Each pet bird owner, from small Budgies to large Macaws, is faced with the decision of whether to clip their pet’s wings. To help you make an informed decision, here are some pros and cons, which can be applied to your particular bird and situation.

In some cases, it is better to leave birds full flighted:

  1. Birds kept in flight aviaries, or co-habiting with other full flighted birds should not be clipped. For example, you add a new Budgie to your flight aviary…for it’s own protection, make sure it has full flight before entering in with the others.
  2. Birds with specific problems such as a disablility or poor balance might do better with full wings. In the odd case, such as my handy-capped African Grey, we must clip the longest feathers because they get in her way when standing.
  3. Sometimes birds who have spent many years of their life full flighted might find a full wing clip stressful. and may lead to depression or trauma. If absolutely necessary to clip, then small stages of gradual clipping would be easier on the bird.
  4. Canaries, Finches, other hard bills, and very small birds depending on flight for exercise to maintain health do better full flighted. ( unless on the advice of a veterinarian. )
  5. Some Budgies tame more easily at first with a very moderate clip. However many Budgies are prone to depression when clipped , particularly with an uneven, or an improper clip (such as cutting secondary feathers or coverts.) Usually Budgies are easily tamed from young even with full flight, so many Budgerigar owners prefer full flight. Bird depression can lead to many illnesses, so if you have a Budgie with an improper clip, please see an avian veterinarian to discuss what can be done to help your pet through this stressful time.
  6. In our experience most species tend to develop better confidence when they have the opportunity to learn to fly and land before being clipped.  This helps in development of self confidence and balance skills which are needed in everything from playing to perching.

Many Birds do much better with a proper clip:

For most pet birds kept in the home, with in cage and out cage time daily, clipping is the safest thing to do. A large percentage of accidents in the home are full flighted birds getting caught or burned, bumping into objects, or coming in contact with something toxic. Also the vast majority of lost birds are unclipped. Even clipped birds can fly given the right wind current or motive such as fear.

If you do decide to get  your birds wings clipped, you will need to make sure your pet has ample opportunity to exercise. Make sure your cage environment is large enough, and provide play areas with lots of perches and interesting climbing ropes, etc.
Even clipped, we advise the use of a carrying cage or Aviator Harness when going outdoors with your pet bird.

What is a proper clip?

Note: (We do not clip birds and refer customens to Dr. Anne McDonald at Night Owl Bird Hospital)

At West Coast Tropical Bird we take into consideration the species, body weight, age, health, previous clip experience of the bird, and discuss what the owner wishes to accomplish, before clipping any bird. We do not recommend clips which take only every other feather leaving primary feathers sticking out. These can catch on toys or cage bars, break and bleed causing trauma or worse. We also believe that the secondary  feathers or covert feathers should never be clipped. A clip should never make a bird feel unbalanced so as to make it hard to perch or maneuver. In our experience, this extreme clip can drastically hurt a birds self esteem, causing a bird to be nervous, bite more often, and even begin picking.

In addition, we have found that clips done on only one wing, can leave the bird completely unbalanced and very often depressed, leading to behavior problems and in some cases, spinal misalignment. It is important to clip with a very sharp pair of good quality scissors to prevent fraying of feathers. Sometimes birds may start a picking habit when trying to smooth out or correct those frayed ends.

It has been our experience that clips work best when both wings are cut evenly on both sides, and smoothly taper up to the first unclipped feather. Wings clipped this way can still be used by the bird to land or break a fall if necessary. Many birds are injured when trying to flap wings with large gaps in the clip.
Remember that a feather contains blood and it is not always evident where the blood begins. If you are not 100% certain of what you are doing, why take the chance? In most cases it is better to leave wing clipping to avian vets or professionals.

It is very important to never let anyone clip your bird if their approach results in extreme stress. For example; chasing the bird around the room, or holding the bird only partially restrained, resulting in more than one attempt.

“Article by Victoria Ballard.”


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