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Bathing fears

Expert Question

Dear Mr. Cravens,
I have had my 7 year old Grey Sparkle for 2 years now. I re-homed her from a young couple who couldn’t look after her and their 2 children at the same time. Sparkle will not bathe. She is terrified of bathes and spraying. I suspect spraying was used as a punishment because the previous owners have been less than helpful when ask about Sparkle bathing. I have tried allowing her to take a bath at her leisure. I have tried taking her into the shower with me to no avail. I have even tried giving her leaves of lettuce with lots of water on it and she will have nothing to do with it.

She keeps her skin in great shape through preening and her skin is not dry. I just worry she needs a bath. I am at ropes end on this one. Does anyone have any ideas that might help Sparkle get over her fear of baths? Any help at all would be appreciated.

Rodney J. Semones

Expert Answer

Dear Rodney, It has been my experience that many African parrots will not bathe in their water dish and if not trained young, can be afraid of hoses or spray bottles. Your lettuce leaves attempt was on the right track, but a more positive way to bring out your Grey’s instincts would be to get a good sized, thick leafy bough of some soft-leaved tree—not oak for example, but more elm or poplar or plum. When she is accustomed to perching in the branches or being near them on her perch, get a spray bottle filled with warm water and spray the leaves near her but not on her. Concentrate on feet level and spraying a VERY LIGHT mist up in the air to sprinkle down on the leaves and a bit on her head and back. Make imitations of her most joyous sounds while you are doing it and go about it very patiently. If she backs off, stop getting her misted and just do the leaves until they are soaked. Then go away and let her react. This procedure has coaxed many of my timid bathers to begin romping through the wet leaves on their own.

If you take her into the shower, just put her up on a wet stable towel on the shower curtain pole and let her watch you and soak in the damp warm air and the humidity—even that is good for her. She may eventually become comfortable enough that you could gently splash her a bit and get her used to water as nothing to fear. Again choose a habitual joy “shower noise” to utter to show this is supposed to be fun!

Good luck and keep us posted on her progress.

EB Cravens
About EB Cravens

“If we TRULY believe our captive-raised hookbills are important to world parrot conservation, we must work ceaselessly to ensure that these same psittacines retain as much of their wild instinctual behavior as is possible,” affirms avicultural writer and hobby breeder EB Cravens, from his small organic farm on the slopes of the Big Island Hawaii.

“Our goal is to birth and raise only a few baby parrots who know that they are parrots, but choose to befriend humans, because humans are nice to them… feed them… and are fun to be with!”

EB has bred, trained, raised, kept and rehabilitated more than 75 species of psittacines during the past twenty plus years both at his home and while managing the notable exotic bird shoppe, Feathered Friends of Santa Fe, New Mexico. His emphasis on natural environments for birds, the urging of babies to fully fledge during the extended weaning process, and the leaving of chicks for many weeks inside the nest box with their parents in order that they may learn the many intangibles of their species, have succeeded in changing for the better the lives of so many captive parrots.

A science writer by training, he was for years a regular contributor for AFA’s Watchbird Magazine and the Companion Parrot Quarterly. EB currently writes a monthly column entitled “The Complete Psittacine” in PARROTS Magazine out of England; and another, “The Hookbill Hobbyist” down under in the well-regarded Australian Birdkeeper. His monthly series of articles “Birdkeeping Naturally,” is sent out to bird clubs and individuals around the U.S.

“As devastating pressures continue upon avian species in the wilds,” he says, “it is critical that those keeping birds in captivity do so with responsibility and foresight.”