Have you ever noticed how dry your hands get in the winter? Or how the texture of your hair changes? Sometimes your throat and nasal passages can become dry and sore. This is due to the low humidity in the air, often during the winter months when our heaters are in use.
Underneath all of those beautiful feathers, a parrot has skin that needs care just as ours does. When skin becomes dry, it gets itchy – when we’re itchy, we scratch. Skin conditions are sometimes the underlying cause of plucking in a bird. If you are noticing changes to your own skin, you might want to consider buying a humidifier.
There are many types of humidifiers on the market, all offering different advantages and drawbacks. The purpose of any humidifier is to put moisture into the air, but this can be accomplished in different ways. An evaporative humidifier, which I find to be the best choice for those of us with parrots, is energy efficient and has filters that prevent the introduction of microorganisms and minerals into the air.
However, they have to be kept clean to avoid bacteria collection and eliminate stagnant water, and although most newer models include filtration to help with this, it will be a weekly chore. Use vinegar and water or GSE (grapefruit seed extract) for cleaning. Make sure that the model you select is convenient to clean and check for any antibacterial options available.
A cool-mist evaporative humidifier eliminates the possibility of a scalding accident, however, vets recommend that we use a warm-mist humidifier with parrots because the heating of the water eliminates some mold spores and other fungals that might be dispersed into the air. Also, a cool-mist humidifier takes several hours to bring the room to the desired humidity level (usually 50% or less) and tends to blow cool air- not a desired effect in the winter.
Be sure to note the tank size and buy one that is appropriate to the size of the room/s that you are humidifying. This will save you the trouble of frequently having to refill the tank. Also, make sure it has adjustable fan settings.
Remember that this will be operating around a parrot with a sensitive respiratory system. Never add any chemicals, medicines or fragrances to the water and be aware that a dirty humidifier will throw unhealthful molds and bacteria into your breathing space. Always be sure to place your humidifier in an area that distributes the mist evenly and is in a safe location away from prying beaks.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.