blue parakeet
Clipping the Wings of Your Birds

Is Wing Clipping Cruel?

There are some misconceptions about clipping the wings of birds. Think of wing clipping as a haircut – feathers grow back after a period of time, and wings are simply clipped to keep the bird safe. It is not the same as declawing a cat, which involves amputating part of the cat’s toe at the second knuckle.

If a bird owner wants to ensure that his bird will not fly away or get hurt while out of the cage in the house, he’ll elect to clip the bird’s wings.

Dangers for Indoor Birds

caged parakeet
How active is your parakeet? Photo by Bob Ghost on Unsplash.

Birds are unique pets in that their habitats are wildly different from what is offered in captivity. In the same vein, they’re presented with different dangers when kept indoors as pets. Outside, birds face a number of predators, like feral cats and dogs, hawks, snakes, and more. It’s true that, inside, a curious housecat that still likes to hunt might see the bird as prey, but for the most part, predators are no longer present.

However, birds that are let out of their cages to wander the house can potentially hurt themselves due to the lack of familiarity with the home and a different level of perception. Everyone has encountered a wild bird that died after flying into a clean window – and windows function the same inside. A pet bird can easily be flying around the house and suddenly crash into a window and break its neck.

In addition to windows, birds that are left to fly around may actually escape by flying through an open door or window. They can also fly into ceiling fans, land on hot stoves, fall in the toilet, or get trapped elsewhere.

Many of these dangers are alleviated by wing clipping. It’s very difficult to train a bird to avoid danger, and nigh impossible to suppress the flight instinct that would allow them to flee. When a bird’s wings are clipped, they’re less likely to get injured in such a way. They are incapable of regular flight, but can still fly short distances and land softly.

Dangers of Over-Clipping Wings

Too many bird owners try to clip their bird’s wings by themselves without consulting a groomer or an expert. This can easily result in the wings getting clipped way too much, or the wrong feathers getting snipped.

If you over-clip a bird’s wings, there are many problems. For one, the bird won’t be able to fly at all, and he won’t be able to move around too well. More importantly, though, his ability to land gently and without injury will be gone. Birds rely on their feathers to guide them to the ground. Picture yourself falling without arms – there’s no way to brace for impact. Birds can easily sustain injuries from falling off their perches or from furniture if their wings are not functional.

Additionally, if you try to clip your bird’s wings, you might encounter blood feathers. Blood feathers are in the process of growing – and if they’re cut, they’ll bleed. This is extremely painful for the bird; the feather may need to be plucked. In the worst case, the bird may actually bleed out if you’re unable to treat the wound.

Should I Clip My Bird’s Wings?

macaw in flight
A macaw in flight is truly beautiful. Photo by
Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It will depend on your home and your bird. A few reasons to refrain from clipping your bird’s wings include:

  • Windows are frosted glass
  • Windows are drawn with curtains
  • Doors are closed when the bird is allowed out of its cage
  • No knowledge of how to clip feathers
  • No other pets in the house
  • No feasible escape routes for the bird
  • Keep your bird in good health by letting him exercise by flying
  • The bird can escape dangers and isn’t helpless

If you feel that your bird will be safer with clipped wings, it might be the best option. However, it’s still recommended that you visit a groomer for the first time so you can learn how to clip the wings by yourself. If you fail to clip your bird’s wings properly, there may be sharp edges that can irritate the bird’s skin. Some birds tear their own feathers out or self-mutilate for this reason.

Wing Clipping Details

Birds’ wings are made up of a number of different feathers: primaries, secondaries, axillaries, and coverts. Some of the primary feathers are clipped, but not all of them – the goal is to prevent total flight, but to allow the bird to fly short distances and land gracefully.

By clipping primary feathers, you reduce the risk of damage while the bird is in its cage. Birds may flap their wings aggressively or panic at times if they get scared, and if they beat their wings too hard against the bars, they can sustain injuries. With shortened feathers, the risk of damage is greatly decreased.

Bear in mind that as long as you aren’t clipping blood feathers, the bird will feel no sensation when the feathers are clipped.

Importantly, birds molt every so often to replace the feathers that have become worn or damaged. Therefore, it’s sensible to clip a bird’s wings shortly after a molt cycle has completed. This will maximize the time between trims. If you clip your bird’s wings late after a molt, they’ll start to grow back rather quickly. Keep track of the time between molts so you always know exactly when to clip your pet’s wings.

Bird Care and More at Allan’s Pet Center

If you’re a first-time bird owner, you might need sufficient information on caring for your new pet, including how to clip a bird’s wings. If so, don’t hesitate to contact Allan’s Pet Center. We have a number of birds available in store, and we’re experts on handling and grooming everything from parakeets and lovebirds to parrots and macaws. Birds are beautiful creatures and wonderful pets, so it’s important that you give them the utmost care possible.

Visit Allan’s Pet Center in East Los Angeles or West Los Angeles today for wing-clipping help!

Allan's Pet Center

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