WATER, REFRESHING, ENERGIZING, FUN, AND ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY FOR LIFE
As we know, a lack of water for a substantial time can cause dehydration. How long a bird can go without water and suffer no lasting ill effects can vary greatly among the different species. In some species such as finches and canaries it may be as short as only a few hours before it begins to affect their kidneys. Birds such as Budgies and Cockatiels are native to dryer regions and may be okay for a few hours without water before any lasting health issue arise.
As we know dehydration in all of us can be serious, and in birds it can cause long term health issues that may affect your bird permanently. Female birds in general often drink more water than males, and breeding females require even more water to help with egg laying and even more if they are feeding babies. Also older birds or birds with health issues may require more access to water. Birds who eat mostly or only pelleted diets will routinely drink more water than birds that are mainly eating a seed diet. Birds who eat fresh fruits and vegetables may drink less water from a dish or bottle as they are getting additional moisture from their food.
Open Water Dish vs. Water Bottle:
Using open water bowls have both pros and cons. Many birds just love to splash around in their dishes and all that splashing and bathing can add needed moisture to their feathers, especially during molts, which is a good thing. However all that splashing may also result in an empty water dish and thereby preventing any drinking water for the rest of the day.
Birds are also notorious for soaking their foods, especially pellets, in their water dishes often preferring a softer food or creating that interesting "birdie soup" as I like to call it. Unfortunately, the above fun activities also keep their humans busy trying hard to keep clean water in the dish.
Using Water Bottles also has some good and bad points. Water bottles can help greatly in providing clean drinking water for our birds daily. However using a water bottle can also take away the fun baths and soup mixtures (which may or may not be a good thing). If you prefer to use a water bottle instead of an open water dish, you will need to be sure your bird is in fact drinking from the water bottle before removing the open dish. Placing the bottle over the regular water dish may help your bird discover the bottle tube easier and your bird may give it a try quicker this way. You should monitor for at least a week to see if your bird drinks from the bottle before taking away the dish. Most birds quickly learn to drink from water bottles, but there are the few who take a while or need a little extra time and some help in the transition. Some birds may take a few days, some may take a few weeks. Be patient and be sure before removing the dish completely.
When I convert a bird from an open dish to a water bottle, even after I see the bird drinking from the bottle, I like to add the open water dish for a while before bedtime as a double check on sufficient water needs.
A few issues of using a water bottle can also include these "tricks" your bird may learn. Some birds learn how fun it is to shower under the water bottle tube. I have a Jenday Conure named Bobbie who will completely empty her water bottle in the process of taking her shower. Some birds (like my Green Cheek Taz) also discover how much fun it is to push seeds and other foods (and even a small toy part or two) up the water bottle tube, blocking the water flow completely. This causes the water bottle to look full of fresh water, however unless you squeeze the bottle, tap the top, or shake the bottle to actually see water come out the tube, you would never suspect your bird has no access to water. Unfortunately, all these fun activities practiced by your bird can result in an empty water bottle very quickly, or a tube that has been stopped up and unable to release water to your bird. That's why I feel it is very important when using water bottles to check every morning and every evening, that the bottle is not stopped up, and contains plenty of water. Never assume just because a bottle looks full, it is working properly.
Water Twice as Nice: Bacteria can begin to grow within 24 hours even in a water bottle, so remember to change the bottle regularly for freshness. Simply attaching a water bottle to your bird's cage or home area and assuming it's all good for the week, is neither safe nor healthy for your bird. Sometimes using both an open water dish, and a water bottle will provide both fun, and clean water for your bird. Maybe offering an open dish along with the water bottle during the day, and removing the open dish and leaving the bottle for night time will be a good solution to provide clean water for all the needs of your bird
Don't forget about those refreshing spray baths and showers and how important water is for your bird's feather health. It does not matter if your bird enjoys bathing in a dish, sink, shower, or a fun spray bath with a pump water sprayer. Water helps soften new feather shafts, refreshes feathers, helps control dander, adds moisture to the skin, and just plain makes those feathers gorgeous. Not to mention the sheer joy of watching a bathing bird.
Birds who over-preen tend to do less damage to wet feathers so that daily or almost daily bath can be of great benefit in these instances. Regular bathing allows a bird to satisfy the natural preening action without causing as much damage as they might to dry feathers. Over-preening also tends to occur less in birds who bathe on a regular basis. Regular bathing helps make feathers healthier and stronger allowing them to help withstand a bird who is a little more aggressive in preening. Birds can get dry skin too and it can be quite itchy which bathing helps as well.
I would love to see pictures of your bathing beauties too!