clipping your bird’s wings

Ava the parakeet after a recent wing clipping, May 2009
Ava the parakeet after a recent wing clipping, May 2009

[Update 4/18/2010: I have re-thought my views slightly on wing clipping with experience; you can read an updated opinion here.]

Birds like to fly–this can make them very interesting pets at times, but there are also times when they need to have their wings clipped. Summer is coming up, and if birds are going to come along for trips, you don’t want them flying away, plus they have to be ready with the latest look.
Many bird owners like to have their pet’s wings clipped so that they can’t fly away or into trouble, but of course you want to leave the bird enough feathers to flap a little with, which will be crucial for landing when they try to fly after the cut.
It’s a good idea to have a veterinarian or vet tech do the cutting for you the first time your bird(s) have wings clipped. Ask to see them do it–nice clinics will often allow you–and then you’ll have a good idea how to do it yourself.
After that you can buy the special stainless steel wing clipping scissors they sell at pet stores and use them with greater confidence.
It’s really a two-person job, so make sure you have a bird-friendly assistant to help hold your bird, and make sure you know where to cut the feathers on your particular species.
Birds respond to feathers being cut (in the right place, of course) much in the same way a person would respond to a haircut–which is to say, the process should not be painful.¬† Of course, most birds like to move around and don’t like to be restrained, but make sure your assistant holds your pet firmly while you cut the feathers.
With preparation, the right tools, a good assistant and proper care, and a few minutes, your wing clipping should go smoothly and you and your bird should be ready for safer adventures together!