Clip a Parrot’s Wings
Wing clipping is controversial. It may stop your bird from flying out and escaping, but they can become injured by crash-landing when they can no longer fly properly. Think carefully first, and consider the alternatives that are recommended by bird trainers and behaviorists, including clicker training a bird to recall, so you can safely let them out of their cages. If you truly have no other option, then consider clipping as a last resort.
Determining When and Whether to Clip
Ask yourself whether you want to clip your bird’s wings.
There are strong arguments on either side — both for and against clipping. Those who caution against it say that birds were meant to fly and we should not interfere with a parrot’s natural inclinations. Clipping the parrot’s wings deprives them of this basic freedom. Consider other options first.
- If you are planning to show your bird, it should never be clipped.
Train your bird.
Parrots respond very well to clicker training, and you can train your parrot to return to you when called. You can also use clicker training to modify unwanted behaviors, which can help your parrot stay happy and safe.
- If you are not willing to do the work to train a parrot, then you may want to reconsider if getting a bird is right for you.
Clip the wings for safety reasons indoors.
There are some dangers to letting your bird fly free in your home. They can potentially damage their feathers, knock things over, and consume things that they should not. Many household items can be dangerous to parrots, including toilets and other standing water, lightbulbs and stoves that get hot, ceiling fans, cords to blinds, and windows and mirrors.
- Ask yourself why you want a bird if you don’t want it to fly or don’t feel that your home is a safe environment. Consider that a different pet may be more appropriate.
Prevent your bird from escaping.
Parrots are quick and can take advantage of any open door or window to get out. Once outside, it may be difficult to get bird back if you have not trained them. With clipped wings, the chance of escape is reduced. And if your bird does get out, it’s much easier to get them back.
Don’t clip a baby parrot’s wings.
Bird wings should not be clipped until the bird can fly. Clipping too early can stunt the regular growth of the feathers.
Decide if you want a veterinarian to cut your bird’s wings.
If you’ve never done it before, it’s advisable to have your vet do it the first time. That way you can see how it works and then decide if you want to continue to do it at home.
Cutting the Wings
Prepare to cut the wings.
Find an assistant, a towel suitable for the size of the bird, a sharp pair of scissors, and styptic powder, available at pet stores. Styptic powder is essential if you end up cutting too much and your parrot bleeds. If you don’t want to clip your parrot’s wings yourself, ask the assistant to clip them.
Use a towel.
Drape the towel over both of your hands. Stay relaxed and face your bird. Gently wrap the towel around it if possible. If not, toss the towel over the bird and gently but firmly place your index finger on the top of its head and your other fingers around the sides of its lower beak. This will prevent biting and allow you and your assistant to arrange the towel safely. Make sure the feet are secured inside the towel to prevent scratching.
- Birds are very sensitive to stress, and it is possible that the bird may have a heart attack when forcibly restrained.
Determine which feathers to cut.
Pull a wing out of the towel restraint and find the primary flight feathers. These will be the last ten and longest feathers on the wing. Talk to your vet before you cut the first time — different birds (depending on size) might need different feathers cut.
Using the scissors, cut off the ends off the outer six or seven.
Leave a few centimeters between the cut end of the feather and the smaller feathers above. You may be tempted to leave the outer one or two alone for appearance’s sake, but this is unadvised as this may be enough to give your bird the lift it needs to fly.
Avoid cutting the “blood” or “pin” feathers.
These feathers are new and just starting to grow out, still endowed with a waxy sheath and plenty of blood supply for growth. You should be able to see the blood in the feather tube. Generally if you accidentally cut one of these, the blood will clot on its own. However, if you end up re-injuring one of these, the blood probably won’t clot. If you are inexperienced, you should keep Kwik Stop or another styptic powder handy to immediately stop the bleeding. Birds have very little blood, so stopping a bleed quickly is important.
Cut the other wing.
Do it in the same way you did the first wing. Cutting less off both sides is much better than cutting one wing (making the bird list to one side and unable to fly).