Why do pet parrots like to bathe?

Most of us know that birds in general bathe from time to time. New parrot owners, though, are sometimes left amazed at how much their feathered friend loves to take a bath! Let’s talk about parrot bathing. 

Why do pet parrots like to bathe? What’s the function of it, and should you keep a bird bath in your parrot’s cage?

The function of parrot bathing

Wild birds take two types of baths, although most species have a preference: water and dust baths. The main purpose of dust baths is the removal of parasites, which is hopefully not necessary in your home.

Water baths help remove and soften any built-up dirt. They’re often followed by a preening session, during which a bird carefully further cleans its feathers and applies water-resistant oil from a special oil gland on their feathers.

Although birds mainly bathe for cleanliness, it also has other functions. A refreshing bath can help cool the body down during summer, and it seems that a lot of parrots also just find bathing plain fun. For pet parrots, it’s therefore a great form of enrichment that shouldn’t be overlooked.

How often should I bathe my parrot?

Many pet parrots will appreciate being given the opportunity to bathe in some way or another. There are no set rules when it comes to bathing parrots, although letting your bird splash around too often (ie., daily) can lead to dry skin.

To start, you could try offering your parrot some water to bathe in once a week. During the height of summer, misting daily can be a good option to help keep your bird cool.

Cockatiel parrot after bathing.

How does parrot bathing work?

If you’ve never owned parrots or other birds before, you might at this point be wondering how in the world one actually bathes a bird.

Luckily, many parrots know perfectly well how to take a bath, so all you have to do is present them with some water. In fact, it’s not unusual to find your bird has tried to squeeze itself into its water bowl for some splashy fun!

Here are some ways you can bathe your parrot. Most birds have preferences, so it’s a good idea to try it all.

  • Offer a shallow bowl or a deep plate filled with water. Be warned: water will be splashed all over the place.
  • Offer a parrot bath inside or outside of the cage. Some of these are partly covered, helping to reduce the wet mess.
  • Take your parrot to the kitchen sink and lightly run the tap, possibly with a plate at the bottom to catch the water. See what your bird thinks.
  • Take your parrot into the shower and run some nice lukewarm water.
  • Use a parrot mister to mist your parrot.
  • Hang wet leafy greens in the cage: some birds like to rub themselves against these.

Don’t forget: A wet parrot is at risk of getting too cold. Don’t bathe your parrot if your home is chilly and don’t use icy cold water. If your bird allows it, you can gently help dry it with a clean (paper) towel.

Why doesn’t my parrot like to bathe?

Although bathing is a natural behaviour for parrots and other birds, some of them just really never take to it. This can happen if your parrot never got the chance to bathe when it was young; it’s more common in rescues. Some species, like conures, are known for particularly loving to bathe themselves on a regular basis.

Don’t worry too much. Your parrot should be able to keep itself clean enough. Just keep offering water, splashing your own hands in it to show how much fun bathing is, and rewarding the bird for showing interest.

Some parrot enthusiasts have had success with pet drinking fountains due to the attractive running water, placing leafy greens in the bathing dish or even putting a mirror on the bottom to make it seem other birds are enjoying the water as well. Some parrots exclusively like to be misted with a sprayer, loathing any other type of bathtime. Just try some different things!

In any case, whatever you do, don’t try to force your parrot to bathe unless it’s an emergency. And remember, if it’s sat with its wings folded up and its eyes closed, it’s not enjoying itself. You should stop to prevent excessive stress. You’ll know it’s feeling comfortable when its wings are opened and it’s actively splashing around.

Tip: If your bird has gotten into something and it really needs to be cleaned, you can use a washcloth moistened in lukewarm water. This won’t be appreciated and you may have to deal with a grumpy parrot for a while afterwards; be sure to give it a treat.

Here’s an example of a budgie thoroughly enjoying a bath:

Conclusion

Regularly offering your parrot a bath is a fun and useful habit. With the ones that get really into it, it can be absolutely hilarious to watch them enjoy themselves and then spend hours preening their feathers to perfection. Give it a try!

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