How Often Should I Bathe My Cockatiel?

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  • Post last modified:May 24, 2022
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Have you ever seen your cockatiel fluff its feathers, shake, and cover you in white specs of dust and wonder, is it time for a bath?

This cloud of dust is your bird’s skin dander, and while it does keep your bird’s feathers silky soft, too much means your bird needs a bath.

Your cockatiel needs baths quite often, and the frequency can range from daily to once a week.

However, it’s important to know how often you can bathe your cockatiel. Here’s a breakdown of bathing tips for you and your cockatiel. 


Three reasons your cockatiel needs a bath

Three reasons your cockatiel needs a bath

Cleanliness

Regularly cleaning their cage is an excellent way to help your bird stay clean and healthy. However, this can be difficult if your bird is dusting heavily, shedding feathers, and splashing around in its water bowl. 

Offering your bird a bath can encourage it to preen only when it needs to. Your cockatiel also won’t need to dip in its water bowl to get a bath, and its cage will stay cleaner for longer.

Feather dust from your cockatiel helps make their feathers waterproof while also making them soft. 

Although having dust is essential to keep their feathers silky soft, too much dust can give your bird respiratory issues and make them sick. 

Bathing them helps control the amount of dust they shed and keeps their skin from getting dry. 

Without baths, cockatiels can get dry skin and can pluck out feathers instead of shedding naturally. 

Cockatiels are great at preening and cleaning themselves. However, baths help soften keratin on the feathers making it easier to preen out older feathers and keep newer ones growing healthy. 

Baths encourage preening as well as helping your bird remove dirt, dust, food, or droppings.

Stimulation

As social animals, baths can be an excellent way for you to bond with your bird. If you have more than one cockatiel, baths can help them preen each other.

Preening is how cockatiels keep their feathers in top-flight condition. Clean, debris-free feathers are lighter and make flying easier. 

Keeping themselves clean is not only great for their physical health but also good for them mentally. 

Cockatiels need stimulation and routine to keep them entertained and active. Bath time with you or other cage mates keeps them engaged, energetic, and busy. 

This will also prevent them from becoming stressed and behaving in neurotic ways that will cause them to hurt themselves.

Molting

Molting occurs typically in the fall and spring, starting when your cockatiel is between 6 to 12 months old, and helps shed damaged and old feathers. 

While molting helps grow healthier and newer feathers, it can be a stressful process for your bird, making them look tired and act cranky. 

By bathing your cockatiel, you’re helping ease the discomfort of itchy skin and helping them to preen off dry keratin coverings on the new feathers.


How often should cockatiels bathe?

How often should cockatiels bathe?

In captivity

In captivity, the air in your home can be drier than what these tropical birds are used to. Baths keep skin moisturized, help them preen, and ingest vitamin D. 

Along with removing dirt and debris, preening secretes an oil that contains vitamin D. Ingesting it helps them also absorb calcium. 

They should also be allowed to sunbathe to dry off or spend some time under a UV ray heat lamp (UV rays can’t penetrate windows). While sunbathing, UV rays activate vitamin D they ingested while preening.  

Baths and sunbathing are essential to prevent your cockatiel from getting sick from vitamin deficiencies. 

You may want to start introducing baths slowly, like once a week. Eventually, the goal is to offer a bath daily. However, much like humans, birds have different personalities and preferences. 

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While some cockatiels love baths and like to clean daily, others might dislike and fear water. Together, you can figure out how often bath time will be a part of your routines.

In the wild

Birds in the wild bathe when they need it. They bathe in streams and lakes and rub themselves in wet grasses. This can happen every day, or less depending on the weather or season.

Although they are cared for now as our pets, cockatiels have strong instincts to preen and keep clean. Offering the right amount of baths helps keep them close to their wild nature and happy in your home.


What happens if they don’t get bathed often?

What happens if they don't get bathed often?

As mentioned above, bathing keeps your cockatiel mentally stimulated and stress-free. As well as becoming dirty and itchy from not bathing enough, they can become bored.

Stressful behaviors such as plucking can cause permanent bald spots on your bird. This makes flight harder as well, making it more challenging to regulate their temperature. 

Dry skin is likely to happen more in captivity than in the wild and is often the precursor to plucking. Your cockatiel will try to help themselves by over preening and cleaning. 

A dirty cockatiel might decide its water bowl is a good place for a bath. This will muck up their water faster, and you will need to replace it more often to keep their drinking source clean.

If your bird is dirtier than normal and cannot clean off excess dirt and droppings, it may start to smell slightly musty and dirty. 

It is important to note that cocktails don’t normally have strong odors. Your vet should be consulted since a smelly bird is normally due to health and illness problems.


How to bathe your cockatiel?

Introducing your cockatiel to water

As prey animals, cockatiels can be a bit apprehensive when trying new things. Introducing them slowly to baths gently and comfortably can help your bird learn to enjoy bath time. 

Enticing your bird to bathe

To start, you can entice your bird to bathe itself with a small bowl filled with 2 inches of filtered, clean water.

Using lukewarm water will prevent your bird from getting cold. For your cockatiel to be comfortable, the bathing area should be warm as well.

This will also make it easier for your bird to preen and dry off.

A small perch in the shower for your cockatiel to join you in a bath might encourage it to bathe with you. Birds are naturally curious, and watching you bathe will help them learn baths are safe and nothing to fear.

Another option is to fill a spray bottle with water and gently mist your bird, being careful not to overly drench their feathers.

A sink bath can be another fun way for your cockatiel to bathe. Keep the sink clear of any dishes or utensils to ensure your bird is safe.

Preparing for the bath

Sterilizing the sink before and after their bath is essential to keep your cockatiel from accidentally being exposed to soaps and detergents.

Begin by opening the faucet slightly for a small, thin trickle of water. This is to avoid an overpowering stream that can hurt or scare your bird. 

Covering the drain will allow a little water to pool for your bird’s bath, allowing them to splash around in the sink.

Some retail stores offer special birdbaths with mirrors to encourage birds to get in the water. Birds are drawn to mirrors and their reflections because they believe their reflection is another bird. 

To encourage your cockatiel to bathe, a store-bought bath with mirrors can be an inviting way to get it to jump in on its own.

Bathing your cockatiel

The best time to bathe your cockatiel is during the warmest time of the day. Bathing your bird in the morning will give it enough time to dry out in the sun and make sure it stays warm. 

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A hot afternoon is also a great time for a bath. The water will help cool and refresh your bird while still giving it time to dry off safely. 

Bath time shouldn’t occur at night because cockatiels are nocturnal, meaning they sleep and can’t preen and dry off properly, especially in the dark.

It is important to remember that cockatiels that stay damp for too long can make them too cold and shock your bird

Drying your bird off

It’s best to let your bird dry naturally or air dry. A cockatiel will enjoy being placed in warm sunlight and using the day’s heat to dry off. 

They help to dry themselves by preening and using the beaks like a squeegee to remove water and dirt.

If your cockatiel doesn’t mind being held, you can gently help it dry off its feathers with a soft, dry towel. If you are bathing your bird during colder weather, you can also use a heat lamp.

While it is essential to help your bird get dry and stay warm, it is not safe to use a blow dryer. Some blow dryers contain a Teflon coating, which is extremely harmful to birds.


What if your bird doesn’t like baths? 

What to do if your bird doesn’t like baths? 

Some birds are afraid of water

Some cockatiels are startled or afraid of water. To help ease their fear, warm water at the correct temperature, between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit, will keep it comfortable during bath time. 

Cockatiels love treats and positive attention. Offering their favorite treats and lots of praise during baths will keep the experience positive. 

If your cockatiel gets startled by the spray bottle bath, switching to a bowl bath can help it relax a little more.

Most owners find that bringing their cockatiels in the shower and placing them on their own special perch is enjoyable for both. At first, you can try to perch them on top of your shower, away from the water but still able to see it. 

This can help them get used to the shower and encourage them to bathe in the water themselves. 

Minimize stress

Your cockatiel might try and “escape” its bath because it is afraid. Keeping their surroundings open will help minimize accidents if your bird gets startled and flies off.

It may also be helpful to keep your bird’s feathers trimmed to prevent them from hurting themselves.

As mentioned above, checking your water temperature to make sure it’s not too hot or cold will prevent your cockatiel from getting scared and stressed out. 

You can just use plain filtered water. Soaps and detergents aren’t needed and can actually stress out your bird even more. 

Introducing them to different methods and seeing which one they respond to the best is a sure bet way to learn what your bird likes best. 

For example, if your cockatiel is molting, it might be more open to a bath and can help the associate baths as a good thing. 

If you see them jumping and splashing in their water dish on their own, you can offer them a warm bath in a bowl, which is similar to something they already like.

Increasing the frequency

To encourage your bird to get used to the water, keep trying to offer baths. Slowly increase the frequency of the baths until you establish a routine.

After you both find a bathing method that works best, repeating it will help familiarize baths as a positive routine with you and help you both bond together.

Gentle praise and treats during bath time will help make baths more enjoyable even for those still fearful and reluctant around water.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep your bird clean, which in turn keeps them healthy. Regular baths keep your bird’s feathers in good condition, keep their lungs free from dust, and are happily engaged in a fun routine with you.