My Parakeet Won't Take a Bath and is Molting

User Question
Hi, Lisa! Let me begin by thanking you so much for this wonderful Site. It's been a great help to me due to a rather unusual circumstance.

An elderly neighbor of mine was hospitalized over a month ago, and I volunteered to care for her parakeet. The last bird I had was a canary when my son was little, which was over thirty years ago. I remembered a few things from back then, but that was all. I Googled parakeet care, but everyone else was selling books. Since I'm disabled and homebound, I had neither the ability to go to a store, nor the desire to purchase something that will probably be of no use to me very soon. Therefore, discovering your Site was a huge relief and great help to me.

At any rate, not to take up too much of your time, I have a couple of things I'd like to run by you. I've really bonded with this bird, and want to care for him to the best of my ability. While he's really not interested in the toys in his cage, and rarely looks in the mirror, once he was here for a few days and had settled in, he started doing a lot of singing, especially when I play music on the radio or turn on the tv. It was a joy to read on your Site just what each of the different sounds he makes mean. I talk to him a lot, and he's very responsive. Since I'm always home, he's gotten used to having someone here all the time, and starts to yell when I go to the bathroom or out into my apartment lobby for a short time. I really am enjoying having him here, and will be sad to see him go when his owner returns. I'm even thinking about buying one for myself, but would rather keep him and buy a new bird for his owner, LOL!

I put a bowl of water in his cage so he could take a bath, but he paid no attention to it. My aide then bought a really cute "bath tub" from the pet store, but he showed absolutely no interest in it. My neighbor's aide told me that they used to have a bath that attached to the outside of the cage, so I searched the 'Net, and found several of them. I ordered one, and it arrived over a week ago. Again, he refuses to go near it. She told me he used to go in theirs and have a grand old time for himself.

Therefore, I was wondering what I can do to get him to take a bath? Will his not bathing cause him any damage? How important is it that he bathe? I see from what you wrote that they enjoy the water (as he did previously), but is it essential to their health? I don't want to frighten him, as he's getting more and more used to me, but will pick him up and put him in the water if necessary. He still won't let me touch him, but no longer skitters away when I approach his cage.

My aide cleans his cage and gives him fresh water and food every day. We also got him a treat stick from the pet store, which he loves.

My other question is about molting. When he recently started losing his feathers, I figured it was because of the approaching summer. However, when I was covering his cage tonight, he raised his wings just long enough for me to see something that worries me. It's hard to describe, but under his wings, from where the down's been falling out, it looks a mess and kind of raw, for lack of a better description. I don't want to frighten him by reaching in and trying to inspect him, so I thought I'd run this by you first. Is this normal, and will it improve over time? I'm unable to get to a vet, and couldn't afford one anyway.

As you can probably tell, I've become very fond of "Billy," and want to do whatever's necessary to give him a good home. I know I've gone on and on, but as a bird lover, I'm sure you understand. Thank you again for your wonderful Site. It's much appreciated, and I'm sure I'm not the only person (or bird!) who's benefited from it.

Lisa's Answer
On the bath issue, it won't harm the keet not to bathe. I would just give the keet time on the bath. As she gets used to the water being there, she'll start going towards it more and more and will eventually hop in. If you want to encourage this a bit more aggressively you can always remove her normal water dish so she has to go to the bathtub to drink, and then she might hop in too.

Birds do naturally molt when summer comes so it is probably just the summertime molting going on. When a bird loses its old feathers, the new ones then "poke through" and start out short and stubbly. So it does look rather odd and the bird gets VERY itchy. You might try, when the bird learns to trust you a bit more, gently rubbing the area with a finger. Birds especially love this around their head when the new feathers come in. They get quite itchy there! So I wouldn't worry too much about the area where the feathers are growing in. If the molting continues to the point that there are actually bald spots, I might talk to a vet. But for the past few weeks my floor has been covered with feathers as my keets have gone through their molting, it seems to be slowing down now.

Now that you're having so much fun with a parakeet, hopefully however it turns out with your friend, you'll get to have a parakeet of your own going forward! You could either end up keeping this one or getting a new baby that will become fond of you right from the beginning of its life. Either way would be quite fun :)

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