I knew nothing about exotic birds when I adopted Reggie. I wrote this after struggling for weeks to get Reggie to take showers, something parrots are supposed to love. I figured I couldn’t be the only parrot-parent with a shower-shunning bird; so here are my tips on showering your cockatoo (or any persnickety parrot):

I just took a shower. Do I look happy?

  1. Don’t think about water, showers, or general wetness. Many cockatoo manuals I read after adopting my bird wrote of Cockatoo Shower Bliss. This, I found, is a myth—like unicorns, mermaids, and effective weight-loss pills. Books didn’t mention cockatoos’ psychic abilities–they know what you’re thinking.
  2. Prepare the shower in advance and under the cover of darkness, while the bird assumes you are engaged in some cockatoo-pleasing activity like preparing elaborate food it will snub like a New York Times Food Critic offered a vending machine sandwich.
  3. Ensure the shower temperature is spa-like.  Essential oils and calming music are nice. Your cockatoo won’t care, but these extras make the experience more pleasant for you. Avoid burning candles.  You don’t want to end up in the nearest burn-victim unit. Cockatoos can make quite a fuss even with clipped wings. Imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller, The Birds. Cockatoos watch this film as part of their adoption preparation. They find it inspirational; just ask them.
  4. Set up a perch in the shower for the cockatoo to stand on.  From your perspective, you are creating a safe, comfortable enviroment; from the cockatoo’s perspective, you are building a torture chamber.
  5. Extract the bird from the cage. Usually escape an artist, the cockatoo will now decide “there’s no place like home”. Use a towel or Kevlar sleeve for protection, and to stop the bleeding from a likely attack. In my experience, 911 operators are less than professional when handling cockatoo-attack emergencies, so be prepared to go it alone.
  6. After the trauma of getting your cockatoo out of the cage, talk, sing, or play with the bird on your way to the shower.  This won’t help the bird because it’s miffed, but these activities may relax you.
  7. Get the bird to stand on the perch in the shower. This may entail extracting eight talons from your arm then doing the “Cockatoo
    Watusi”—twisting and turning while the bird jitter-bugs on your head or upper back.
  8. In a calm voice, tell the bird that the shower is beginning and that beauty and fun will follow. The bird will shimmy to the furthest edge of the perch away from you in an attempt to avoid “water-boarding.”
  9. Shower the bird like you are giving a sponge bath to a burly, irritated big-rig trucker with personal space issues.  Go slowly, carefully, and don’t take your eyes off the thing for even a second if you value your appendages.
  10. After the bird is thoroughly soaked and looks nothing like its formal regal self, your job is nearly complete.  To assuage the bird’s pride, repeat “pretty bird, almost done, good bird, this too shall pass, or The Lord is my Shepard…” Whatever works.
  11. Wrap the cockatoo in a towel and whisk it away to the safety of its cage. There will be much shaking and fluffing. The bird will be busy doing its own thing.
  12. You  have 24 hours to recover before the next shower.  Don’t think about that. Remember, cockatoos  can read minds.