Parakeet Grooming

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To ensure your bird’s safety and good health, you must be ready to regularly give your parakeet a clean bath, and also have his nails and flight feathers trimmed periodically.

Although some people would say a parakeet’s beak also needs trimming, I believe a healthy bird who has enough chew toys seems to do a remarkable job of keeping his beak trimmed on his own.

If your parakeet’s beak becomes overgrown, though, please consult your avian veterinarian.

Your bird may respond differently to grooming measures i.e. bathing, so you may have to experiment to find out how it prefers to clean itself.

So, how do you groom a parakeet?

Bathing

You can bathe your parakeet in several ways.

You can mist him lightly with a clean spray bottle filled with warm water (and only warm water), or you can allow him to bathe in the bathroom or kitchen sink under a slow stream of water.

Many parakeets prefer to bathe in their cages, either in a small, flat saucer of warm water, a plastic parakeet bathtub, or an enclosed birdbath that you can buy in your local pet supply store.

Bathing is important to birds to help them keep their feathers clean and healthy, so don’t deny your pet the chance to bathe!

Some parakeets combine bathing with mealtime by rolling around in damp, fresh greens provided by their owners.

Offer your parakeet an opportunity to do this by providing the tops from beets or carrots or a leaf of lettuce (not iceberg, please—it doesn’t contain any nutrients) for him to play with.

He will bathe indirectly as the water from the greens falls onto his feathers.

Your parakeet does not require soap as part of his bath unless he has gotten himself into oil, paint, wax, or some other substance that plain water alone won’t remove which could harm his feathers.

Under routine conditions, soaps and detergents can damage a bird’s feathers by removing beneficial oils, so put the shampoo on hold during your parakeet’s normal cleanup.

Let your bird bathe early in the day so his feathers have an opportunity to dry completely during the day.

In cooler weather, you may want to help the process along by drying your parakeet off with a blow dryer to prevent him from becoming chilled after his bath.

To do this, set the blow dryer on low and keep it moving so that your bird doesn’t become overheated.

Your parakeet may soon learn that drying off is the most enjoyable part of his bath!

How Often Should Parakeets Bathe?

Normally, parakeets should be offered a bath daily. This however depends on whether your bird wants to bathe every day. Some birds enjoy taking a bath every day, while others bathe only occasionally.

Your parakeet should be encouraged to bathe often, as their feathers and skin will look healthier if they bathe more frequently.

Start by bathing your bird once or twice a week.

Your bird may have a preference about when it likes to take a bath.

So, you should offer your bird a bath or bring it into the shower at the time when it chooses to bathe.

Nail Trimming

Parakeets and other parrots need their nails clipped occasionally to keep the nails from catching on toys or perches and injuring themselves.

Trimming your parakeet’s nails is a fairly simple procedure.

Unlike some of the larger parrots, a parakeet’s nails are light in color, which makes it easier for you to see where the nail stops and the blood supply (called the quick) begins.

The quick is the blood vessel and nerve that grows part-way down the middle of each nail.

The longer the nail, often the longer the quick.

In parakeets, the quick is generally seen as a pink line or area inside the nail.

You need to remove only tiny portions of the nail to keep your parakeet’s claws trimmed.

Generally, a good guideline is to remove only the hook on each nail and to do this in the smallest increments possible.

Stop well before you reach the quick.

If you do happen to cut the nail short enough to make it bleed, apply flour, styptic, or cornstarch into the broken feather shaft, followed by direct pressure, to stop the bleeding.

Wing Trimming

The goal of a proper wing trim is to prevent your pet from flying away or flying into a wall, window, or mirror while he’s out of his cage.

An added benefit is that his inability to fly well will make him more dependent on you for transportation, which should make him easier to handle.

However, the bird still needs enough wing feathers so that he can glide safely to the ground if he is startled and takes flight from his cage top or play gym.

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.

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.

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.

Clipping Parakeet Wings (Step by Step)

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, and 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.

Molting

Your parakeet will lose his feathers at least once a year. Don’t be alarmed, because this is a normal process called molting.

I say “at least once” because many pet birds seem to be in a perpetual molt, with feathers falling out and coming in throughout the summer.

You can consider your bird to be in molting season when you see a lot of whole feathers in the bottom of the cage and you notice that your bird seems to have broken out in a rash of stubbly little aglets (those plastic tips on the ends of your shoelaces).

These are the feather sheaths that help new pinfeathers break through the skin, and they are made of keratin (the same material that makes up our fingernails).

The sheaths help protect growing feathers from damage until the feathers complete their growth cycle.

You may notice that your parakeet is a little more irritable during the molt; this is to be expected.

Think about how you would feel if you had all these itchy new feathers coming in all of a sudden.

However, your bird may actively seek out more time with you during the molt because an owner is handy to have around when a parakeet has an itch on the top of his head that he can’t quite scratch! (Scratch these new feathers gently because some of them may still be growing in and may be sensitive to the touch.)

Some birds may benefit from special conditioning foods during the molt; check with your avian veterinarian to see if your bird is a candidate for these foods.

Be particularly alert after a molt, because your bird will have a whole new crop of flight feathers that need attention.

Self Grooming

Having your parakeet’s nails trimmed and having its feathers trimmed are both recommended, but bathing isn’t universally necessary.

Don’t worry if your parakeet prefers not to bathe in the bird bath — that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be cleaned.

Preening is one of your parakeet’s ways of keeping himself well groomed.

You will notice him ruffling and straightening his feathers each day.

He will also take oil from the gland at the base of his tail and spread it on the rest of his feathers, so don’t be concerned if you see your parakeet pecking or biting at his tail.

Even without a bath, parakeets stay well groomed by using their beaks to distribute natural oils throughout their bodies.

Preening, combined with your assistance in the bathing, nail, and wing clipping will keep your parakeet in top shape.

So, give him a warm bath once a week to supplement his self-grooming, even if he doesn’t like being misted.

Related Questions

Do Parakeets Need to Be Groomed?

Absolutely! Parakeets need to be groomed regularly as this helps to ensure that their skin, feathers, and nails all stay healthy and clean.

Its true parakeets are fastidiously clean creatures, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to groom them.

They need this for proper healthy physical growth.

Is It Normal for Parakeets to Groom Each Other?

It is completely normal for parakeets to groom each other as preening is the birds’ way of keeping clean and well-groomed. Although most preening is a solo job, the birds will often do a little grooming of each other, usually in the head and chin areas.

Parakeets have a feather-oil gland at the base of their tail, and a preening session consists of taking this oil with the beak and running it down each feather, with the starting point being where the feather attaches to the skin.

Since every feather needs the full treatment, a preen can take a long time. Parakeets often do this together and like most things, they seem to work best when carried out as a flock activity.

Why Do Parakeets Groom Themselves?

Parakeets groom themselves to keep themselves naturally clean and tidy. To achieve this, they will spend a small portion of time each day preening their feathers to sort them out and ensure they’re laying correctly.

If you give your bird friend a shallow dish of water, she is likely to bathe herself.

If your bird isn’t grooming herself, or she looks untidy and disheveled, it could be ill.

You should take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible if this is the case.

Conclusion

I encourage you to groom your pet in a quiet, well-lit place because grooming excites some birds and causes them to become wiggly.

Having good light to work under will make your job easier, and having a quiet work area may calm down your pet and make him a bit easier to handle.

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