthy place as feces, food debris, seed hulls and shed feathers accumulate. Bedding can get soaked and smell, toys may get shredded and all the regular dust of your household will also infiltrate the cage. When a pet bird is dirty, they are more susceptible to disease and bacteria, which can lead to dull plumage, infections and listless behavior. As their feathers get matted and worn, they lose the critical insulation those feathers provide, and will be more prone to chills and sickness. When a bird is dirty, it may also feel more stressed and anxious, which can lead to behavioral difficulties.
Fortunately, a simple bath can make a world of difference in the quality of your bird's life. Not only will bathing help keep the bird's plumage clean and in top condition, but it will also help moisten their skin, which can get dry and itchy in indoor environments. Bathing can also be an entertaining, enriching experience for your bird, helping keep them in good spirits. With so many benefits from a simple bath, there's no reason why every pet bird owner shouldn't help their feathered friend stay clean.
Bathing Your Bird
Most birds enjoy a simple bath, and it can be a bonding experience between you and your pet bird – even though the bird does all the work! Unlike bathing cats and dogs, birds do not need any help to bathe, you just need to provide the means for them to bathe themselves. There are several ways different birds may prefer to bathe…
Bowl or Basin Baths
A shallow bowl or basin filled with fresh water can be a bathing pool for your pet bird. The bowl should be broad enough that your bird's body can fit comfortably in it as they splash around, but the water should be no more than 1-2 inches deep so they stay safe but still have plenty of water to use. Smaller birds, such as canaries or budgies, may be happy with just a half-inch of water, while larger birds such as parrots and macaws may prefer water 3-4 inches deep. The bowl can be placed in the bird's cage periodically, or they may enjoy bath time out of their cage.
Some birds prefer a gentle misting bath instead of a deeper basin. A soft spray from a spray bottle or misting hose is ideal, and the spray should be positioned so it "rains" gently down on the bird. While the bird is being misted, it will preen vigorously to distribute the water across all its feathers. Keep misting until the entire bird has been wetted, but do not saturate the bird, which could cause preening issues and disrupt feather placements. Misting can be done either in the cage or outside the cage.
Larger birds often prefer a stronger shower rather than misting, as the larger droplets better mimic a natural rain and will penetrate thicker plumage more readily. A spray setting on a hose or even a chance to play in a bathroom shower can help a bird take a shower bath, but be sure the water pressure is gentle and the spray is not directed at the bird's face. A sturdy perch can be placed directly in the shower for the bird to use, or the whole cage could be moved into the shower if necessary for extra cleaning.
Some birds prefer to bathe not by getting completely wet, but by rubbing on wet surfaces such as soaked branches or leaves. You can wet down a sturdy branch and place it in your bird's cage for them to bathe, or offer them broad, wet leaves such as lettuce, ferns or flowers. Just be sure to choose wood and foliage that is not toxic to your bird, since they are likely to nibble on it as they bathe.
How often a bird wants to bathe will vary. Some birds may be content with only 1-2 baths a week, while other birds may enjoy daily baths. Start slow with your bird, and gradually increase the availability of baths to suit their preferences and cleaning needs. If their feathers are heavily soiled with a sticky or gooey substance that cannot be removed by a simple bath, consult your avian veterinarian for guidance and more strenuous cleaning tips.
Tips for Cage Bird Baths
Whether your bird is a frequent bather or prefers less common baths, remember…
- Use only fresh, clear, lukewarm water to avoid chilling your bird.
- Never use soaps, shampoos, conditioners or other chemicals in bird baths.
- Bathe your bird early in the day so they can dry completely before nighttime.
- Keep your bird out of drafts or chills while they are damp after a bath.
- Never use a hair dryer to dry your bird, as the concentrated heat could scorch their skin.
Most of all, be sure to keep your pet bird's cage clean as well, or else you risk getting your bird dirty all over again!