Clipping Parakeet Wings

There is no doubt that clipping parakeet wing (wing clipping a bird) is one of the most controversial topics in aviculture.

Parakeet owners clip their bird’s wings for a variety of reasons and most of them consider it necessary for their parakeet grooming. However, there are just as many reasons why they do not clip their birds’ wings.

Although bird wing clipping is controversial, it is best left to the owner to decide whether or not to trim a parakeet.

Here are some of the pros and cons of clipping parakeet wings.

Pros of Clipping Parakeet Wings

Prevents Your Bird From Flying Away

The main advantage of clipping your parakeet’s wings is to ensure that it doesn’t fly away

Their primary feathers, known as “flight feathers,” are trimmed so they cannot fly.

Wing clipping also protects your captive birds from becoming entangled in an open window or door, which can be deadly.

Increases Bird Safety

A bird’s safety inside the home is another major reason for clipping them.

Living indoors poses many perils that birds would never face in the wild.

Things like windows, ceiling fans, ovens, doorways, sinks, and toilets fall into this category.

So, birds’ wings can be clipped to limit their exposure to these dangers.

Bird Becomes Dependent on Owner

Wing clipping a parakeet also forces the bird to be more dependent on its owner.

Many people believe this can serve to strengthen the bond between a bird and its human.

His inability to fly well will make him more dependent on you for transportation, which should make him easier to handle.

This can however ingrain learned helplessness in the bird as the bird still needs enough wing feathers to glide safely to the ground if he is startled and takes flight from his cage top or play gym.

So, owners should be aware of their birds’ body language when interacting with them, especially since they can’t fly away.

Cons of Clipping Parakeet Wings

Physical and Psychological Harm

According to those on the other side of the fence, denying a bird its ability to fly can cause physical and psychological harm.

To them, if appropriately supervised, the benefits of flying—exercise and mental stimulation—far outweigh the risks of injury to a pet bird.

Reduces Their Natural Ability and Freedom

Some people believe that since parakeets were designed to fly, clipping takes away their freedom and natural ability to move.

They Become Helpless to Predators

It’s also important to consider your other pets.

If cats and dogs view your parakeet as prey, your bird will need to use its natural defense mechanism of flight to escape harm.

Bird owners often try to mimic their species’ natural environment because birds spend countless hours searching and foraging for food in the wild by flying.

Increased risk of disease

Additionally, clipping may not be suitable for every bird or household.

When birds are not given the proper amount of exercise offered by flying, they can become overweight, resulting in heart disease.

Other health issues include underdevelopment of chest muscles, difficulty re-growing flight feathers, etc.

It’s up to you

It is important to consider the pros and cons of wing clipping before deciding on your pet.

Consult your avian veterinarian for advice and discuss the options with your family members.

With careful consideration, you are sure to make a decision that will satisfy the needs of both you and your feathered friend.

If you decide to clip your bird’s wings, be sure to learn as much about the process as possible.

Because this is a delicate procedure, I strongly recommend that you enlist the help of your avian veterinarian, at least the first time, so you are clear about what to do and how to do it.

If you wish to do clipping at home, take your bird to a local store/groomer to get its wings clipped and learn by watching how to do it.

Wing trimming is a task that must be performed carefully to avoid injuring your pet, so take your time if you’re doing it yourself.

Be sure to follow the steps to safely clip the wings and make a good decision about which clipping style is right for your bird.

Not every method is right for every bird breed.

Please do not just take up the largest pair of kitchen shears you own and start snipping away.

I have had avian veterinarians tell me about parakeets whose owners cut off their birds’ wing tips (down to the bone) in this manner.

How to Clip a Parakeet Wings

The first step in trimming your parakeet’s wing feathers is to assemble all the things you will need and find a quiet, well-lit place to groom your pet before you catch and trim him.

Your grooming tools will include:

  • Washcloth or small towel to wrap your parakeet in
  • Small, sharp scissors to do the actual trimming
  • Needle-nosed pliers (to pull out any blood feathers you may cut accidentally)
  • Flour or cornstarch (not styptic powder) to stop the bleeding in case a blood feather is cut
  • Nail trimmers (while you have your bird wrapped in the towel, you might as well do his nails, too)

Once you’ve assembled your supplies and found a quiet grooming location, drape the towel over your hand and catch your parakeet with your toweled hand.

Gently grab your bird by the back of his head and neck (never compress the chest) and wrap him in the towel—firmly enough to hold him but not too tight!

Hold your bird’s head securely through the towel with your thumb and index finger. (Having the bird’s head covered by the towel will calm him and will give him something to chew on while you clip his wings.)

Lay the bird on his back, being careful not to constrict or compress his chest (remember, birds have no diaphragms to help them breathe), and spread his wing out carefully.

You will see an upper row of short feathers, called the covert feathers, and a lower row of long feathers, which are the flight feathers.

Look for new flight feathers that are still growing in, also called blood feathers.

These can be identified by their waxy, tight look (new feathers in their feather sheaths resemble the end of a shoelace) and their dark centers or quills—the dark color is caused by the blood supply to the new feather.

Never trim a blood feather.

If your bird has several blood feathers, you may want to put off trimming his wings for a few days, because older, fully grown feathers act as a cushion to protect those just coming in from life’s hard knocks.

If your bird has only one or two blood feathers, you can trim the full-grown feathers accordingly.

To trim your bird’s feathers, separate each one away from the other flight feathers and cut it individually (remember, the goal is to have a well-trimmed bird who is still able to glide a bit if he needs to).

Start from the tip of the wing when you trim, and clip just five to eight feathers in.

Use the primary covert feathers (the set of feathers above the primary flight feathers) as a guideline as to how short you should trim—trim the flight feathers so they are just a tiny bit longer than the coverts.

Be sure to trim an equal number of feathers from each wing.

Although some people think that a bird needs only one trimmed wing, this is incorrect and could harm a bird who tries to fly with one trimmed and one untrimmed wing.

Think of how off balance that would make you feel; your parakeet is no different.

Now that you’ve successfully trimmed your bird’s wing feathers, congratulate yourself.

You’ve just taken a great step toward keeping your parakeet safe.

Now you must remember to check your parakeet’s wing feathers and retrim them periodically.

When Should You Trim Your Parakeets Wings?

Trim your parakeet wings every 4-6 weeks after trim as clipped birds normally regain full flight during this period.

You’ll be able to tell when your parakeet is due for a trim when he starts becoming bolder in his flying attempts.

Right after a wing trim, a parakeet generally tries to fly and finds he’s unsuccessful at the attempt.

He will keep trying, though, and may surprise you one day with a fairly good glide from the top of his cage or play gym.

If this happens, get the scissors and trim those wings immediately.

Blood Feather First Aid

If you happen to cut a blood feather, remain calm. You must remove it and stop the bleeding to ensure that your bird doesn’t bleed to death.

Panicking will do neither of you any good.

To remove a blood feather, use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to grasp the broken feather’s shaft as close to the skin of the wing as you can.

With one steady motion, pull the feather out completely.

After you’ve removed the feather, put a pinch of flour or cornstarch on the feather follicle (the spot where you pulled out the feather) and apply direct pressure for a few minutes until the bleeding stops.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop after a few minutes of direct pressure, or if you can’t remove the feather shaft, contact your avian veterinarian immediately for further instructions.

Although it may seem like you’re hurting your parakeet by removing the broken blood feather, consider this:

A broken blood feather is like an open faucet. If left in, the faucet stays open and lets the blood out. Once removed, the bird’s skin generally closes up behind the feather shaft and shuts off the faucet.

Related Questions

Why Do They Clip Parakeet Wings?

Parakeet wings are clipped to enhance their safety inside the home, ensure they become dependent on their owner, and prevent them from flying away.

What Happens if You Don’t Clip Your Parakeet Wings?

If you fail to clip your parakeet’s wing, he becomes less dependent on you for survival, becomes more exposed to dangers around the house, and becomes more likely to fly away.

Is It Cruel to Clip a Parakeet Wings?

Clipping parakeet wings is cruel, unnecessary, and unkind as birds are meant to fly and be free.

Wings are just as important as a bird’s beak or feet.

In fact, clipping a parakeet’s wings is not for the bird’s safety or well-being but merely for human convenience.

Here are common negative effects of clipping a parakeet’s wings:

Luckily, there are better alternatives to wing clipping that allows your parakeet to enjoy flying while ensuring it’s safe.

This involves training based on positive reinforcement. You can teach your bird simple commands, such as “come”, “stay”, etc.

Parrots are very smart and curious animals that learn relatively quickly.

Can You Clip a Parakeet Wings at Home?

You can clip parakeet wings at home if you are trained. However, if you’ve never clipped a bird’s wings before you should consult your veterinarian to help guide you through the process.

A bird’s first wing clipping should always be conducted by a veterinarian.

So, take your parakeet to a local avian vet and have them show you the correct clipping process.

After the initial clipping, you may be able to clip your bird’s wings again yourself.

If you however still feel uncomfortable or uncertain, have a vet clip your bird’s wings. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your bird.

How Often Do You Clip a Parakeet Wing?

Parakeet wings need to be clipped typically every 1-3 months after the start of a molt cycle, as new feathers grow back. However, every parakeet is different and some need clipping more often than others.

To prevent accidental injury from a flight, you should regularly check your pet’s wings, since even a couple of new feathers growing in the right place may give the bird the lift it needs to soar.

Never assume your parakeet cannot fly, so always check or perform a test fly.

Where Do I Cut My Parakeets Wings?

Cut the first six primary flight feathers, moving from the wingtip towards your bird’s body.

Make sure to trim a quarter inch below the overlapping short feathers. Do not cut into these feathers, as this can harm your bird.

Clip only one feather at a time.

Clipping a bird’s wings takes concentration and precision. If you try to clip all six feathers at once, you could end up going too fast and harming your bird.

Also, watch out for blood feathers. 

Blood feathers are newly formed feathers. If cut, they will bleed.

Blood feathers are waxy and pinkish in appearance, and also have a visible blood vessel running through them.

Examine each feather to make sure it is not a blood feather before clipping.

Can a Parakeet Still Fly With Clipped Wings?

A parakeet can still fly with clipped wings as clipping a parakeet’s wings doesn’t prevent him from flying, it will only keep him from flying fast and high.

How Long Does It Take for a Parakeet Clipped Wings to Grow Back?

It would take between 6 and 18 months for a parakeet’s clipped wings to grow back.

How Far Can a Parakeet Fly With Clipped Wings?

A parakeet with clipped wings cannot be able to fly around at 100%. Some parakeets can still glide in the air for short distances, but they won’t be capable of taking flight.

However, it’s not uncommon for unclipped pet parrots to fly out of an open door or window never to be seen or heard of again.

How Much Does It Cost to Clip Parakeet Wings?

According to Petsmopolitan, clipping your parakeet wings in a pet store can cost between 5 to 15 dollars. However, not all pet stores provide wing clipping services.

You can find general pet stores that provide this service in some areas.

In others, you would have to bring your parakeet to a bird specialty store.

But if you were to choose this route, ensure your vet or avian groomer has the experience and expertise to provide this service.

Question them thoroughly to know how knowledgeable they are in providing this service.

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