Clipping Your Bird’s Feathers and Nails

Clipping your bird’s wings and nails is easy—once your vet shows you how.

Whether or not to clip the flight feathers crosses the mind of every bird owner. While your bird could still take flight for short distances, clipped feathers will keep her from flying away during training or even if she is just startled.  This is good for bird owners, of course, but can also be beneficial to the bird herself — if the animal is in an environment where she will be safer and happier in the care of her owner.

Even the most responsible bird owner's home can present hazards to a bird in flight — ceiling fans, open doors and windows or skylights can all be dangerous for a flying bird. Clipping your bird's wings tends to keep her safer from accidental injuries.
How to clip feathers
Clipping your bird's feathers is relatively easy. It is best if a veterinarian, bird breeder, or trained pet shop employee shows you how to do it first. It is painless and when birds molt, new flight feathers replace the old ones. So regular clipping is necessary.  Keep these guidelines in mind when clipping your birds' feathers:

  1. Use a sharp scissors and point them away from your bird’s body.
  2. Cut the primary flight feathers (the long outermost feathers) to limit propulsion. Use the dorsal majors as a guide and cut just below these feathers.
  3. Using these feathers as a guide should assure you that you will not cut into any blood feathers and not cause any pain or harm to your bird.
  4. Have a styptic powder on hand in case you accidentally do cut into any blood feathers. The styptic powder (baking soda and flour are household examples) will cause the feathers to clot and will stop the bleeding.

How to clip nails
Clipping your bird's claw nails is another tricky task. If your bird's nails become too long, perching can become difficult and she could get caught on something.  Again, your veterinarian can guide you the first time.  When you are ready to do it yourself, keep these guidelines in mind:

  1. Use a specially designed bird nail clipper.
  2. Wrap your bird in a towel to lessen her anxiety.
  3. Cut only the sharp pointed tip of the claw. If you cut too much of the nail, you could cut the quick and the nail will start to bleed.
  4. Keep a styptic powder on hand to stop any accidental bleeding.