Clipping a bird’s wings can be a challenging task, especially if you are trying to do it for the first time. But, with patience and proper guidance you can do it yourself at home, which would eventually also help strengthen the bond between you and your bird.
Why should you clip your bird’s wings
It is often argued that clipping a bird’s wings is cruel, depriving it of one of its most natural abilities. Some people also say that it is a traumatic experience for a bird, and that clipping its wings deprives it from proper exercise, resulting in obesity. However, in truth, the bird remains perfectly capable of spreading and lifting its wings to glide short distances during exercise or an outdoor session. Clipping also has a few benefits for pet birds:
- It prevents the bird from flying and hitting the ceiling fan or a wall, also keeping it from trying to escape through an open window (smaller birds might fall prey to birds of prey if they fly out without supervision)
- It allows the bird to move freely through the house and spend more time outside of its cage. It will still be able to glide downstairs, or fly a short distance to come sit of your hand or shoulder.
Preparing yourself for the clipping work
Before you actually attempt to do it yourself, it is advisable to talk to a vet and let them show how it is done. You may also ask to assist them as they do the clipping work for your bird the first couple of times. Then, once you are more confident, you can do it easily at home. There are a few steps to prepare for the task:
Choosing the right spot: Find a quiet and peaceful area where you can concentrate, and your bird will also be calm without any sudden trigger to get it excited.
Getting an Assistant: Depending on the size of your bird, you may need help in the clipping process, so it is better to have someone help you. This is especially necessary in cases of larger birds like macaws and cockatoos.
Getting the tools ready: You would need a pair of small sharp scissors, and a thick towel. Keep both at hand as you might need to switch quickly during the clipping process.
How to clip your bird’s wings (for parakeets, cockatoos, parrots, macaws, and smaller birds)
Even though clipping the wings does not hurt (when done properly), it might still be stressful for your bird, and you may expect resistance. It is important to restrain the bird with the towel (for larger birds), or just by your hands (for smaller birds). Make sure not to put too much pressure on the chest. Ask the person helping you to gently hold the bird’s head; otherwise, it might bite you in defense. Now, the work begins:
- Identify the primary flight feathers, as those are the ones to cut. Spread the wing on one side and locate the feathers, as you will only be cutting the longest ones.
- Start from the feather near the wingtip, working your way towards the body, one feather at a time.
- Trim the feathers up to about a quarter of an inch under the smaller feathers.
- Do the same with the other wing, making sure to clip an equal number of feathers from both wings.
Keep an eye out for blood feathers
Blood feathers are newly formed feathers that are still developing, and thus have an active blood supply. Cutting these lead to bleeding. Watch out for any feather with a dark shaft and wide quill, and avoid clipping them. It would be a good idea to leave the feather immediately beside it intact as well.
What to do for a bleeding wing
In case of a bleeding feather, do not panic as it might scare your bird even further. The bleeding usually stops on its own within a short time. But still, make sure to take the bird to the vet as soon as possible to get the broken feather removed entirely. In a healthy bird, an injured blood feather does not usually pose any serious threat.
In case you spot too many blood feathers before starting the clipping, postpone it altogether for a few days.
Once you are done with the clipping, put the bird back in its cage and let it rest for a few hours. The more times it gets the wings clipped, the more comfortable it will get with the whole process.
Video: Quaker parrot gets its wings clipped
How frequently should you clip your bird’s wings
The wings of most birds usually need a clipping within 6 to 10 weeks of the start of a new molt cycle, as the clipped feathers grow back. However, it is important to check your bird’s feathers every few weeks to make sure the primary feathers are not grown too long.