Wing clipping is a normal part of keeping a parrot for some owners, while others clipping a parrot’s wings as being unnecessary or cruel. Nearly all parrots have the ability to fly. To take that ability away might feel like you’re removing a parrot’s basic right. The truth is that the ethics of the wing-clipping process is open to debate.
You should clip your parrot’s wings if you’re concerned about it flying into household objects, such as ceiling fans. This will also prevent it from escaping if you leave a door or window open. However, clipping a parrot’s wings will compromise its ability to exercise, and some parrots become depressed or anxious when unable to fly.
Parrots aren’t physically harmed when their wings are trimmed. The flight feathers can be removed with scissors, ensuring your parrot can no longer fly. As long as the nerves, tissue, muscles, and blood vessels of the upper wings are left alone, the parrot will be fine. If cut incorrectly, this can lead to bleeding or the feathers being unable to regrow.
Is It Cruel To Clip A Parrot’s Wings?
As stated, when the process is carried out correctly, clipping won’t cause any lasting harm to the wings. The exception is if the parrot’s feathers are trimmed incorrectly. This happens when the owner:
- Trims the feathers too short. You may cut into nerves and blood vessels, causing pain.
- Cuts too many feathers. Parrots have non-flight feathers that are used for temperature regulation and comfort.
- Cuts in a bad pattern. This could unbalance the weight or length of the feathers, causing strain.
Regardless of your stance, a parrot’s wings are crucial to its lifestyle. They’re necessary to help parrots reach their nests, scavenge for meals, and escape predators in the wild.
Important: Never cut a baby parrot’s wings. The muscles, nerves, and tissue are still developing and will rely on the weight of the feathers to remain balanced. You may cause developmental issues and muscle damage to the chest.
Pros And Cons of Clipping Parrots Wings
Before you decide if your parrot’s wings need a trim, let’s explore the pros and cons:
Advantages of Wing Clipping
If you keep the parrot indoors rather than out in an aviary, there are many perks to trimming the wings, including:
Protection from Danger
It’s natural for a parrot to fly, but it can be dangerous in the home. Flying exposes the parrot to fans, windows, mirrors, and cooking pots. If your parrot were to crash into any of these solid objects, it could be seriously injured.
That’s even more likely to happen when parrots are startled, taking off without warning or due thought. By clipping the wings, your parrot will be unable to fly with any speed or distance.
Unable To Fly Away
Parrots may escape through a window that’s been left open. Some parrots can fly at 50 mph and travel great distances if they find a good wind current. If your parrot’s wings are trimmed, then it will be unable to fly away from home. This is an important consideration because an escaped parrot is unlikely to survive in the wild.
The parrot will rely on you to pick it up and take it to different places. If walking is the only effective way to get anywhere, now that it can’t fly, sitting on its owner’s shoulder to navigate the home will be more appealing.
Disadvantages of Wing Clipping
Despite the benefits, there are some negatives to trimming wings. Consequently, you may find it more worthwhile to parrot-proof your home and be aware of any potential pitfalls. Here are some considerations:
Lack of Exercise
A parrot that can’t fly will be unable to exercise. Parrots have feet and can walk, but it’s no substitute for flying. Birds have over 175 muscles, and most of them contribute to their wings. Without the ability to fly, their chest muscles will weaken, and your parrot will struggle to get the exercise that it needs each day.
Never Learns To Fly
If you trim a parrot’s wings while it’s young, it may never learn to fly. The breast muscles responsible for maintaining its wingspan will not properly develop. The parrot will also lose its instinct for flying.
Can Parrots Still Fly With Clipped Wings?
Even with trimmed flight feathers, a parrot can still fly a short distance. If it’s standing on its cage or another tall object, this will enable it to glide around.
Even still, the parrot will struggle to gain elevation, and the flight itself will lack coordination. This may cause it to crash randomly around the home as it adjusts to its short wings.
Your parrot should adapt to the new wingspan. It will avoid flying and use its ability to flutter. Once the parrot’s wings grow back to their full length, your parrot will begin flying again.
Parrot Wing Clipping Cost
The cost of getting a parrot’s wings clipped is usually $15-$20. However, it can cost much more. Clipping the wings of small parrots will cost less than clipping the wings of large parrots.
Trimming a parakeet’s wings takes less time and isn’t dangerous. However, a large macaw with a dangerous biting force will take significantly longer, requiring more professional care and experience.
Where Can I Get My Parrots Wings Clipped?
Vet clinics and certain pet stores offer wing-clipping services. You’re most likely to find it at large establishments or ones that deal exclusively with avian care.
Professionals will need the right kind of scissors, restraints, and possibly sedatives, should your parrot be unwieldy. You can benefit from their experience, including the ability to gauge the length and angle of the cut.
Do Clipped Wings Grow Back?
Clipped wings will grow back in parrots and most other birds. Since feathers are made of keratin, they can regenerate without issue. After a trim, it will take 6-10 weeks to grow back to their full length.
The only exception is if you cut the wings badly. If you’ve caused muscle or nerve damage while trimming them, they might be unable to regenerate properly.
How To Clip A Parrot’s Wings
Clipping a parrot’s wings should be done slowly and carefully. If you’re new to this, then consider asking a friend to assist. It’s easy to make a mistake when trying to clip and restrain a parrot. As your parrot grows familiar with the process and you grow more experienced, you can also do this alone. Start by:
Gathering What You’ll Need
Once you’ve started clipping, don’t stop halfway through. This will stress your parrot and may cause it to get loose from its restraints. Gather all the supplies you need ahead of time and keep them within arm’s reach:
- A towel that’s the size of your parrot
- Styptic powder or a clean rag to apply pressure if you cut a blood vessel
- A pair of sharp scissors
Wrapping Your Parrot With The Towel
Most parrots dislike having their wings touched. Yours may begin to fight you, bite, lunge, twist, or jump as soon as you begin the trimming process. To avoid that, you can gently wrap the parrot in a towel. Here’s how:
- Wrap the towel around the parrot’s body, pinning one wing down and leaving the other free.
- The towel should extend up to its neck so that it can’t reach around and bite you.
- Have a friend hold the parrot firmly and keep it from moving so that you can clip the wings.
Speak in a calm and happy tone. Act like it’s playtime and not a punishment.
Identifying The Feathers
Take hold of your parrot’s wing and extend it. It will splay out in the same pattern as when the parrot is flying. You should be able to see:
- Long feathers that reach out from the front of the wing. These are the primary feathers, or flight feathers.
- Further along that line will be shorter feathers that look otherwise identical. These are secondary feathers.
- Further still, into the armpit of the parrot, you will see smaller, softer feathers that are layered over each other. These are the tertial feathers.
You only need to cut the primary feathers to prevent your parrot from flying. Higher up the wing, above all the others, there will be shorter feathers. They will appear less defined, layering over each other. These are covert feathers and sit on the muscle and tissue of the bird’s wing. You must avoid cutting the covert feathers.
Judging the Length
Use your hands to gauge where to cut the flight feathers. Once you’ve practiced feeling for the right spot, you can do so again easily. Here’s how:
- Starting with the primary feathers, use your finger and thumb to feel along them
- Go upward, toward the covert feathers.
- When you feel a thicker portion, almost bulky, you are now touching the muscle and tissue of your parrot’s wing. Sometimes you can clearly see a distinction, but other times, you can only be sure with touch.
- You need to avoid cutting muscle or tissue, so inch your fingers down from there, by about 1-2 inches.
- Rub these feathers between your fingers to confirm that they are thin and individual, rather than a part of the tissue.
- Once you’ve found the right spot, hold the feathers in place between the length of your index finger and middle finger.
Making The Cut
Now it’s time to finally cut the feathers:
- Your 2 fingers will work as a protective barrier for the muscle and tissue.
- Take your scissors and line them up on the right spot, pressed against your fingers.
- It’s better to have the feathers too long rather than too short.
- Firmly but carefully trim the feathers in a smooth cut.
- If the scissors are not sharp enough, don’t pull or wiggle them around on the feather.
Bird Behavior After Wing Clipping
Clipping is more strenuous for your parrot than it is for you. The parrot may feel stressed, anxious, confused, or angry about your behavior. Reactions will vary from mild to extreme. For example, the parrot may:
- Retreat to its cage as soon as it’s let go
- Fight out of the towel when you loosen your grip
- Pout and remain quiet
- Scream or squawk
- Attempt to bite you
- Ignore you
Some parrots will continue like this for several hours. Others will forgive you after a few minutes or once you offer a treat. Parrots’ trust can be broken easily, and they don’t forget personal slights, so it’s important to reassure them. Make sure to reinforce your bond immediately by:
- Taking the parrot to its cage while still in the towel
- Placing it inside and undoing enough of the towel so it can free itself
- Giving it 5-10 minutes while you wait quietly nearby
- Speaking softly and happily to the parrot as you approach
- Offering it a treat and giving it praise for allowing the wing trimming
- After 1-2 hours, once it’s had time to gauge its balance without primary feathers, take it out of the cage
- Sit on the floor with it, so if it flutters, it does not fall too far
- Play with and encourage the parrot, offering it another treat
The key is to let your parrot know that you still love it, the situation is still safe, and that it’s not being punished. If it goes well, your parrot should adapt to its lack of flight feathers and return to normal in a week or two.
How Often To Clip A Parrot’s Wings?
Depending on the parrot, its flight feathers will regrow in 6 to 10 weeks. You can wait until then to clip them, or you can update the trim when they’re half of their original length.
You may notice the parrot startling to flutter greater distances or gaining more coordination. At this point, take more off the tips. The key is in deciding if your parrot needs its wings cut and then doing so properly. If you’d rather not get involved in the wing-clipping procedure, you can get it done by an avian vet and at some pet stores.