When it comes to bathing, parakeets are like people. Some enjoy baths; some like the sprinkle of a shower instead. Some parakeets will bathe every day if they can, while for others, once a week is fine. Give your bird a chance to try different baths and see what happens.
Start by offering your birdie a dish to bathe in. Use a bird bath designed specifically for parakeets or other small parrots. Or, get creative and use a plant saucer or any shallow bowl. Fill the tub or dish about halfway with room temperature or cool water and place it on the bottom of her cage. Or, if she regularly comes out of the cage, set it outside the cage on a towel, as she's likely to splash around a lot. Set out the bath every few days so she gets used to it, whether she tries it or not. If she tries it once and comes back another day to use it again, she likes it. If not, try another method of bathing.
In the Shower
Parakeets tend to like the sound of running water, so it's a great opportunity to introduce a shower. Remember that water flowing in a sink can seem like a "shower" to a small bird. If he comes over to check it out, turn the water stream to a small, cool trickle so it doesn't scare him away. Or place him in a human-size bathtub and use a hand-held sprayer as the "shower." Some birds like to take showers with their owners. This is best attempted once you know your feathered friend likes to shower. Remove soaps and shampoos from the shower. Place him on a towel bar or in the corner of the floor. If he ventures in and likes it, you can buy special perches made for this purpose.
Misting and Spritzing
Other parakeets prefer light misting or spritzing with a spray bottle. Buy an empty sprayer, not one that previously had cleaners or chemicals in it. Depending on the size of the sprayer, misting can be done in the cage. Clear the cage of food dishes before misting her. Spray from above and let the mist float down to her, then gradually get her used to more direct spraying. Avoid spraying her in the eyes. Aim for light misting and spraying, not drenching her with water. If your bird likes to come out of her cage, mist her outside or in the sink.
Some birds who appear not to like bathing, and resist every method you try, are actually bathing in their water dish. Watch carefully to see if your bird is bathing this way. You may think she's heading down for a drink, but instead, she dips her beak in further and tosses the water back onto her head or body. She may even dip her whole head in, or turn around and sit in the dish. Empty the water dish and clean it after her "bath," and try offering two water dishes. She may get the idea to use one for drinking and one for bathing.
Give your bird a bath once the house or outside air has warmed up, but with enough time to air-dry before evening. How often to offer a bath depends on what your bird seems to prefer. Start by putting out the bathing dish every day and see how often she goes for it. If she prefers misting or showering, every few days is good enough to keep dander down and her skin moisturized. If she really enjoys bathing with any method, she may like a daily bath. After bathing she'll usually retreat to a perch to preen. You'll notice her dipping her beak into the oil gland on her back, then carefully and methodically running each feather through her beak to make her coat shine.
The Reluctant Bather
A few birds never take to any type of water bath, and preen enough to keep their feathers clean and bright. If this describes your bird, and he's not itching or picking at his skin, the preening alone is probably sufficient. Continue to offer a bath now and then though; he may just go for it.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.