Molting Toby takes a good bath – finally!

My flock and I live in upstate New York and we have been having the weirdest weather lately. Right at the end of August it got chilly and we had to turn our heat on for a week. As soon as the temperature dropped Toby and Kelly started on a pretty serious fall molt. Of course, by the time they were out of that molt it was mid-September and the temperature, insanely, was about 90 degrees! So, what else is a girl to do but start molting all over again.

Needless to say it’s been a solid couple of months now of feather-covered floors, sneezing humans, and itchy, cranky budgie ladies. I offer them a variety of baths on the regular, especially when they are molting, usually about twice a week. At least 50 percent of the time they completely ignore the bath, and even if they do give it notice sometimes it’s just to run through the water.  Kelly will still only take a good soak if I stand right next to her and give her constant encouragement!

Regardless of their level of interest I just keep plugging away, offering the baths and then dumping them out. Every weekend we buy a bunch of carrots with the tops still on, or some other type of green that’s good for hanging and make a hanging bath. Well, it’s a good thing we like to eat carrots because lately even that has been a total waste!

Finally Toby must have reached the depths of her molting despair and decided that a bath would be just the thing. We constructed the hanging bath and she immediately jumped on it and got the most thorough soaking she has had in months. I tried to get some good pictures but it’s tough when she’s in constant motion and puffed up like a weird broken birdy.

So, what’s the point of the post then? I guess it’s just that you have to keep trying. Even when something stops working, like the hanging bath that used to be so reliable for us. Don’t give up, keep offering them the healthy food options and the things they need, and eventually they will take you up on it. I know sometimes it might seem like a waste of your time and resources to have what you give them rejected over and over, but it matters that you do it, so don’t lose heart!

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10 tips for getting budgies to take a bath

I’ve already written a post with 5 bathing methods, but I’ve found in the intervening months that there are way more bath types to try, which is great, because your budgie will probably only find one or two of them acceptable. Getting budgies to take a bath can be a challenge, but the reward of your budgie getting clean and loving it is well worth the struggle. Keep in mind that you may have to offer the bath type several times over the course of weeks before your parakeet decides to give it a try.

  1. The hanging bath – hanging wet greens inside the cage can be a very comfortable way for your budgie to bathe. Not only are they in the safety of their own home, but the wet greens tap into the part of their wild brain that sees it as a very natural way to bathe. I have written a post about how to make a hanging bath, there’s a learning curve and you want to make sure the bunch is secure enough to withstand multiple budgies’ weight and quite a lot of abuse.
  2. Misting – get a small misting bottle and gently spray your budgies with water. Make sure to completely empty and dry the bottle in between uses so it doesn’t get mold. Depending on how your budgies react you can either spray lightly above their heads so they barely notice, or you may be able to spray them more directly. Some parakeets grow to really enjoy bathing this way. Not mine, so much, but I know they are out there!
  3. Shower perches or putting the entire cage in the shower. To be fair, I haven’t tried either of these, every time I try taking our parakeets into the bathroom they lose their stuff. We have a big mirror that’s flat to the wall in there and I think it’s just too much for them to deal with
    a. Shower perch– these seem to be mostly intended for larger birds to me, but I have heard of budgie owners showering with their birds. I think the key here is that the birds are not directly under the flow of the water but are adjacent and get a nice warm mist.
    b. Putting the entire cage in the shower – If you have a small enough cage, or a large enough shower, this would be an efficient way to clean both cage and budgies at once. My main cage is way too massive to even consider attempting to put it in the shower. Additionally, I have a hard time imagining my parakeets dealing with all the stimulation gracefully. I also don’t know how the heck you would get it completely dry afterwards, and I think you’d have to remove most toys and perches beforehand. But, I feel like it warrants a mention because every time people talk about baths someone chimes in and says this is their go-to.
  4. Greens on a shallow plate – get some dark leaf lettuce, kale, or any other green, wash thoroughly and lay them out on a shallow plate, pour just a little water over the greens and plate. The first few times we did this I had to lure the parakeets into the water with millet but once they were there they got the picture and bathed. Like the hanging bath, this probably feels very natural to them.
  5. Cup your hands under a running sink – make sure the water pressure isn’t too hard and the water is not very hot. If you cup one hand at first and have your other hand splash around in the water it may be easier to generate interest. My budgies will sometimes go for this, but they usually just drink a lot of water and do no bathing at all! You also don’t have to involve your hands at all, but could put a shallow Tupperware, bowl or whatever they like under the flow of water.
  6. Shallow Tupperware or bowl – Either with greens or without, whatever is preferred. I offer shallow bowls of water a couple of times a week and every so often Kelly will just hop in and take a very good bath with no warning. It probably only happens about once a month but she gets completely soaked and it’s lovely.
  7. The Lixit bath – I don’t know what it is about this bath but I’ve never seen a bad review. (In fact, here’s my review). It’s easy to install and if you mount it on the outside of your cage you get very minimal water mess inside. I think the budgies like bathing high up, and apparently, they also like bathing in see through things.
  8. Cupped hands with greens – this was the first bath Toby ever took and it was entirely accidental. My mom was over and she offered Toby some wet lettuce as a snack cupped in her hands. Toby hopped on and went into full bath mode, puffed out and deranged looking. She was probably thinking “what took you jerks so long, I’ve felt so dirty”! We’d never seen a parakeet taking a bath before and briefly thought she was broken.
  9. Mirror at the bottom of Tupperware – this is a cute variation on the Tupperware and would also work with a reflective bowl. The budgie thinks that she is bathing with a friend and it may help her to get into bathing and/or feel more secure.
  10. Catit Flower Fountain – this fountain has been all the rage lately in a Facebook parakeet group that I’m a part of, so of course I had to try it too! While I can’t say it was an immediate hit, like it has been for others, we definitely had some intrigued parakeets and they liked drinking out of it. I think it will take a few more exposures before I can render judgement but it was super fun to try and if you have friends with cats you could always gift it to them if your budgies don’t like it.

So there we have it, the extended bath ideas list. I’m guessing that 6 months from now I’ll be posting an update with 20 unique bath ideas! Good luck to everyone out there in getting some cleaned up budgies, don’t let their resistance get you down, just like introducing vegetables and fruits it can take a long time for parakeets to get over their initial trepidation and get down to enjoyment.

Making a hanging bath for your parakeet

Recently I realized that I keep writing about and recommending trying a bath of hanging greens for parakeets without actually giving instructions for how to make the bath.  I know for my husband and me there was definitely some trial and error involved, and the errors could involve some parakeet injury, so here are some best practices for making a hanging bath.

  • At the grocery store, get a bunch of greens and a package of bamboo skewers (commonly used for grilling, like these: Kabob skewers PACK of 500 8 inch bamboo sticks made from 100 % natural bamboo – shish kabob skewers – (500)). As far as the greens go, what you really want is a good sturdy leaf that will stand up to some abuse without tearing immediately. Equally important is the stem width, they have to be thick and not prone to shredding. We really love kale for baths, and also mustard greens.
  • Once home, wash the greens thoroughly
  • Take a stem and poke a hole through the thickest part with the bamboo skewer, repeat this process for 4 or 5 leaves, until you have a good bundle of greens.
  • Thread the leaves on whatever attachment you have handy, we are using one that came from an inexpensive toy (JW Pet Company Activitoy Olympia Rings Small Bird Toy, Colors Vary). You could also use paper rope (Outus Raffia Paper Craft Ribbon, 1/ 4 Inch by 100 Yards) and tie it securely to a spare metal toy clip, or a plastic clip. Whatever you have that you can hang will be fine.
  • Wet the bundle of greens thoroughly – get them soaking and be prepared to soak the bottom interior of your cage. If you use paper at the bottom that is not water resistant it would be best to remove that entirely to make for easier clean up at the end.
  • Hang the bundle from the interior top of your cage; if possible, position is near some perches for a jumping off point. Hopefully your parakeets will instinctively “get it”, but if not, don’t be discouraged, just keep offering the greens and they will probably explore them eventually. I also try to leave the greens in the cage for a couple of hours and will refresh them with a spray bottle.
  • Parakeets are definitely fans of a routine, so try to offer a bath in the same sequence each week. We get home from the grocery store, put everything away and then it’s bath time. I find that a series of steps that are done in front of them the same way every time helps them know what to expect and really aids in getting them excited.

And finally, here is Toby enjoying her bath, this is not as “into it” as she typically gets, I think she was being a little camera shy, but you can see how it’s suspended and how she moves around the bundle in a way that she couldn’t if it was laying on a flat surface.

Next level budgie bath tip

I have written a post of tips for getting your parakeet to take a bath, and I’ve also written a review of a great bird bath, but there’s a super-secret next level tip that I want to share with you today.

Kelly recently decided that she needed a bigger bath than the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath, so I found her a Rubbermaid food storage container (Rubbermaid TakeAlongs 4 Cup Rectangle Food Storage Container, 3 Pack)that, when filled halfway with water, is the perfect depth for her to feel like she can get wet but she can always touch the bottom.

Actually, that’s a good point; did you know budgies cannot swim?  They are basically incapable of it, although some might float for a moment or two.  The lack of webbed feet or any other method of gaining momentum in water renders them unable to swim in a capable fashion. This is why a lot of people lose parakeets in drowning accidents; open toilets are a particular killer.

So always monitor your parakeets at bath time, which of course you would anyway since it’s crazy cute.

Here is Kelly enjoying her bath – Toby decided to drop in as well, but she really refuses anything except hanging greens as a bath these days.

And here’s the pro tip: in every one of the bath shots my head was just about a foot away, on the same level, and I was continuously telling Kelly what a good girl she is and what a good bath-taker! Fortunately my husband was kind enough not to get my head in the photo shoot.

Yes, it’s true, Kelly won’t seriously bathe unless someone is there providing constant verbal encouragement, but when I do it, she’s mad for the bath, so super excited and she gets much more soaked than Toby ever manages.

I’ve come up with two possible reasons this works:

  1. She does respond very well to positive encouragement in any context, but both of them do that, they get very perked up and alert if you tell them what good girls they are.
  2. It may just be the presence of my head, since parakeets are prey birds the “watering hole” would be a very dangerous spot, so perhaps my head is seen as a lookout that makes it safe for her to let her guard down.

Either way, if you are struggling to get your budgies to take a bath it can’t hurt to try! And, yes your face gets a lot of spray; it’s a bit like sitting in the “splash zone” at a SeaWorld show, but anyone who has fought to get their budgies washed up knows that this outcome is well worth it!