how to bathe a parrot

How Often Should You Bathe A Parrot?

Parrots should be given routine baths. Even if they don’t create a musty smell like dogs, parrots can still get covered in bacteria, fluids, excretions, dust, and other substances. Bath time is a great source of enrichment for parrots that like to play and splash in the water.

Parrots should be bathed every 2 weeks, using a spray bottle, your sink, or a shower. Even parrots that dislike standing water will enjoy misting from a spray bottle. If your parrot tends to get dirty often, then bathe it once a week. Try to avoid over-bathing the parrot, such as every day. If the bird needs a quick cleaning, then use a damp towel to wipe it down whenever you need to.

In between these official bath times, your parrot will preen its feathers and pick out filth itself. This will keep its plumage orderly, its skin clean, and its smell neutral. Regular baths are healthy for parrots and will improve their mood. Unkempt parrots will often pluck their feathers, bite at their skin, and become irritable toward you. Even if your parrot doesn’t like baths, you can train it to enjoy the process.

When To Bathe A Parrot

To maintain your parrot’s hygiene, you should establish a strict bathing routine. This will help keep its feathers neat, its skin clean, and remove filth or dander.

  • For the average parrot that keeps itself tidy, bathe it once every 2 weeks.
  • For parrots that eat messy food or don’t rigorously preen, bathe them once a week
  • If your parrot begins to smell or gets messy in the bottom of its cage, bathe it as needed

With that said, your climate does play a role in how often you bathe a parrot. If you live somewhere with cold weather, parrots may get sick if exposed to cold temperatures while wet.

As such, bathing can be less frequent. If your parrot lives indoors, this may not be an issue, so long as the home is kept at an even temperature.

The opposite holds true for warmer climates. If the weather is generally warm or hot, then more frequent baths will help your parrot. Birds do not sweat, but water can help them dispel heat from their skin and remain cool.

Can You Over-Bathe A Parrot?

Parrots should not be bathed daily. These birds develop a natural coating of oil or powder over their feathers that shouldn’t be cleaned off too often. Termed ‘parrot dust,’ this works to protect their bodies and feathers from:

  • Wear and tear
  • Outside bacteria
  • Filth and dirt

If it’s stripped off by over-bathing, then it could leave your parrot vulnerable. Try to avoid bathing your parrot every day, or even once every other day.

Of course, parrots are very messy creatures. Yours may get covered in filth while playing in its cage or while eating juicy food. If you’ve just given your parrot a bath, you can give it another one. Just try to limit these repeat washings when you can.

how to dry your parrot after a bath

Why Should You Bathe A Parrot? 

Since parrots clean their feathers by themselves, it can seem redundant to bathe them as well. After all, they will preen by tugging at feathers and running them through their beak. Parrots will also ruffle their feathers and nuzzle against their skin to pick away filth. These are good and natural habits, which help maintain your parrot’s hygiene.

However, water baths are needed in addition to this. Even in the wild, parrots find rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds to bathe in. They will dowse themselves in the water, splash around, and ruffle their feathers to get the water underneath their plumage. This will:

  • Clean out extra filth they can’t remove
  • Wash off dander that builds up from feather dust
  • Remove fluids, secretions, and excess oils from their body
  • Clean off food and dirt from their heads, which they can’t reach with their beaks
  • Wash away bacteria, fungal spores, and other airborne particles that cause harm

As such, you should give your parrot access to water so it can complete this natural routine. In fact, you can even help your parrot bathe.

This will ensure the process is more effective, and it will help you two bond. Parrots often preen each other and splash in the water together. By helping, you show your parrot that you care.

Is It Healthy To Bathe Parrots?

Apart from their hygiene and social needs, parrots should be bathed for your health as well. The parrot dust that coats your pet’s feathers is natural, but can be harmful if it’s allowed to accumulate. Parrots that do not bathe frequently will have more dust on their feathers, and will shake it off into the air.

This can cause allergic reactions in people when inhaled. That can result in breathing troubles, flu-like symptoms, and skin irritation.

Parrots that aren’t routinely cleaned may also harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites. This can include trichomonas gallinae, among others, which can infect your bird and yourself.

Likewise, the bird may have waste and filth from the bottom of its cage on its feathers. This can be spread throughout your home as it plays and flies. Simply cleaning your parrot will remove this filth or contagents, and help your parrot be a safe addition to the home.

How To Bathe A Parrot

Bathing a parrot isn’t like bathing a dog. You shouldn’t approach it with a hose or just submerge it in your bathtub. Likewise, you can’t scrub the parrot down or rub it with your hands. Parrots need to be cleaned in a very specific way, so here are the best approaches:

Let It Bathe Itself

Most parrots, especially those that are wild-caught, are perfectly equipped to take care of their own needs. Although they might need an occasional push, most parrots love bathing. You can turn on the water in your:

  • Kitchen sink
  • Bathroom sink
  • Shower
  • Bathtub

And let your parrot do the rest. Parrots are naturally mesmerized by moving water. The mere sight of it will encourage many to rush forward, splashing, playing, and flapping in it. This is most common in birds that hail from tropical environments, but all parrots do it.

Just make sure the water is clean. It should also be at room temperature, so the parrot does not scald itself. If your bird seems hesitant, turn the water pressure down to a gentle flow, so it’s not startled by the loud noise or movement.  

Give It A Sink Bath

If your parrot isn’t so eager, you can get involved. Start by filling a sink with cool or lukewarm water.

The level should reach up to the parrot’s chest, but no higher. Parrots do not need to be soaked entirely to be clean. There is also a risk of drowning. If you’re concerned, you can fill the sink up past your bird’s legs. Once it’s comfortable and playing, you can raise the water level by a couple of inches.

Set the parrot in the water and let it test out the bath. It should begin splashing or moving around in the sink. If it needs encouragement, gently brush the water up against it. Sprinkle water down its back, and moisten its feathers with your hand. Always pet in the direction of the feathers to avoid damaging them.

Your parrot should eventually dip itself in the water and begin splashing. It may also ruffle its feathers and spread its wings. It should take no more than 5-10 minutes for the parrot to properly clean itself. If it enjoys the process, however, it may choose to spend more time playing.

Can You Use Soap On Parrots?

When bathing parrots, it’s not necessary to use soap. On the contrary, you should avoid this if you can. It’s likely for the residue to stay on the parrot’s feathers, which could upset its stomach when it preens.

If your parrot is very dirty and needs sanitizing, then you can use Dawn dish soap. This is chosen by many rescue organizations, such as the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research organization, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If you do use soap, apply it sparingly and do not let your parrot ingest it. Even in small amounts, it could disrupt its stomach’s good bacteria and lead to illness. In large amounts, it can be toxic to parrots. Be sure to rinse your parrot afterward. Any leftover soap may cause irritation on the skin.

Pat It Down With A Moist Towel 

If your parrot dislikes standing water, or gets startled by your faucet, you can take a more indirect approach. Use a moist towel and pat the bird down. This is a good option for when your bird only requires a slight cleanse, such as on its head or feet.

Make sure the towel is not overly wet, as this method is only appropriate for light baths or cleaning. It works great if your parrot gets dirty often, but you don’t want to over-bathe it. It will not rob the parrot of the natural (and necessary) coating on its feathers and skin.

When using a moist towel, gently wipe down between its toes, around its beak, and gently on the head. Just be careful when handling the parrot. Talk to it during the process, offering comforting words while you clean it and using a friendly voice. Some parrots will not appreciate this close handling, so reserve it for when you have a tight bond with the bird.

Mist It With A Spray Bottle

This is one of the most popular ways to clean a bird. Using a spray bottle, lightly mist your parrot, simulating rain. This will place water on the feathers, which the parrot can then use to preen more effectively. It will likely ruffle its feathers and flap its wings, before using its beak to tug at the feathers.

If your parrot isn’t used to this, it may be startled at the initial mist. Be sure to speak calmly and encouragingly to the parrot, and assure it that this isn’t a punishment. After the first couple of mists, the parrot should begin having fun with the routine.

A light spray can be a playful way to get a parrot in the mood for baths in standing water. Since it’s a light bath, you can also do this every other day without harming your parrot’s feathers. Molting birds in particular are in need of moisture to avoid rashes from nascent feathers.

How To Prepare A Parrot Bath Spray

Using a spray bottle is one of the best methods for bathing a parrot. However, there are a few ways you need to prepare the spray bath to ensure it’s:

  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Fun for your parrot

Do Not Leave The Bottle To Sit

You should not allow the water to sit in your spray bottle for several weeks. Over time, it may begin to harbor mold spores, bacteria, and mildew.

This can be accidentally sprayed onto your parrot, forming rashes or fungal infections on the skin under its feathers. Even worse, the parrot may breathe in mold, wreaking havoc on its delicate respiratory system.

Instead, be sure to change out the water every week. You should also rinse out and wash the container at this time, making sure to dry it out completely. Rising with vinegar is an effective way of removing any leftover substances that can build up.

Even if it appears clean, bacteria are hard to detect with the naked eye. The spray bottle is especially at risk if stored in dark places or, on the flipside, directly in the sun. This can encourage fungus and mold to grow more readily.  

Choose The Type Of Water Carefully

Try to avoid tap water where possible. Although it’s not harmful to parrots by itself, it’s at a greater risk of developing bacteria. If your tap water has a large amount of chlorine, this may also be harmful to your parrot’s skin over time. It could result in rashes or it may irritate any small wounds your parrot has if it over-preened.

If you can, try to use purified water that’s been purchased in bottles or that’s gone through a reverse osmosis unit. This will ensure your parrot is exposed to only the cleanest water on a routine basis. After all, its immune system and skin are more delicate than our own. Even if you’re not bothered, your parrot might be over time.

Choose Glass Bottles

If you’re going to bathe your parrot with a spray bottle often, try to get glass ones. Chemicals, fungus, and bacteria can seep into the plastic over time, becoming impossible to wash out. This can be a health risk, even after changing the water and washing the nozzle.

Parrot Bathing In Water Dish

If allowed, your parrot may try to bathe itself in a water dish. It’s easy to access, usually full, and is fun to play with. Although this isn’t immediately dangerous behavior, you should discourage your parrot from splashing in its water bowl.

Dander and dust can accumulate there, as well as any feces. This can be a hazard when the parrot later tries to drink from the bowl. Unlike natural ponds or springs, there is no water current to carry away filth.

Bacteria, disease, and parasites may build up in the water bowl if your parrot routinely bathes in it. Some of the most common include the psittacine beak and feather disease virus, or BFDV. This is the most widespread viral disease among parrots.

According to the Australian Research Council, feather dander that’s contaminated with BFDV can easily infect other parrots with BFDV. This could harm any cage mates if you don’t routinely clean the bowls.

Parrots that are allowed to bathe outside of their cage are less likely to play in their water dishes. As such, if your bird always creates a mess in the bowl, consider misting it in between bath times.

How To Dry Your Parrot After A Bath

Once your parrot finishes bathing, it should not remain wet. This increases its chance of getting a chill and becoming sick.

The good news is, so long as your parrot is not drenched in water, it can dry itself effectively. Even better, this will lead to preening behavior. Parrots will shake and ruffle all their feathers, aligning them and making sure they are all correctly positioned. The best way to dry a parrot after a bath is to:

Let It Air Dry

Ideally, you can leave the parrot in its cage to air dry. A parrot’s body temperature usually hovers around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This warmth will help it dry. The parrot will also get rid of the excess moisture by:

  • Ruffling its feathers
  • Flapping its wings and shaking its tail
  • Soaking up sunshine from a nearby window
  • Preening itself

With this in mind, try to set your bird’s perch in a sunny window and let it dry off there.

Dry It With A Towel

If your parrot needs to dry off more quickly, or your home is cold, you can intervene. Take a soft towel and lightly pat down the parrot. Just be sure not to ruffle its feathers or drag the towel against the grain. This will damage the feathers and cause your parrot pain. Instead, pat it gently and let the parrot take breaks to preen itself.

If possible, try to place the parrot in a room that’s warm. Avoid any fans or drafts, as this could lower your parrot’s body temperature by accident.

Never Use A Hair Dryer

No matter how cold your parrot seems, never use a hairdryer on it. The excessive heat will be dangerous to your parrot. Even if you’re very careful, the loud sound will frighten the parrot and cause it to act in fear.

Most of all, hair dryers have a non-stick coating on the inside. This coating gives off invisible, odorless fumes that are harmless to people. However, they are extraordinarily toxic to birds, parrots included.

parrot shivering after bath

Parrot Shivering After Bath

After a bath, you may observe your parrot shaking or shivering. While this may be a sign of chill, it usually means the parrot is drying itself off naturally. This is normal behavior, especially if you’ve ensured that the bathwater was lukewarm or room temperature.

The parrot is simply contracting the muscles around its keel, which is the “breastbone” of flight birds. This generates heat so the parrot can dry effectively. Vigorous shaking of feathers may also be part of the bird’s preening ritual.

With that said, there is a chance your parrot is cold, so watch closely. If the shaking continues for a long time, the parrot fluffs up all its feathers, and it withdraws itself into a tight bundle, then it is cold. Direct a small space heater toward the parrot, provide it with a heat lamp, or try to raise the temperature of the room. So long as it’s not left cold for long periods of time, it will be fine.

How To Bathe A Parrot That Doesn’t Like Water

For some parrots, bath time isn’t fun. Instead, it’s new, stressful, and bothersome. It’s possible your bird is simply unfamiliar with your sink, shower, or running water. It’s also possible that your parrot had a bad experience bathing with a previous owner. No matter the case, you can train your parrot to be more welcoming of baths.  

Bathe During The Day

Try to bathe your parrot during the day, when it’s the most active. It may also be in a playing mood and more responsive to splashing in the water.

By waiting until evening or the late afternoon, you may accidentally catch the parrot when it’s tired or resting. This will make it irritable in general. Likewise, air temperatures may be cooler and therefore more likely to chill your parrot.  

Let It Use A Bird Bath

Even after this, your parrot may not be interested in bathing at all. You can then offer your parrot a bird bath in its cage or nearby it. This allows the parrot to approach at its leisure, limiting outside stress.

This is recommended if your parrot exhibits fear of showers, running water, or even going into the bathroom. Its own discomfort at being dirty and itchy will be more than enough motivation to eventually bathe alone.

Make Bath-Time A Game

Slowly introduce bath time as a fun activity. During playtime, take your parrot to the bathroom with you, turn on a faucet or the shower, and observe it. Talking to the parrot in soft, comforting tones will reassure it that there is nothing to fear.

Some parrots might have a slight “panic attack” when going into the bathroom. Check if the parrot’s reflection in the mirror is responsible for this. Even your shower curtain’s colorful design might be enough.

You can also tempt your parrot into entering the water by placing its favorite toy or a piece of food under the stream. The parrot will eventually reach in to take it, and find that the water is non-threatening.

You should bathe your parrot twice a month or whenever it’s very dirty. Try to limit this to once a week, or use a spray bottle mist if your parrot needs cleaning more often. Most parrots love baths, but the above tactics can help more averse ones become happy with the idea.