Cold Weather Skin And Feather Care

Posted by Bird Tricks on

The winter months are some of the driest months of the year. Not only are the natural humidity levels typically down during these months, but heating systems further deplete the air of moisture. The result can be dry, itchy skin for everyone – humans and parrots alike.

Typically, when our skin gets dry, we grab some hand or body lotion. But when our parrot’s skin gets dry, they might scratch with their feet or make a fuss to let us know that they are uncomfortable. Some might begin to preen…and preen…and preen.  Some might cross the line into plucking to alleviate the itchiness.

There are three courses of action we can take:

Bath your parrot more frequently. Somehow, bird owners have gotten the notion that it is unsafe to bath parrots in the cold weather.This is simply untrue. For all the reasons listed above, it might be MORE important to get them nice and wet at least a couple of times a week during the winter. It is a necessary grooming procedure and your bird’s feather and skin health will suffer if it is overlooked.

If your house is cold and drafty, bathe your bird earlier on so it can dry off during the warmest time of the day and be completely dry for bedtime.This is more for comfort than safety.Your bird is not going to “catch it’s death of cold” from being wet in the winter any more than you will. Being cold AND wet temporarily lowers the body’s immune system. It makes one more susceptible to disease but does not CAUSE illness. Don’t let this misinformation cause you to avoid baths in the winter.

Buy a humidifier. Here is a post that outlines the different types available and which ones are safest for use with parrots.

Use bath sprays.There are several brands available on the market today. When it comes to selecting these products (or any type of product) for your parrots, go for the ones with the fewest ingredients. They are typically the safest and most natural. I have gone through the ingredients in the some of the more popular bath sprays and these are my findings:

  • Avix Rain – This product uses ingredients that can be irritants to eyes and skin. It also appears that the more natural ingredients they use are of low quality.
  • Avix Soother Plus – This product is frequently recommended, but it is an analgesic with medicinal purposes and is not all natural. I don’t recommend this product for aiding dry skin at all.
  • Mango Parrot Bath Spray – Not even going to go here. These morons sell this SHAMPOO(??) stating this in their product description: ” Caution: Parrot Shampoo is extremely mild but keep away from eyes, ears, nostrils and mouth.” Run away. Run far away.
  • THE WINNER:  George’s Aloe – Its ingredients are 100% Aloe Barbadensis Miller, a species of Aloe native to northern Africa. It can be purchased in gallon jugs making it by far the cheapest choice. You simply dilute it and put it in a spray bottle. Aloe, as it has multiple uses, is something we should all have on hand in our first aid kits for the treatment of cuts and burns.

Whichever product you decide on, spray some on your hand before you spray it on your bird so that you can feel the texture and consistency. You should not be able to actually feel any of the ingredients. There should only be the feeling of soothing moisture. If  it feels oily to you, it will to your bird. It is in a bird’s nature to remove anything foreign from the feathers and your bird will set out to remove the what doesn’t belong. Even the oils secreted from their own preen glands are barely detectable. Never use more than what is recommended with the idea that you are making your bird even more comfortable. You will in fact be causing him distress and giving him a reason to over preen.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.


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5 comments

  • “Chico Verde”, our four year old Green Cheeks Conure loves a bath even in cold water. He would bath every day if we let him. Usually three times a week is normal. Chico will spend four or five minutes in the water and just loves it. We raised Chico from a baby and he has bonded with my wife and me.
    Chico enjoys full free flight outside. Most days we go for a walk with Chico on my shoulder and he flies around the neighborhood and returns to my shoulder. We let Chico fly in the house for his first year then he got too independent and had his wings clipped. With clipped wings we started going for a walk with Chico on my shoulder. He tried flying if something frightened him. As his flight feathers started growing back he learned to do short flights and come back to my shoulder.
    It is beautiful to watch Chico fly like a little rocket. He has learned to stick pretty close to home and loves being with us. We live in Tempe, AZ.

    Vern Lenox on
  • Melody, I had a lovebird that was afraid of bathing, but I had a fountain he loved to play in. The biggest problem I had was keeping the fountain clean because it would get moldy, but if you can find an easy to clean water fountain that your Cockatiel could get used to and make part of his territory, you might get your bird to bathe in it. Now I have a Myers parrot that tells me when she wants a bath. She flies over to me when I’m working around the sink and climbs onto my hands. I splash her until both of us are drenched, then I’ll put her on a perch to dry and I can get back to the dishes.

    Valorie on
  • I have a 26 yr. old cockatiel that just started plucking feathers from the top of both wings. He’s never done this before and it just started when the heat in the house came on. I give him a bath at least once a week…should I bath him more often?? Does anyone know? I guess I’m afraid of drafts in the cold weather.

    Kris Porricelli on
  • My African Grey loves a shower – I take her in with me every other day. Someone told me that they prefer cool water but she hates cool water, loves it as warm as I do. I have a perch in the shower, and she sits on it, and then I hold her under the water for a while. She both bathes and drinks the water, then I put her back on the perch. I hold on to her feet and she “flies” into the living room to dry off before I put her back in her cage.

    Jenny deBeer Charno on
  • Excellent blog post. I certainly appreciate this website.
    Continue the good work!

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