Sunday, September 26, 2004

Lyman tells me that Lucy did well in my absence until Thursday. She stopped eating, preening and making noise then. Such a mama's girl.

One of mama's responsibilities is the bath. Lucy will tolerate a bath from Lyman, but she prefers me for that task. We've settled on two a week. Birds need a good soaking with water occasionally to keep their feathers in good condition.

Lucy bathes in the kitchen sink, like all seven of my mother's babies. Hers is a shower under the sprayer, though.

We tend to bathe her at about 5 in the afternoon, after she's emerged from her afternoon rest and before she starts her evening feeding.

First, lay a quarter-folded sheet of newspaper on the counter to the left of my monitor and set her short table-top perch on top, in front of her White-Westinghouse personal fan heater (model WWFH1170, much like one of these).

Then wash the sink and stopper thoroughly with dish liquid and rinse well. Insert the stopper and lay a clean thick washcloth in the bottom of the sink so those delicate feet don't tangle with the stopper. Lay a clean white terry dishtowel out on the cutting board to the right of the sink. Make sure the under-cabinet lights are on.

Adjust a mild flow of water until it is lukewarm.

Take a bathroom break because of the running water.

Catch Lucy. Sometimes this is supremely easy, accomplished with a simple "step-up" command. Yesterday she gave me a good nip on the knuckle because she wasn't ready for a bath at that moment. If she's difficult, turn off the water and wait a few minutes. Lucy likes a bath, so yesterday's was an infrequent occurrence.

At the sink, turn on the sprayer and wet the washcloth in the sink, and set her down in the sink. Then start spraying, avoiding her eyes and nasal passages. I start at her feet, then move under her tail, around to her breast, then her wings, both over and under. Sometimes she'll run around in the water, spreading her wings so it's easy to wash her thoroughly. Sometimes she huddles in the corner, so I have to lift her wings to wash under them and turn her whole body around to get the other side. She rarely nips when I do this.

Once she's been completely soaked (except for those parts of her head) I turn off the water, and tell her to step up. When she's up, I ask if she'd like to flap a bit, then I tell her to step down at a certain spot on the dishtowel. When she's down, I flip the ends of the dishtowel over her, pick her up, and hold her close to blot excess water from her feathers. She stays in the towel for a few seconds then I unwrap her and set her on her playtree where she gives herself a good shake.

She looks like this after a bath.

If it's warm, I leave her there for a while. If not, I take her to the perch by my monitor where the little heater is set on medium. She'll preen and doze there until she is ready to go to her perch for a treat of seeds.

Other birds bathe differently. Some prefer a mist bottle, some like a pan of water, and some have perches in the family shower. But they all need that hydration for their feathers at least once a week.

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