Last Updated on: 13th May 2023, 04:32 pm
Parrots’ claws grow throughout their lives, so they must wear down their nails naturally by perching and climbing on abrasive surfaces. In captivity, pet parrots’ nails can become too long, curly, and flaky.
No claw length is right for all parrots, but you can tell if it’s comfortable due to its movement and body language. A parrot with long nails will have difficulty walking, grasping objects, and climbing.
You can take a parrot to the vet to be clipped or trim its nails at home. Once the claws have been clipped, various textured perches can keep a parrot’s nails the right length.
Are My Parrot’s Nails Too Long?
There are over 400 species of parrots, so there’s a wide range of claw lengths.
A parrot’s nails might not be too long if they feel sharp. Parrots’ claws are meant to be pointy, giving them a better grip on food, perches, and objects.
If a parrot struggles to do everyday things, like walk and stand, its claws may need a trim.
Signs of Overgrown Parrot Nails
If a parrot’s claws are overgrown, you’ll notice the following signs:
- Long, curly, or twisted claws. The claws should have a curve, but they shouldn’t curl back on themselves like a sheep’s horn.
- Flaky appearance. This is due to the shedding of layers of keratin.
- Difficulty grasping objects. A bird may struggle to pick up and position items.
- Perching behavior. You may notice the parrot prefers to stand on a flat surface, not a perch.
- Movement. Climbing and walking become uncomfortable.
- Overly sharp nails. The parrot will get its nails caught on toys, fabric, or cage bars.
According to The Royal Society, parrots scratch themselves to maintain their feathers and remove dirt and parasites. So, you may notice/feel cuts, abrasions, and scabs on the parrot’s skin.
Why Do Parrots Bite Their Nails?
Parrots bite at their nails when the length makes grasping and walking difficult.
However, there are other explanations. It may have a nervous habit triggered by anxiety or a boredom-related behavior. Also, parrots bite at their feet due to pain or itchiness caused by an infection or growth.
According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, dermatitis can cause an itchy rash, leading to self-mutilation, such as chewing or biting at the feet.
How To Clip Parrot Nails
You’ll need a good relationship with the parrot to cut its nails to the right length. If a parrot doesn’t trust you, it won’t let you hold it still as you approach it with the nail clippers.
For practical assistance, have a vet demonstrate how to perform the procedure. This is the safest way, especially if the parrot has dark nails where it’s more difficult to see the quick.
To cut a parrot’s claws, follow these steps:
1/ Gather Materials
Before you start, you’ll need the following tools and materials:
- Towel. This is to wrap the parrot and keep it still.
- Clippers. Depending on the size of the claws, you can use dog clippers.
- Nail file. Parrots’ claws can be sharp after clipping, so some owners like to sand them down.
- Styptic powder (hemostatic powder). This is to stem the flow of blood.
Styptic powder will stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut a parrot’s quick (the blood vessels inside its nail). It contains astringents that cause the tissue to contract, sealing off the broken blood vessels.
VideoGIE stated that hemostatic powder is used in human surgeries to stop internal bleeding. For use on a parrot, buy a product that’s labeled bird-safe.
Some owners prefer to use a nail-grinding tool rather than clippers. This is like a Dremel polishing tool, but it’s intended for small animals.
2/ Wrap The Parrot in A Towel
Claw clipping can be a terrifying experience for parrots because they don’t understand what you’re doing, so most birds will attempt to fly away. The easiest way to keep the parrot still is to wrap it in a towel.
Parrots sometimes fear brightly colored towels, so choose a light, neutral color. White, pale gray, and beige work are good choices because they’re rarely anxiety-causing.
The towel doesn’t have to be thick, but it must be large enough to wrap around the thickest part of the parrot’s body at least twice.
While holding the parrot still with one hand, wrap the towel around its body. Wrap it snugly so the parrot can’t move its wings, but not so tightly that it causes discomfort and distress.
Ask a friend to assist if you’re finding the process difficult.
Parrots find it easier to stay calm during a claw trim if they can’t see what’s happening. Some owners cover the parrot’s head and eyes with a towel but uncover the eyes if it stresses them.
3/ Let The Parrot Grasp Your Hand
Once securely wrapped in a towel, sit with the parrot in your lap.
Lift the end of the towel so that its feet are exposed. Ensure your supplies (clippers, file, and styptic powder) are within easy reach.
You may have to tilt the parrot backward and let it rest against a cushion or the arm of the chair. If you have a friend with you, ask them to hold the parrot.
Let the parrot grasp your hand with its toes. Ideally, this should be your non-dominant hand, as you’ll use your other hand to clip.
The parrot should grasp your index finger so that your thumb remains free. This way, you can use your thumb to lift each of the toes one by one, making it easier to clip each nail.
4/ Cut The Tip of Each Nail
The parrot has perched on your hand, so you can start cutting its nails. The parrot may start struggling to break free at this point, so hold it securely.
Before you start cutting or filing, identify the quick. This is a blood vessel that runs through the center of the nail. If you accidentally cut the quick, the nail will start to bleed.
If a parrot has light-colored claws, you’ll be able to see the quick through the nail. It looks like a red or pink vein. When trimming the claw, stop before you reach the quick.
You may not see the quick if a parrot has dark or black claws. In this case, taking the parrot to a vet is safer than attempting the procedure yourself.
Don’t cut off too much of the claw, or the parrot may have trouble climbing. A parrot’s nails should still have a curve to assist with grasping objects.
Once you’ve finished, reward the parrot with a treat. That way, the parrot will associate having its nails clipped with a positive and pleasant experience.
Parrot’s Nails Are Bleeding
If one of the parrot’s nails starts to bleed, you’ve cut the quick.
This means you’ve clipped too much of the nail off and opened up the blood vessels. The quick will bleed, and the parrot may lose blood.
If one of the parrot’s nails starts bleeding, follow this procedure:
- Gently pinch the toe to reduce blood flow to the nail. If possible, hold the parrot upside down.
- Dip the bleeding nail into a container of styptic powder
- Apply mild pressure to the damaged nail until the bleeding stops.
Once the wound has stopped bleeding, brush off any remaining powder. If the bleeding worsens, take the parrot to a vet to cauterize the wound and stem the blood flow.
How Often Should You Trim Parrot Nails?
Parrots’ claws grow continuously, meaning they won’t stay short and blunt forever. Parrots’ claws grow at different rates based on their personality, diet, cage setup, and climbing habits.
After cutting a parrot’s nails, you may initially notice it’s struggling to grasp, climb and balance. This may mean you’ve cut its claws too short, but an adjustment period is normal.
After a few days, the parrot will have learned how to adjust its grasp in line with its new nail length.
Over time, a parrot will naturally file its nails into a sharp point again by grasping various textures (toys, bars, surfaces, and perches).
How To Keep A Parrot’s Nails Short
There are things you can do to keep a parrot’s claws short naturally, including:
- Real tree branches. The rough texture will wear down the parrot’s nails.
- Pedi-perches. These have a rough area to rest the claws on and stimulate healthy feet.
- Braided ropes. The abrasive texture of the rope wears away the excess nail.
If you use a pedi-perch, leave it in the cage for 1-2 days per week. Avoid using sandpaper perches or perch covers because these can cause sores on the bottom of the feet, leading to bumblefoot.
Nail trimming can be a stressful experience for parrots. After all, it’s not something they’d need or have done in the wild. Being physically restrained is uncomfortable and can induce panic.
If the parrot becomes too agitated, stop trimming its nails and keep still for a few minutes. A short break is often sufficient to calm them down and finish cutting the nails.
You may have more success using a nail file because the loud clipping noise can be startling for birds.