When pondering the benefits of spraying your budgie with a fine mist of water every now and again, it’s worth comparing the bird in its natural habitat with the bird in the habit of your home.
In the wild, budgerigars, like most birds, live in open areas. Although their natural homeland is in a fairly hot region in Australia, they don’t do well in areas without water, and have been known to migrate to avoid drought conditions.
That means they experience the fact of rain in the outdoors – something they’re (at least hopefully) not likely to experience while in your home.
And budgies – again, like most birds – make use of the rain in the wild.
Where it’s not regularly raining, birds like budgies will also instinctively ‘bathe’ in puddles.
There are several reasons why budgies take baths – and why an occasional spray mist from a bottle can help replicate this behavior from the wild, to their benefit.
In the first place, using water on their feathers is a necessary grooming and “self-care” regime in the wild.
Without keeping their feathers in condition, their ability to fly (be it to avoid predators, to migrate on cue, or to find food or nest-building materials) could well be compromised. Bathing or showering helps maintain their feathers in top condition.
It can also help promote their preening activity, and more healthy preening equates to fewer instances of behaviors like feather picking and plucking. Fewer unnecessary bald spots have got to be good for the bird’s overall plumage and ability to efficiently fly.
It’s also thought to be likely that an occasional misting from a spray bottle (in the absence of an environment where they can be allowed outside to take advantage of the rain) helps invigorate their skin – just as it does to us of a morning before we have to face the rigors of our day.
What else is a power shower but a scaled-up misting bottle to make us feel alive?
Budgies in the wild have been observed taking ‘showers’ of various kinds, including rubbing themselves against especially soggy vegetation to get the water onto their feathers.
They’ve also been observed in captivity trying to emulate that showering experience by turning up water bowls or trying to get their drinking water onto their feathers.
It seems likely they are trying to get the benefits of a quick shower on their feathers, as would be the easiest thing in the world for them to access in the wild, but which we rarely think of providing them in our homes.
There’s a sound reason for that, of course. Budgies at ‘bathtime’ tend to be indiscriminate about where else the water goes, so long as they get it onto their feathers.
By giving them an occasional gentle misting from a spray bottle, you can avoid the soggy carnage of a budgie in a full feather-fluffing fun-fest with an abundance of water – while still helping them get the positive effect of water on their feathers.
If your budgie is molting, it’s particularly important to help them along with occasional misting. Why? Because misting can help soften and loosen the sheath that covers new pin feathers. Get the sheath soggy with a spray bottle and it makes it easier for them to remove during preening behavior.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that many captive birds – especially including budgies – are used to humid environments in the wild. Their lungs and respiratory systems have adapted to those environments, and ours, relatively speaking, haven’t.
So we tend not to keep our homes hot and clammy, which means they can have increasing difficulty breathing our relatively dry air.
Again, an occasional misting with a spray bottle can add the moisture to their immediate environment that helps give them a decent chance to breathe. Better breathing leads to healthier lung function – and all from an occasional squeeze-bottle misting on their plumage. Who knew?
Naturally, it follows from all this that if you live in a drier region, and at drier times of year like high summer, you might well need to mist your budgie more often than a budgie-owner in more naturally humid environments, or during wetter seasons, most especially fall.
How to mist your budgie
Step 1 – make sure the spray bottle you use has never contained chemicals – if you’re misting your budgie with a bottle that used to contain window-cleaning chemicals, wellll, no bird’s going to thank you for that.
Especially in terms of helping them to breathe more easily, imagine you stepped into your shower one day and Clorox came out of the hose. Not good for you, not good for them. Brand-new bottles please, never used for chemical sprays.
Step 2 – check the nozzle. Most spray bottles have an adjustable nozzle that can change whether the water comes out as a full-on jet spray or a calming mist. Getting this right can make the difference between, say, a power shower and a water cannon.
You are not trying to knock your budgie over backward, they’re not about to loot a local Wal-Mart. Gentle spray is what we’re looking for to help the budgie get the benefits.
Step 3 – You don’t need anything fancy. Simple plain water at room temperature will be fine for your budgie. It doesn’t need to be iced Perrier, budgies are not brand snobs.
There’s an addendum to this – unless your vet has specifically advised you to use a particularly balanced misting liquid, there’s no need to spend additional bucks on avian misting products.
Step 4 – Mist all over, but don’t saturate the poor bird. You ever been caught out in a rainstorm so bad it cuts through your raincoat, soaks through your clothes, till you can feel it soggy in your socks and underwear with every miserable step you take?
Mm-hmm – you saturate your bird’s plumage, that’s what you’re giving them. Not the healthy, hearty morning shower that helps them breathe, but the over-saturation that leaves them sodden through and through. If you see beads of water accumulating on the bird’s body, put down the spray-gun, you’re done playing God to Noah for today.
If you’re not used to misting your budgie, they might be as apprehensive about it as you are. Start working it into their daily routine – observe their reaction and adjust the routine as necessary.
This may sound nuts to you at first, but some budgies will get skittish when they see you pick up the spray bottle at first. Naturally, if you’ve had an accident and hit them in the face with a stream of water while practicing, that’s going to take a little longer to correct.
Try leaving the bottle in their vicinity or eyeline for a few days. It will become almost literally a ‘part of the furniture,’ which might well ease any skittishness they have towards it.
If the skittishness continues, there are ways to bribe them around to the idea. As when feeding a baby, sometimes if they see you experience a thing first, it will put them at their ease.
Likewise with budgies – mist yourself first. Heck, you can even go the whole hog and make a kind of preening use of the water – who doesn’t feel like a quick face-wash now and then?
Also, you can train their endurance and/or enjoyment of this artificial indoor shower technique by providing a food treat when it’s done, so they learn to positively associate with the task.
If you want to go further towards recreating their situation in the wild, you can go one better than misting. Get a bowl, or the sink, and train them to see it as a source of potential bird-bathing.
Alternatively, damp down some kale leaves, add them to a tray, and allow your bird or birds the closest thing to a damp towel-down they’ll get this side of the wild.
Misting, or any of these more advanced alternatives, will help your budgie in terms of their breathing, their feather-health, and their skin vitality. Besides, it’s something they’re instinctively drawn to.
And besides, who doesn’t want to mist a bird from time to time? It’ll enhance their quality of life, and there’s every likelihood it will enhance yours too.