Should I Use Soap When I Bathe My Bird?

Should I Use Soap When I Bathe My Bird?

 June 14th, 2010
Posted By:

Rose Breasted Cockatoo

Should I use any soap or shampoo when bathing my bird?

-Karen F., Hanover, MA

No. Not only is it unnecessary to use anything but water when bathing your bird, it is counterproductive to a bird’s natural cleansing process.  Most birds have a preen gland (uropygial gland) which is located at the the base of its tail.  When a bird is preening, it pinches this gland which then excretes an oil that is spread throughout the feathers.  This oil gives helps to keep feathers in proper condition.
In waterbirds, the preen gland excretes more oil giving them their waterproofing.  The oils also have anti-parasitic effect, helping wild birds keep lice at bay and an antibacterial effect that keeps down feather degradation. The action of the bird running its beak through the feathers distributes these oils, keeps feathers in position and removes any dirt and debris.
Using soap or shampoos will wash away these oils and the feathers condition will deteriorate. It will also dry out their skin. Itchy birds have been known to pluck.  I know that there are bird “shampoos” on the market, please don’t buy them.  It’s just another way of getting bird owners to spend yet more money, and they will prove to be harmful to your bird.
Bathing your birds often will inspire them to preen and distribute these oils.  I bathe my birds at least three times a week, never less than two. Some birds prefer mist or spray baths others prefer to take a shower in our bathrooms, others still like a nice bowl of cool water to take a dip in.  If your have small birds, try adding some fresh parsley or kale leaves to the water. They love to roll around in the greens.  Be prepared for a mess, though, my quaker can spray water 8-10′ with her little wings!

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4 Comments on “Should I Use Soap When I Bathe My Bird?”

Eva  06/19/2010 9:15 am

hey i know this is sortof unrelated but shower perches people say to bring your bird when you take a shower but what about when you use shampoo and conditioner can you still use them when birdie is around?

Patty  06/19/2010 12:15 pm

Hi there Eva!
I’m glad he’s having fun on it. He’ll get a lot of exercise there too. Watch him with the tape though, he could swallow it and it could cause problems. If you have a nice tight knot there, the fraying won’t be a problem.
If Skeeter gets any of your cleaning products on him while you are showering, just rinse him off well. Birds really love to shower with their favorite people.

Angie  10/23/2010 12:25 pm

I used soap. I’m afraid now.

Patty  10/24/2010 1:25 am

Hi Angie,
Don’t worry too much about it. As long as you don’t use it anymore, your bird will be okay.