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Parrot Grooming

Written by Kalvin


Regular bathes are essential for your bird to have healthy, vibrant plumage and will also help to keep dust down produced by some species. Some birds are more enthusiastic about bathing than others so several techniques may need to be tried to find which your bird prefers, they should have the opportunity to bath at least once a week preferably more, especially in hot weather. Only plain water should ever be used, lotions and potions are unnecessary and possibly harmful.

Some will readily bathe themselves either in or out of the cage if they are given a shallow bowl of warm water. Several of the parrots I work with take a bath in their water bowls as soon as I place fresh water in them the water should be changed right after so they have clean water to drink. Placing a treat in the water can help to entice your bird in if it seems reluctant, never force your bird to bath in a bowl of water if it doesn't want to. Bathing can be an exciting time for them therefore it may be a good idea to allow your bird a few minutes to calm down afterward to avoid any over-excited nippiness.

Other birds don't feel so comfortable bathing in an open bowl of water introducing them to bathing by misting is a great way to get them used to it, use a clean sprayer that has had no chemicals in it, a new one that has been washed out would be ideal. Start with a fine mist and change the force of it until you find one your bird prefers, I've found a relatively coarse spray that is aimed above the bird so it falls like rain is preferred even by the most reluctant bathers. An alternative to the sprayer is to take your bird into the shower, there are perches that can be fitted to the walls of the shower while these work for more confident birds, nervous birds would prefer to be on your arm where they'd feel more comfortable and under less of a threat. As your bird gets used to being sprayed it will spread its wings and tail to catch as mush water as possible, how much to spray your bird will depend on them, some love to be soaked while others prefer to get slightly damp.

Baths in the morning or early afternoon are best, allowing the birds feathers to dry completely before it settles down for the night and it gets cooler.

Nail Trimming

Birds nails are always growing, in the wild birds wear their nails down climbing round on rough branches however in captivity the perches they have access to are often smoother and so it may be necessary to trim their nails to prevent them becoming too sharp or overgrown. Using concrete, sandy or similar perches will help to keep the tips of your birds nails blunt but you may find that they still grow quite long so will need periodical trimming.

If you're unsure of how to restrain your bird and how much to trim the nails then it would be best to have an experienced person show you how for the first few times so that you can see and learn how to do it. Have two people around, one to hold the bird and the other to trim the nails, we have an umbrella cockatoo that is so tame he will happily sit on a perch and let us trim his nails however most birds will need to be held in a towel with their heads covered to minimize stress. Have everything on hand you will need to make it as quick as possible, nail clippers, towel and some clotting agent (styptic powder, cornflour or a lighter used with extreme caution) encase the nail is trimmed too short. If your bird becomes overly stressed trim the nails for a minute, allow it time to rest, trim a couple more rather than one long grooming session.

A good way to see if your bird needs its nails trimmed is to place it on a flat surface, if the nails are long enough that they lift the toe from the floor then they should be trimmed, only take a small amount off and allow the blood vessel within the nail to die back and take a little more off in a week or so rather than taking a large amount off and causing the bird to bleed. If your birds nails aren't overgrown but are sharp then simply take the tips off so they're blunted.

Getting your young bird used to nail trimming from a young age helps a great deal in getting it done with ease and the least stress, while you are sitting together take a nail file and gently file the tips for a few seconds, this will keep the nails down and get it used to the idea of having its nails touched and trimmed, once your bird is used to the filing you can start to introduce nail clippers if necessary although with regular filing these shouldn't be needed.

Beak Trimming

Like the nails, your bird's beak is constantly growing, everyday activities such as climbing and chewing should be enough to keep it worn down. An overgrown beak is often an indication of an underlying health problem, usually to do with the liver, so an avian vet should be consulted. Generally it's agreed that as long as the bird isn't impaired when it comes to eating then the beak is fine left as it is, if they start to have difficulties then have an avian vet check the length and take appropriate action.

Never attempt to trim the beak yourself, it contains a blood supply and nerve endings fairly close to the tip and so should be done with caution, attempting to do it yourself could end up hurting your bird or worse.

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