Cockatiels and Bathing
By Eleanor McCaffrey
Copyright©, No photos or any portion of this text may be, copied,
printed or reproduced for redistribution without owner's permission.

Giving your bird the opportunity to bathe is important. Frequent bathing serves several purposes. It  helps to prevent your bird from getting dry skin. It helps to soften the keratin coating on new feathers so it sheds more quickly. Regular bathing helps to keep your bird's feathers looking bright and clean. Bathing will also cut down on the amount of feather dust on your bird and inside and around the cage as well. Feather dust is caused by 2 things. The powder that coats feathers to make a them waterproof and the gradual disintegration of the very tiny powder down feathers that are closest to a bird's body. Cockatiels produce more feather dust than other species of birds. Controlling feather dust is important so your bird does not breath in organic dust which can make your bird sick.

Birds should be allowed to bath as often as they want. Some birds love water and they want a daily bath. Others will barely tolerate a few mist baths each week. Baths should always take place in the morning so a bird has plenty of time to dry off completely before going to sleep at night. Windows should be closed so your bird doesn't get chilled from a draft. After bathing, allow your bird's feathers to dry out naturally and avoid using a blow dryer. Let your bird preen his/her feathers. While preening, your bird will get water on his/her beak and use that water to apply moisture to other feathers that are still dry. Even though some birds enjoy blow drying, the air defeats the purpose of bathing and it can dry out your bird's skin.  My avian vet discourages the use of a blow dryer, although many people do use them.  If your bird gets soaking wet, you can gently dry off some of the excess water with a soft terry cloth towel. 

There are few methods of bathing your bird. You can offer them a large, wide, sturdy, shallow dish, saucer, pie plate or other suitable container with an inch of tepid water to take a bath in. Your bird needs room to roll around in and to get the undersides of the wings wet.  Pet shops sell bird bath dishes as well and some of them  have  mirror on the bottom which can encourage a new bird to explore the water.  A simple flat, kitchen dish or pan  serves the same purpose and is often wider with more room for your bird to move around in. Put the bath on the kitchen counter so the inside of the cage doesn't get wet.

You can also give your bird a daily misting bath outside of the cage instead. This is probably the easiest method, especially for birds that are unwilling to bathe in a dish. Buy a new water mist bottle at the pet shop or use a new misting bottle for plants. Spray the water up into the air so it falls down like rain on your bird and avoid spraying the water directly into your bird's face. Misting your bird in front of a mirror can help to make a first mist bathing experience more enjoyable. It's not unusual for birds to be frightened of water mist baths because of the sound the bottle makes. A week or so before your bird's first mist bath, spray water in an area near the cage so your bird will be familiar with the sound. Although this may sound silly, misting your own face, hair and arms in front of your bird for the first few days will also make bathing seem less threatening. As your bird becomes accustomed to mist baths and starts enjoying them, he/she will probably want to get wet and he/she will start raising wings to get the undersides wet. Take this opportunity to mist the wings,  front and back of your bird. After each misting bath, empty out the water and let the bottle dry out completely to prevent the growth of bacteria in the bottle.

Some birds like to bath under a faucet of cool  running water, while other birds enjoy bathing with their humans right inside of the shower. Special perches are sold that mount inside of the bath wall for this purpose. Make sure your bird does NOT come in contact with soap or HOT water and that water from the shower head does not hit your bird directly. Full force water directly under the shower head is very powerful for a small bird like a cockatiel. Water should splash onto your bird from the wall. Another method of bathing is to put your bird inside of a CLEAN and DISINFECTED sink that contains 1 inch of water. The bottom of the sink should also be lined with a towel so your bird has a firm grip and doesn't slip. Because sinks and sink drainers contain a multitude of harmful bacteria that can make birds sick, you may want to consider other methods instead. However, if this is the method that your bird prefers, DISINFECT and RINSE the sink thoroughly the night before so the sink is clean and there are no toxic fumes from chemicals in the room the next morning. 

Keeping wings trimmed will help to keep your bird from flying away from you if water frightens him/her. Some cockatiels are nervous and afraid of anything new like bathing. These birds should be gently encouraged to bath until they realize that bathing is an enjoyable experience and that it makes them feel good.  If you see your bird trying to take a bath in his/her  water dish, take advantage of this opportunity and put a plate of water inside of the cage or take your bird out of the cage and offer a mist bath. Sometimes the sound of rain will make birds instinctively want to  bath, as will the sound of a running faucet or the vacuum cleaner. Offer your bird a plate of water each day to bath in. For mist baths, have your bird perched on your hand, hold your bird over the bathroom sink so your bird see "the other bird" in the mirror then give your bird  3 or 4 spritzes of water. Praise your bird for being so good and not flying away between each burst of water. Rewarding him with a small handheld treat after his first few baths will help to make bathing a positive experience, not a negative one.  It can take weeks or months before your bird accepts bathing willingly.  If you introduce different types of bathing to your bird slowly and gradually, you will find one that your bird enjoys. 

Thank you so much to all who have shared photos of their birds with us!
Cindy,thank you for the amazing picture of your flock taking a shower!


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Thank you to all who have shared photos of their birds with us.