You are sitting on the couch with your pet parrot perched on one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. You glanced at your bird’s gorgeous, wing feathers shimmering with green, red and blue. Then you stare at the sharp, long-bladed scissors in your hand. You can’t decide what to do. Should you clip your bird’s wings to keep her from flying or should you leave those beautiful feathers the way nature intended?
This can be a tough decision for any bird owner. Before making up your mind, do some research. There are various opinions on this topic, and both sides have valid points. Don’t make up your mind too quickly. Simply take some time to evaluate what is best for you and your bird.
Pros and Cons of Wing Clipping
Clipping your bird’s wings can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. First of all, it prevents your bird from flying away through an open door or window, never to be seen again. It also keeps the bird safer while in the house. If a bird cannot fly, he will be less likely to fly into a mirror, window or glass door. He will also be unable to reach toxic substances that are placed on high shelves. In addition, a bird whose wings are clipped will be unable to fly around a dangerously hot stove or perch on the top of a door, where his feet could accidentally get smashed if you or a family member accidentally shuts the door.
If your bird has clipped wings, he will generally be easier to handle and less likely to dodge you when you try to catch him. Some people also believe that wing clipping makes a bird more agreeable and easier to train, but this is not always the case. The best way to determine whether or not wing clipping will help your bird become a better student is to first try to train him with unclipped wings. If he proves to be a failing student, consider clipping his wings. This may help him realize that he needs to pay attention to his human teacher.
Okay, now for the down side. By taking away a bird’s flying ability you also remove his natural defenses. A bird who is unable to fly cannot escape from common predators such as cats or dogs. In addition, birds with clipped wings may easily lose their balance, causing them to fall repetitively. This can cause a bird to injure his chest, breast and tail feathers. Broken tail feathers can become infected and cause a bird to habitually pluck any new feathers that grow in.
Many avian enthusiasts believe that flying promotes a vigorous respiratory tract. So birds who are unable to fly are at risk for developing a weaker respiratory system. Flying also promotes healthy exercise. If you take away a bird's ability to fly, you will be removing the primary way they relieve spent-up energy.
In Europe, clipping a bird’s wings is believed to be animal cruelty and is never practiced by respectable bird owners. Europeans believe that wing clipping damages a bird’s emotional and physiological health making him prone to aggression, depression and fear.
Working Through the Issue—A Happy Medium
So now you are familiar with two lines of thought—one says yes, clip your bird’s wings, because it will prevent your bird from escaping from you. The second line of thought says never clip your bird’s wings as it can damage his physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. Now you’re really confused. You put your parrot back in his bird cage and ponder the issue.
Well, in reality, you don’t have to choose on method over the other, you can choose a happy medium and give your parrot the best of both worlds.
For many people it would be difficult to safely keep a bird without clipping its wings. One option is to clip only the first two flight feathers. This allows your bird to still fly, without being able to go too far or too high. Some birds, such as cockatiels, are extremely fast and skilled flyers. It’s probably a good idea to clip at least the first two flight feathers to prevent them from flying into households objects or escaping through an open window.
A second option is to allow your bird to keep all his flight feathers during the winter months. Then clip them once the weather is nice enough to open windows and doors. This option allows your bird to still enjoy the physical and emotional stimulation of flying, while preventing him from escaping.
If you want your bird to be able to fly for part of the year, or all year long, you may want to invest in a flight cage or bird aviary. These bird enclosures will allow your parrot to fly in a contained area. He can stretch his wings and still be safe from danger and escape.
Custom Cages offers several spacious garden aviaries that provide a great outdoor play area for 4-5 medium sized birds or a whole colony of smaller birds. If you live in a wet or cold area of the country, you may want to consider purchasing an indoor aviary or flight cage instead. Many of the Hybrid bird enclosures, offered by Custom Cages are large enough for your bird to extend his full wing span and fly from perch to perch. They also have a large, open view allowing you to see your bird interact & fly about his habitat. Guests will love to watch your magnificent bird play about his avairy.
The Eight foot–diameter Indoor/Outdoor Aviary offered by Custom Cages is a majestic piece of furniture that will crown your home with a stroke of elegance. Plus it will provide hours of delightful play for your feathered companions. The flooring is made out of metal bracketing and quality linoleum that is secured to each cage panel. This creates a 4 inch deep pan that can be filled with bedding and easily cleaned.These types of is type of indoor aviaries can also be easily disassembled and transported outside during the warmer months.
If you decide to invest in an aviary, be sure to purchase a safety catch in order to prohibit your bird from accidentally escaping when you open the cage door.
How to Properly Clip Your Bird’s Wings
If you have never clipped a bird’s wings before, it is best to have an experienced bird owner or avian veterinarian show you how. It’s important that you hold your bird correctly during this process. Birds breathe differently than humans, so holding a bird around its chest may prohibit breathing. When clipping your bird’s wings, lay the bird on his back. The chest should protrude upward and the bird should appear relaxed. Your hand should be around the birds head with your finger on either side of the jaw. You may also want to place a small towel over your bird’s feet so it has something to grab onto and feels more secure.
Next, have a second person gently extend your pet’s wing and start clipping. If you want to prevent your bird from being able to fly at all, trim 6-7 of the long, primary feathers. Then cut the smaller, secondary feathers all down the wing. This will prevent your bird from flying in even small spurts.
If you would like your bird to maintain some flying ability, trim only the first 2-4 primary fathers and leave the rest. This will still allow your bird the pleasure of flight, but prevent him from flying long distances or escaping through windows.
Each feather should be cut individually, half way up. Afterwards, check all the feathers to be sure there are no sharp or ragged edges. This can cause itching and irritation. Be sure the same feathers on both wings are trimmed. This will prevent uneven flight and help your bird keep his balance.
Avoid Cutting Blood Feathers
These are newly-grown feathers that are still receiving a continual supply of blood. You can will be able to identify these type of feathers by a red vein in the middle. If you accidentally cut a blood feather, gently pull it out to prevent further bleeding. If you are unable to remove a damaged blood feather, take your bird to an avian veterinarian immediately.
How Often Should You Clip Your Bird’s Wings?
In order to keep your bird from reaching their full flight capacity, you will need to trim their feathers 1-2 time per year. Since feathers are dead tissues and are unable to heal or restore themselves, birds molt annually. During this process, old, worn out feathers fall out and are replaced with new feathers. Old flight feathers are also replaced. So an annual trim is needed to keep your bird from suddenly developing his ability to fly.