Regular baths?

Since cockatiels come from Australia, where the climate is dry, do they really need to bathe, or have spray baths?  Mine won’t have anything to do with water, in any way, shape or form!  Yet, I know that baths keeps their ‘dust’ down.  Any help?

All birds bathe – it is just a question of recognizing the form that bath takes.  Sometimes, in dryer climates, a bath will take the form of a fluffing around in a dust wallow.  Determining where the bird originates will help determine what kind of a bath it will take.  It is always easy to bath a rain forest bird; every day, in the late afternoon, the sky opens up and a warm rain falls, showering all the birds in the canopy.  We mimic this with the classic ‘spray bottle bath’.

Birds from dryer climates are more of a challenge.  I recall a pair of budgies I had years ago that didn’t like to bath in any of the ways I had offered.  Then one day, in a rush, I put fresh lettuce into their cage, dripping wet.  I heard some flapping and rustling, looked back and the budgies were happily rubbing in the greenery having a bath!  Of course!

Some birds like to run through wet grass to bathe.  Kip, a cockatiel in the practice, likes to have his bath in the ‘swamp’.  His owner takes a pie plate, fills it with shredded lettuce and some water and Kip runs through it, having a splash and a nibble!  Some birds like to stand under a dripping faucet – others, like my canary Chancey,  like to leap in and out of a large hanging water dish.

Some birds dislike direct spray and will do better hanging out in the bathroom when their owner has a shower, picking up the odd droplet, but enjoying the steamy humidity that builds up in the bathroom and yet other birds will go right in the shower and get soaked to the skin!!!  Watch the sparrows in the summer.  If there are no puddles to bath in, they will go through the same bathing motions in a patch of dust.

A ‘bath’ is a bird’s way to naturally help maintain the quality of their feathers – and so each bird innately needs and wants to bath and should be allowed to so.  The onus is on the owner to try and find out which way the bird prefers their bath and sometimes to teach the bird to bathe in the artificial situation of captivity.

Some tips to encourage bathing include: spraying from above, not from the side (rain falls from overhead), using tepid water ( it doesn’t rain hot water!) to avoid drying out the skin, disguising the sight of the bottle by wrapping it in a towel, or disguising the sound of the spray bottle by using a plant misting bottle that can be pumped and primed to slowly release a continuous gentle spray.

Interestingly, many birds are stimulated to have a bath when they hear the vacuum running!

So be persistent in trying a variety of bathing scenarios – and watch closely for cues (like head dunking when the vacuum is running), that tell you which way your bird wants to bathe.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Kerry Korber Calgary
Avian & Exotic Pet Clinic