How to Trim Your Bird's Nails

How to Trim Your Bird's Nails
Trimming your bird’s nails is a major part of keeping your bird groomed. Untrimmed nails can cause your bird to sit in awkward positions on perches and if left unattended for long enough will make your bird unable to perch, cause arthritis, and even affect their ability to eat properly. Typically, your bird will require nail trimmings on a monthly basis. This will allow you to see the new growth and simply trim that off. If you have let your bird’s nails get too long, it may take some time to get them back under control because the quick, or nail bed, extends with the nail. Trim your bird’s nails every two weeks to ease the nail bed back to where it belongs.

It is best to train young birds to voluntarily give a foot for nail trimmings, especially if you intend to trim your bird’s nails by yourself. Think of this as half of a ‘step up’. When your bird hands you their foot praise them. Praise your bird with every nail trimmed to make grooming a pleasant experience. In addition to the clippers, introduce your bird to a heavy-duty nail file. A file is a helpful tool to smooth rough nail edges. Give your bird the ‘foot’ command and file each nail until smooth. If you don’t like clipping your bird’s nails, you can choose to file them on a weekly basis to keep them trimmed. It is best to get your bird used to both clipping and filing.

Untrained Birds
Most birds have not been taught to voluntarily offer their foot for routine trimmings and must be restrained to some degree. If your bird requires restraint, nail trimming becomes a two-man job. One person must hold the bird while the other trims the nails. Small birds can be gently cupped in two hands leaving the feet exposed for the person cutting the nails. Use a washcloth if the bird bites. Large birds should be toweled for their safety and the safety of the people doing the grooming. Gently wrap a towel around the bird’s body and hold them very gently but securely, so they cannot extend their wings. The head must be held so that they cannot bite through the towel, but care must always be taken not to hurt the bird. Wrap the towel in such a way that the feet are exposed so the nails can be accessed. Speak to the bird in a calm soothing voice to minimize their fear. And always reward the bird when the job is done.

Items Required
Make sure you have all the items necessary to complete the task prior to trimming your bird’s nails. A sharp pair of clippers, a heavy-duty nail file (like the type used for acrylic nails), and a towel are the basic items needed to clip your bird’s nails. However, it is very common, especially with birds that have dark nails, for one or more of the nails to bleed a little if they are cut too short. I always recommend erring on the side of nails that are a little too long and can be filed to the perfect length, but inevitably, if you do your own grooming, you will encounter a bleeding toenail. You can purchase a product at the petstore that comes in powder form, and when applied will stop the bleeding. It is always wise to have this on hand when trimming your bird’s nails.

If you have never trimmed a bird’s nails before, remember to be very gentle when holding your bird, trim small amounts of nail at a time, and training is paramount. A trained bird makes this job much easier for everyone involved.

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Teach Your Bird to Step Up
Perches for Your Bird's Cage

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