Larger birds such as Amazons and macaws need fewer primary feathers cut. Once the feathers are cut it is rare that they can fly, only glide down from where they are perched. Smaller birds such as a cockatiel are much more difficult to keep from flying and will need to have the majority of his primary feather clipped. Even then, the cockatiel is capable of flight; he cannot gain much altitude, but can fly.
Some people will advise you to cut the feathers of only one wing. This is dangerous advice. Both sides need to be trimmed so the bird is balanced. If he falls, or tries to fly off his perch, he needs to be able to glide down balanced, to prevent injury.
You will need someone to assist you in holding the bird and stretching out the wing. When you have gained experience and when you and the bird are completely used to each other, it is easy to trim the wings by yourself.
Arrange the tools you will need before you begin. You will need a pair of sharp claw cutters. Never use anything that has sharp points. The clippers must blunt ends. It is so easy to accidentally stab the bird, your assistant, or yourself. You will also need a pair of needle nose pliers, a few paper towels, and a pair of toenail clippers. Make sure the equipment you are using is clean. Have a towel to help hold the bird. You must restrict the bird so that he is not injured, while flapping around. Parrots, especially large parrots, can bite and bite hard. Give a macaw a chicken bone to chew on if you do not believe me. They can take off a finger. You will need a cauterizing powder on hand to control any bleeding. (Their blood - not your blood). (Use direct pressure your own wound and clean it). Link for an example of cauterizing powder at bottom of page.
When working on your bird always act calmly, speak to him calmly, and move slowly. The idea behind the towel is to restrain him so that you can work on one wing at a time. Gently wrap the towel around him so that the opening is near the wing that you are currently trimming. Keep his face exposed so that he does not panic or smother. Remember the calmness that you employ now will determine your success at working on your bird later. Do not let him panic. Talk to him throughout the procedure in a calm voice.
The person holding the bird in the towel should firmly hold him behind the head and with the other hand; hold the bird’s lower body. The person cutting will gently stretch out the wing. First, examine the wing carefully for new growth feathers. Feathers once they are fully-grown are dead, like hair, and can be safely cut with no pain or bleeding. New growth feathers contain blood. These new feathers are known as blood feathers. Do not cut these blood feathers. The feathers, once cut will act as a straw and siphon the blood quickly out. Bird's bodies have little blood, so a bird cannot afford to lose much blood.
If you do accidentally cut a blood feather or if he breaks a blood feather accidentally you must act immediately. Use the needle nose that you prepared beforehand and pull the entire shaft of the blood feather, from the feather follicle. Pull the feather straight out. Immediately apply pressure with the paper towel. If the bleeding is not controlled with direct pressure and Kwik Stop get your bird to an avian veterinarian immediately. If you are afraid to pull out the blood feather, you should not be trimming the bird’s wings. Please leave it to a professional. It MUST be pulled out immediately.
The feathers that you are trimming are the outside feathers or primary feathers, in a small bird you will want to trim most of the primary feathers. In large bird five to nine feathers is sufficient.
Identify each feather and cut the feather shaft as close to the wing as possible. If you cut closer to the wing tip the bird will have an aggravating feather shaft sticking out. Do not cut the wing, just the feather shaft next to the wing. Cut along the wing each long flight feather where the shaft meets the wing. Examine your bird carefully, do you see any blood?
Now that you are done with the feather trimming before you let the bird free, talk to him, and reassure him in a very loving voice. Let him free and give him his favorite treat. Spend some quality time with him and reassure him that you love him. If it is the first wing clipping watch him closely, he does not know he cannot fly.
Wings will grow back. Keep an close watch on feather growth and trim again before he is able to take flight. Many people lose their birds, when the feathers grow back, not realizing the feathers have grown back.
Clipping a bird's wings has one other advantage. You can bond with him much more quickly. Training the bird becomes much easier. If you are careful, trimming a bird's wings can have advantages and can alleviate much heartache.
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