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Breeding Parrots, Cockatiels and Lovebirds.

Clipping wings

Nothing is more beautiful than watching your bird fly. Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching it fly outside.

I hope that most of us clip wings. I know that some do not. It doesn't hurt, nor is it cruel. I feel it is more cruel for a predator to end up with a 'bird snack’. I do however, let my babies (of all species) learn to fly and land safely. Once they have mastered that, their wings are clipped. Now, before you show members start getting the feathers raised, remember, we are talking about pet cockatiels. I prefer to clip evenly on both sides; that way the bird can control its descent. Try clipping the first 5 flight feathers.

You don't want the bird to drop - just glide gently to the floor. Continue one feather at a time, until the bird cannot gain altitude. Your bird will need to be clipped again after the next moult. Be careful, sometimes those feathers can sneak up on you. All it takes is 1 feather on each wing for a cockatiel to be able to fly.

When clipping these flight feathers, be careful not to clip any growing feathers. You will recognize these blood feathers from the others since you can see the dark blood area in the shaft. If you are not quiet sure you can be your bird's barber, contact your avian veterinarian or local pet shop. Most will do this grooming for you for a nominal charge. Many will give you hands-on experience.

Primary flight feathers can be cut with sharp scissors close to the end of the wing coverts. They can be clipped shorter if the parrot still has flight, but one must make sure to avoid arrest of growth in the wing case as this will cause a bleed. This is something you should be taught to do by a professional if you intend on doing your own grooming. The chance of causing severe injury or great harm is very possible for the inexperienced.

Some people prefer to keep the two or three outer flight feathers intact, so one can not see the feathers have been clipped when the wing is closed. Many birds look mutilated, birds with one wing clipped which disorientates the poor bird, and in one extreme case a bird which had its wing joint cut through in effect cutting off the end of the wing . A Psittacine which has been correctly clipped should sustain no damage or ill effect from the process, and should glide gracefully to the ground and have enough feathers to break its fall. If too many feathers are clipped or even cut too short, the result can be injuries to the keel bone, leg fractures or even worse.

Veterinarians worldwide have long since realized that the very different environments and lifestyles in which parrot species are kept in captivity, can contribute to stress related disorders such as feather plucking and self mutilation, lack of exercise can cause obesity and fatty liver syndrome, so the reason for clipping a birds wings must be a balance between safety, breeding considerations and most of all the health of the bird.

It has been shown that if baby parrots are wing clipped before learning to fly , they may never develop takeoff and landing skills, which help the young birds develop balance and an overall grace and agility that is often lacking in birds that never fly prior to clipping.

The main purpose of wing clipping is not to render a bird flightless but to prevent upward and rapid flight, (i.e. a cock bird in breeding condition chasing and in some cases killing the hen, or a pet bird given free f light in the home with its many dangers to birds in full powered flight) It would also assist with the re-capture of any escaped birds, which in turn would stop non-indigenous species adapting and breeding in the countryside, which is against the law in most countries.

Wing clipping is safe when performed properly. Larger parrots typically require fewer feathers to be clipped than smaller birds, whose lift is more easily generated due to their size How do you clip your Parrot's wings? Assuming that your parrot is an adult and already knows how to fly, your best option is to find a Vet., who is experienced in the art of wing clipping. However should you decide to carry out the clipping yourself, which is not recommended, some preparatory work is required. Start by obtaining a competent assistant, who as well as yourself understands the wing shape and terminology of its feathers . The primary coverts, secondary feathers and secondary coverts on both wings should never be clipped.

When the wings are clipped, proper restraint should be applied. The bird's chest must not be restricted, because it cannot breathe. The head , both feet, and opposite wing should be well restrained for the bird's safety. This is best performed by your assistant who can gently wrap the bird in a towel and hold it by the neck, stomach down. Carefully extricate one wing so you are looking down on the top, this wing should be held at the base of the humerus, and not by the feathers, as injury could occur if the bird should flap this held wing.

Scissors of any description are not recommended for wing clipping for several reasons. If the bird flaps its wing while the feathers are being clipped, the point of the scissors can cause injury. It is also more difficult to obtain an accurate cut with scissors, as they can slide up and down the feather shaft, and also do not make a fast and clean cut. It has been found that using proper specialist animal claw clippers results in a fast, effective and accurate cut .

Improperly clipped parrots, especially African Greys and Cockatoos, appear to become irritated by half-clipped feather shafts poking them when their wings are at rest, this could lead to feather-plucking problems. Each feather should be clipped below the level of the first vein and barb, and well below the level of the primary coverts over them. Each feather shaft should be individually isolated and identified, then grasped by the clippers and swiftly cut, at the same time ensuring you do not cut the overlaying primary covert feathers.

After this initial clipping, the bird should be tested, to see if more primary feathers need to be removed. This is best carried out indoors over a carpeted area, start by holding bird on a perch or your hand, then quickly drop the perch or hand downwards, causing the bird to flap its wings and try to fly. Additional clipping should be based on the birds ability to gain lift or fly horizontally. It is essential to clip conservatively and remove additional feathers as needed, once removed they can only be replaced at the next moult.

If on the initial inspection of the wing prior to clipping , any blood feathers are found then clipping should not take place until these blood feathers have matured, usually several weeks. You will recognize these blood feathers from others as they contain a dark purple or black shaft which is blood. Wing clipping is not for the inexperienced, and is best carried out by a trained avian veterinarian, many will be prepared to give hands on experience.

Wing clipping flying is DANGEROUS! I think all pet birds should have their wings clipped for several reasons:

1.There are too many hazards in a house for flighted birds.
2.Every door and window in your house is a chance for that bird to escape to the outside (intentionally, or accidentally).
3.Wing clipping helps control your bird's behaviour-nobody likes to have to keep getting the bird down off the chandelier (birds will naturally seek out the highest place to perch, wherever they are). Some flighted birds develop a 'better than you' attitude and begin to bite or exhibit other unpleasant behaviours.
4.Once your bird realizes it can't fly, it will rely on you to take it to see interesting things (and back to its cage to eat and drink), and this will reinforce your bond with the bird. Before trimming, check your bird's wings for blood feathers.

A blood feather is a new, growing feather, which has its own blood supply. The feather shaft (base) is cloudy and purple or red colored, and the feather is all or partly covered with a white, paper-like sheath. If cut, this feather will act as a straw to pump blood out of the bird. The only way to stop a blood feather from bleeding once it starts is to pull it out with needle-nosed pliers (from the bottom of the feather, not the end). If your bird needs its wings clipped, and has blood feathers, you can carefully cut the feathers around the blood feather, and go back later to cut the blood feather when it grows in.

Wing-trimming is easiest with two people, one to hold, and one to cut. Hold the bird securely as for nail-clipping, and gently extend one wing. Trim off the first seven to ten long feathers up to the bottom of the next layer. I find it easier to cut one feather at a time, rather than try to make just one long cut. Be as neat as you can in your trimming so the bird will be able to fold its wings. Finish one wing, then readjust the bird so you can trim the other wing the same way. Always clip both sides-a bird with just one wing clipped can only fly in a circle, and cannot land in a controlled manner. Your bird could get hurt that way.

Again, your veterinarian can clip wings for you if necessary. Your bird will molt (lose feathers) almost continually, either a few at a time, or lots at once. When it molts the cut wing feathers, they will grow back full length, and will need to be trimmed again. Check your bird's wings regularly for new growth. Looking in the bottom of the cage for molted cut-off feathers is a good warning of new feathers to come. It takes about three weeks for a wing feather to grow in completely.

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