Clipping wings of birds by avian veterinarians, breeders, pet store employees, or the birds’ owners are common and controversial. There are many reasons for bird owners to clip their bird’s wings.
Though many bird owners find wing clipping a cruel practice and choose not to do so, it’s better to leave the decision to the bird owners whether they want to trim their birds’ primary wing feathers or not, whatever the reason may be.
Purpose of Clipping Bird Wings
When bird owners try to train their birds to move from place to place, step on to a hand, or socialize the birds, they often do wing clipping of their birds.
Bird owners also clip the wings of their birds to prevent
- Unwanted roaming
- Exposure to dangerous situations
- Upward flight
Bird owners don’t clip a bird’s wing to prevent flight completely; instead, to limit their flight and keep them safe, particularly in unsupervised situations.
Should I Clip My Bird’s Wings?
The answer entirely depends on the owner. But let me tell you the pros and cons of clipping your feathered bird.
- Clipped birds can’t fly away and escape.
- Birds with clipped wings are safer at home. When birds fly indoors, they risk hitting a window, a wall, a ceiling fan, or a mirror and hurting or even killing themselves. They can even land on a hot stove or drown in the sink, the toilet, or other standing water.
- Clipping keeps them from flying out an open window or door accidentally. The outdoors can be dangerous for a domesticated bird.
- Clipping a pet bird’s wings can create and deepen the bond between the bird and its owner because the bird gets more dependent on its owner due to the clipping. That’s why clipped birds can form a good relationship with their owner.
- Training birds with clipped wings is easier than that which can fly.
- By clipping a bird’s wings, you deprive it of flying, the very thing a bird was born to do. This can cause the bird physical and psychological damage.
- Due to clipping, a bird can become overweight. Flying enables birds to exercise, but clipped wings don’t allow birds the proper amount of exercise, resulting in weight gain and heart and other health problems.
- Birds with clipped wings face difficulties getting away from a cat or other pet animals at home as they can’t fly away from a cat as their instincts demand.
- Birds with clipped wings, such as parrots, are more prone to depression and self-destructive behavior and may engage in feather plucking.
- Birds can still fly for short distances with properly clipped wings. That means they can go outside. But since they lack natural defenses, they are more vulnerable to predator attacks.
- Birds with improperly clipped wings can suffer from bird injuries as they may fall or land too heavily while trying to fly.
Bird’s Behavior After Clipping Wings
The effects of clipping wings extend beyond the body and feathers of the birds. It can also lead them to develop psychological and behavioral problems. The inability to fly can cause the development of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, stereotypes, and self-mutilation. They can engage in feather-picking, rocking, pacing, screaming, and even biting.
Many Budgies are likely to be depressed when clipped, particularly with an uneven or improper clip.
If you clip the wings of baby birds before fledging, in other words, before learning to fly, it will leave a long-lasting consequence in their life. A young bird must learn to fly properly before you wing clip it so it can remain confident and active even after being clipped. When birds learn to fly, they also learn how to land safely, which is also important for clipped birds.
Does Clipping Wings Hurt?
If you do it correctly, clipping your birds’ wings won’t hurt them. Clipping wings properly is not difficult. You can consider it as cutting your hair or trimming your nails.
However, it is crucial to avoid overly clipping your bird’s wings. When your bird tries to fly, clipped wings should allow it to glide to the floor. It means it still can fly, just not upwards. But if the bird’s wings are clipped too much, it can fall like a rock, injuring its breastbone.
Don’t try to clip your bird yourself without assistance from someone who is experienced with birds and the clipping process. Because wing clipping can harm your bird both during and after the procedure if done improperly. As a result, your bird may lose trust in you. So, I would suggest hiring a trained professional to do the job.
How to Clip a Bird’s Wings?
If, after weighing all the pros and cons and other factors, you decide on clipping your bird’s wings, you must ensure that it is done correctly and safely.
You can clip a bird’s wings in many ways. Though opinions vary on how many feathers to cut and how short they should be, the outermost, five to six primary, feathers are usually clipped midway from the base to the tip. You shouldn’t clip any secondary feathers closer to the body and should not trim feathers shorter than halfway from base to tip.
However, trimming the feathers down to the quill behind the covert feathers is a more contemporary method. Some think this cut offers a more attractive look and helps to avoid problems of sharp feather edges that could rise after a clip.
Some leave a few primary end feathers unclipped to give the bird a more natural look, but many small birds may still fly if you leave feathers unclipped at the end.
How Often Should You Clip Wings?
As new feathers grow back, you should clip your bird’s wings typically every 1 to 3 months following the start of a molt cycle. Every bird, however, is unique; some require cutting more frequently than others.
You should frequently inspect your pet’s wings to prevent unintentional injury from a flight. As even a few new growing feathers could provide the bird the lift it needs to soar, always check or practice a test fly. Don’t go assuming that your bird can’t fly.
Think Carefully and Take the Decision
You can choose what is best for your feathered bird by carefully considering the benefits and drawbacks of clipping wings. And you should know when to clip your bird.
Always seek advice from expert avian veterinarians regarding what will suit your pet and if you can avoid clipping wings by using other alternatives to train it.
However, if you decide to clip your bird’s wings, learn as much about the process as possible. It’s safer not to cut your bird yourself at home at first. First, take it to a local shop or groomer, get them clipped there, and learn by observing. Always try to choose the clipping method that is best for your bird. Remember that not every technique is suitable for every breed of bird.
As an animal lover since childhood, Paul has an excessive amount of kindness for animals and really feels about them. Feeding stray dogs and passing time with them is one of the things Paul loves to do in his free time.
Paul studied Veterinary Medicine at Murdoch University. He is a Speaker who talks about animal welfare at various events. You will find him sharing here his valuable knowledge as well as experience.
Currently, Paul is working on his first book to publish where you will see the reflection of his 10 years of experience with animals and pet psychology.