Do you have a dirty bird?
We are often told that we need to bathe or shower our feathered friends once a week up to once a day.
Really? Is this true?
Machelle Pacion - Avian Nutrition Specialist
Let’s all think about these points:
- In the wild birds probably enjoy a rain shower at least once or twice a day, if they live in the tropical rainforest. Maybe not so much if they live in an arid forest.
- The rain in these forests does not contain the halogen (highly acidic) known as “chlorine” and probably many fewer chemicals even if the rain is considered “acid rain.” Living creatures require very, very tiny amounts of naturally occurring halogens, such as iodine. But when exposed to chemically processed halogens, and in abundance, a living body can suffer illness.
- Living in the wild birds are able to pick and chose the very foods they consume. Instinct tells birds what and how much of any one food to eat. This instinctive “knowing” tells a bird to consume not only enough protein and carbohydrates but also various foods containing healthy dietary fats.
Yes, it is very important that we allow our birds to bathe and/or shower. However, maybe not daily, or even weekly. In fact, if the overall circumstances regarding diet and environment are not optimum, daily showering or bathing for our birds may actually be harmful to their sinuses, skin, feathers, talons, and beaks.
Exception: Lightly misting on a daily basis, with pure, filtered water is fine, just don’t drench your bird. Don’t spray “at” your bird. Spray a fine mist over your bird and allow the mist to fall upon your bird.
Given the above information, consider this: Municipal “tap water” is chemically treated using many chemicals including high amounts of halogenic chlorine. This is not the same water as our beloved feathered friends would enjoy in their wild habitats.
Water in the typical rainforest has a pH of about 7.2 give or take a half percent or two. Sometimes tap water shares similar pH levels. Still, do we really want to bathe our birds in chemically-treated water? I don’t. Unless most of us have a whole-house water filter or individual filters on our showers and faucets, I wouldn’t even consider using tap water for any bird’s bathing water, or drinking water for that matter. (Drinking water, to help the body maintain its correct alkalinity, should have a natural pH level of about 8.2 or so).
Adding to the above discretion, if our birds are not receiving, or absorbing, enough healthy dietary fats we shouldn’t even consider showering or bathing our birds on a weekly or daily basis. (The absorption of dietary fat is another entirely different article.)
As a former cosmetologist, I learned plenty about “dry hair and dry skin.” It’s this simple, even if the moisture balance of some living creatures excretes more oil than others, it can still dry out but still look and feel oily. This is why those of us in the industry tell people who have oily skin not to shower too frequently or use harsh astringents on their skin to dry up the oil. The oil glands will overwork to supply the amount of oil your particular skin type (due to ethnicity) demands. The same holds true with birds. Add something drying to their skin, like chlorine and the skin may work harder to supply enough topical oil to maintain moisture balance, but if the correct kind and amount of dietary oils are not consumed, or absorbed then the oil glands are working overtime without the tool to obtain success. The end result will be skin whose moisture level becomes completely out of balance yielding too much topical oil, or not enough.
When a body receives the proper amount of dietary fat, the body is more able to self-regulate the amount of oil on the surface of the skin. Likewise, the body requires fresh, healthy and pure drinking water to perform this task. Both dietary fat and ingested water emulsify within the body to supply just the right amount of moisture and oil to skin, feathers, beaks, and talons.
Many of the commercial bird foods available today contain very high amounts of Omega 6 fats which are, intrinsically “drying” fats. Yes, there is such a thing as a fat or oil that can dry out the internal and external organs. (Skin is the largest organ of the body) Beware of using these oils topically, as well as any petroleum-based oil – all of these will dry out skin when applied topically. They may “appear” to hydrate, but in reality, over a period of time, they actually cause the skin to dry out. Not only does the skin dry out from the consumption of too many Omega 6s, but feathers can also dry out leading to feather destruction. Or at minimum dry, discolored and dingy-looking feathers.
Examples of drying Omega 6 oils/fats are mineral oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated oils, and many other oils are actually drying to the inward and outward body. This is due to their high Omega 6 content. In the case of hydrogenated oils, it is due to the high Omega 6 content as well as how the oil is processed.
When our birds and we ingest these types of “drying” Omega 6 oils our skin, eyes, nails, talons, beaks, hair, and feathers as well as our soft tissues and joints, as well as our brains all dry out. Additionally, constantly bathing and showering takes away from the natural moisture of these body parts. Nevermind what high-consumption of Omega 6s do to our brains!
Omega 6, combined with calcium build-up (due to lack of absorption and not enough magnesium in the diet), consuming too many dietary starches, and simple, refined sugars (not including fruits or other healthy complex natural sugars) all contribute to plaque buildup. The very plaque that science is now blaming for dementia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. No doubt this way of eating is also adding many soft tissue disorders and joint problems to the long list of health disorders.
Omega 6, when consumed in limited amounts, about a 1:1 ratio with Omega 3, is healthy and bodies need it. But when over-consumed it wreaks havoc on any living creature. Unfortunately so many foods today are highly-processed and are specifically made as reduced-fat foods. Of course, then sugar and salt are added to make food taste better. It’s a vicious cycle that really needs to end if we and all other living creatures we care for in our homes are ever to regain good health and vitality. Besides, eating in this manner actually causes weight gain even when fat is reduced in the foods consumed.
So what does all of this have to do with the frequency and way we bathe our feathered friends?
We all need to ensure that our birds’ diets contain healthy fat. Dietary fat doesn’t make birds fat. High Omega 6 diets combined with a lot of dietary starch and refined sugar make us and our birds fat. Consuming enough healthy dietary fats, the right kind, the right ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, along with other healthy fat like Oleic Acid (Omega 9) will ensure healthy skin, hair, feathers, nails, talons, and beaks. This will also ensure that our brains properly function, preventing dementia – this is true for both our birds and us.
If you and your flock are eating a highly processed diet (any food that is heavily cooked, bland, has no real and authentic taste, or no natural scent of real food consider the fact that you and your flock are consuming “dead” food. Also if that food contains synthetic nutrients instead of naturally occurring, and chemically made mineral salts such as Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite table salt (Sodium Chloride) and others, you and your flock are consuming ingredients that only add to the many above health issues. All of these items contribute to overall body dryness, dementia, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and much more!
The information contained here is in regards to almost all companion birds, whether enjoying their normal daily lives, super active, lethargic, molting feathers and/or hormonal during breeding season.
How do we know if our birds’ systems are not receiving enough healthy dietary oils? Dry, flaky skin, greyish-colored skin (if that is not typical for the species), flaking beaks and/or talons, sinus problems, and a lot of itchiness and scratching. We might even witness sneezing, wheezing and coughing. Conjunctive eye tissues may be witnessed as well. (This is not to be confused with “conjunctivitis” aka “pink eye.”) More moisture than is actually needed may present as the result of the mucous membranes surrounding the eyes attempt to lubricate dry eyes. On the other hand, a bird’s eyes may actually be dry causing a lot of blinking, and/or scratching of the eyes.
Time is way overdue for all of us to learn how to feed ourselves and our pets in a healthy manner that not only sustains a life of survival but also contributes to lives that thrive in an optimum manner! Remember, our health is just as important as that of our birds. Birds have a very long lifespan, if healthy. If we are not around to care for our birds, who will be?
Finally, if and only if you and your birds are consuming the proper ratio of Omega 6s to Omega 3s, and also consuming an overall healthy diet low in dietary starches and refined sugar, drinking a pure water source with a pH of about 8.2 then go ahead and bathe frequently!
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