Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bathing - It's Natural!

In 1994, I had the fortune to visit a place of amazing beauty: Costa Rica. I saw a volcano for the first time, went horseback riding in the mountains, and enjoyed some fabulous local cuisine. I also traveled to the coast where I watched the turtles of Tortuguero leave the ocean, in the moonlight, to lay their eggs in the sandy dunes.

A Sprinkle a Day...
A real highlight of my trip was white water rafting through the rainforest. There, monkeys and birds share the same trees, and the scent of fresh fruit and exotic flowers fill the air. I experienced first hand the reason it is known as the 'rainforest' by getting caught in more than one torrential, deafening downpour during the trip! The birds of the rainforest receive a lot more than a sprinkle or a light misting... they are drenched virtually on a daily basis during the rainy season.

Like their wild relatives, our companion birds both enjoy and greatly
benefit from routine bathing.

When is Green... Brown?
It is easy to see when a green parrot is soaking wet... the green turns to brown... and this certainly takes more than a light misting! The feathers contain natural oils and initially repel water. It can take 5 or more minutes in the shower before Coco's feathers even start to turn brown; her average shower lasts 10 to 15 minutes!

Coco loves to shower, and like a kid running through a sprinkler on a hot summer day, she is rarely ready for it to end! Her introduction to the joys of water began when she was young, with playtime in the sink, but as she grew older, she graduated to showers in the bathtub. There, the warm, gentle spray from the shower head, as well as some water trickling from the faucet, simulate an afternoon rain and stimulate the instinct to bathe. As you will see in the video below, it is a time of real enjoyment for her!

Bathing is not only instinctual, but an integral part of a bir
d's life, promoting mental well being and healthy feather condition. It is especially soothing during molting, but valuable year around.
As is the case with foraging (yesterday's topic), some of our companions may have had bad experiences with water, little to no experience with water, or simply need to have their natural instincts developed. Providing opportunities for bathing, with sensitivity and patience, will awaken our companions' instincts, even if initially they seem less than thrilled with the idea. It is never too late to encourage bathing! Consider:
  • Offering small birds a dish of room temperature water such as a glass pie plate with about 1/2 inch of water. Some birds are further enticed when a few fresh greens are floated in the water.
  • Commercially available bird baths.
  • For birds uncomfortable with sitting in the bathtub: commercially available shower perches in at least two styles: One; Two.
  • Allow your bird to hang out on the shower rod and take in the sights and sounds while you shower. This will sometimes awaken instincts just as birds that see us eat our dinner will often begin to eat theirs.
  • Always be sensitive to birds with little, or even negative water experience. Work slowly and patiently; small steps and positive reinforcement. Rome was not built in a day; a bird may need to spend a lot of time hanging out on the shower rod before considering stepping onto a birdie shower perch to receive a small amount of overspray.
  • Allow ample time, in a warm draft-free room, for your companion to preen and completely air dry well in advance of bed time. This can take 1 to 3 hours.
Finally, remember that a bird busy preening wet feathers is engaged and content! A morning shower can be a great way to start the day and reduce morning flock calling!

Showering is good for both the body and soul; after a shower Coco just glistens! Here she is after drying from today's shower:

Last but not least, Coco demonstrates some shower-time fun!


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