Wing clipping is
a much debated topic and one of personal choice. Whether or not we decide to clip
our birds wings and the reasons for doing so are secondary to the wellbeing
of our birds.
strongly advocate clipping wings of pet birds and do clip all my handraised
babies wings before they leave my premises to go to new pet homes. Whether the
new owner decides to continue with this procedure once the flights grow back
is entirely their own choice. I believe that until new owners are used to
having a bird in their home and the new bird is used to its new surroundings,
clipping the wings can make the difference between a safe live bird and
distraught owners whose new pet has flown skywards or even worse met a fateful
end. It only takes a moment for a bird to escape through an open door or
window or fly into a ceiling fan.
If the choice is
made to clip the wings then the most important factor to consider is the
wellbeing of the bird. You don’t want your bird to jump off your shoulder and
crash to the floor, possible injuring itself in the process. The aim is to
allow the bird a safe landing without allowing it to gain liftyet
ultimately still be able to control its descent.
endeavour to explain the
method I use and the reasons I use this type of wing clipping procedure
The only feathers
that need cutting are the outermost long flight feathers or ‘primary’ flights.
These are the ones that give the bird lift when flying and the main goal is to
stop them gaining height. If the 2 longest flight feathers are left on each
wing as some people do then these are prone to breakage because they lack the
support provided by the inner flights. It is also important to remember that
they get lift from both wings so by cutting only the feathers on one wing the
bird can still get lift with the other. This leaves them with the ability to
gain height with on only one side of their body and you basically end up with
a bird that is like an
aeroplane with only 1 wing.
It has no control!!. To maintain balance both wings need to be clipped the
same. The aim of clipping is to prevent injury and escape, not cause injury
through uncontrollable flight or broken feathers.
Cut and broken
feathers can leave a bird frustrated as they are unable to groom themselves to
their satisfaction. You also need to keep the bird looking as natural as
possible. I am sure everyone has seen at some stage the straight line cut
across the wing that gives a horrible look. This also can lead to frustration
in the bird as they cannot fully groom any of the cut feathers. The long ‘zip’
type effect they would normally use to clean their feathers is stopped short
and the feathers become ragged and untidy.
I cut each
feather individually at a point along the shaft where there are no barbules
present. The cut is therefore still a few centimeters from the skin and does
not affect the future growth of other feathers. You can easily see too if
there is still blood in the shaft before cutting. Blood indicates a growing
feather and should not be cut.
The cut feather
remains protected by the covert feathers and does not get damaged and is also
aesthetically pleasing. The bird does not need to try and groom these as the
barbules are not present.
They also have
less tendency to chew at the cut ends. It is almost like out of sight out of
mind. The bird feels comfortable too because there are no cut ends digging
into its side or catching on other feathers.
I only cut 4
feathers on each wing to begin with and then do a test flight. If the bird
still gets lift then I cut one more on each side. The number that needs
cutting depends on the strength and flight ability of the bird.
Do not cut
off all the flights! Usually 4 or 5 on each wing is all that is needed.
I always allow my
babies to learn to fly and get ‘flight fit’ before I even consider clipping.
It is a natural process in the birds development and weaning process and
should be left available to them. A few weeks of daily flight practice for a
newly fledged baby bird will allow them to learn control and develop the
flight muscles. Clipping as soon as they leave the box deprives them of this
natural process and can leave them unable to fly properly as adults.
The bird in the
picture is 10 weeks old and was clipped a few days prior. As you can see his
wings still have the normal shape and contour. The outer 4 flight feathers
were clipped on each wing and the bird showed no signs of distress following
the procedure. He can still glide to the ground under complete control so
there are no safety issues with him falling from shoulders or chair backs.
One thing to
remember is that a full length feather that gets cut does not ‘grow back’.
Once it is cut then that is it. It will eventually fall out when the bird
moults and will be replaced with a new feather. It is better not to cut a
growing or ‘blood feather’ as it will continue to grow and may end up allowing
the bird flight that you were not expecting. You also risk making the feather