Wing Clipping Guide for Bird Owners

Updated on September 16, 2017
Donna Sundblad profile image

I love nature and being outdoors. I also delight in caring for the animals that make their home with me.

Neelix getting his wings clipped.
Neelix getting his wings clipped.

Is Wing Clipping Mean?

As a bird owner, I understand the mindset of wanting to let your bird fly. It's a beautiful thing. Letting your bird fly indoors, however, is a dangerous thing. All it takes is one accident, and your bird's life can be changed in an instant. While wing clipping may appear mean, not clipping a pet puts your bird in danger.

Indoor Dangers for Flighted Birds

When birds fly indoors they run the risk of flying into a wall, a window, a mirror, and causing themselves injury or even death. Other risks include drowning in the toilet, the sink, or other standing water, or landing on a hot stove. Birds are also at risk of slipping out of an open door or window and getting lost. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about beloved pets flying out of the door and being lost for good. In fact, my first cockatiel was found outdoors on the roof and the owner was not located.

Does Wing Clipping Hurt?

Some bird owners don't want to clip wings because they think it hurts the bird. It actually doesn't hurt any more than it hurts to clip your fingernails or cut your hair when it is done correctly. It is, however, important not to over-clip your bird's wings. Clipped wings should allow your bird to glide to the floor when they try to fly. In other words, they can still fly, but they can't fly upwards. If wings are clipped too much, it can cause your bird to fall like a rock and result in the injury to their breastbone.

Blood Feathers

Along with not cutting too many feathers, you should pay close attention to blood feathers. These feathers are still growing and, if cut, will bleed. Before you clip your bird's wings, check the shafts to be sure you're not clipping a blood feather. If you do clip a blood feather, you will have to treat it or possibly pluck it to stop blood loss. If you run into this problem and don't know what to do, call your vet.

How to Clip Wings

To clip your bird's wings fan out the wing. You'll see longer and shorter feathers. The longer feathers are called flight feathers or primary feathers. These are the feathers you'll want to make shorter. The rule of thumb I follow is to cut the flight feathers back to be even with the shorter feathers also known as secondary feathers.

There are a number of ways or styles when it comes to clipping wings. Some owners leave the first two flight feathers and clip the rest. I recommend this for a first clipping to see whether or not your bird can still fly safely or not. When my birds have a couple of flight feathers, they can still fly from room to room, so I choose to clip the first five or so flight feathers. As a rule of thumb, heavier birds need less cut than lighter birds. For my cockatiels, I often have to clip more because they are light and strong flyers. If you feel uncomfortable clipping your bird's wings, contact an avian vet or breeder in your area for help.

Clipping Baby Birds

When I have a clutch of cockatiel babies, I let them learn to fly before they are clipped. The first clipping I only cut two flight feathers, and continue to let them fly with less lift or distance. As they grow stronger, I cut another feather and so on until I find the right balance. Give them a chance to stretch their wings, learn to fly, and then clip them so they can fly safely without injury.

Should You Clip Your Bird's Wings?

Learning to clip wings is easy. Whether or not you should clip is subjective. Yes, birds are created to fly, but they were also created to live outdoors. If you choose to keep a bird indoors as a companion and pet, I do recommend clipping them enough that they can still fly and glide to the floor so they can't harm themselves. Not everyone believes in clipping wings. In my experience, I've seen pet birds injured or lost because they can fly. It's not fair to them to put them at risk.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Donna Sundblad profile image
      Author

      Donna Sundblad 3 months ago from Georgia

      Sam if your bird is bleeding any amount you need to take him to an avian vet. If you don't know of a vet nearby you can try applying styptic powder or another cauterizing agent like cornstarch, flour by packing it onto the bleeding area but be very careful not to get it in the nostrils. I would recommend you still seek out a veterinarian for help.

    • profile image

      Sam 3 months ago

      Please help me.

      My one bird has got hurt when the other one was hurting him.

      He got hurt near his nose above his beak and it's bleeding.

      So please fast help me out!!!

    • Donna Sundblad profile image
      Author

      Donna Sundblad 6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Kids, That's another good question and I plan to write a hub on this subject as well. A healthy length for your birds nails will allow them to perch properly. How long they should be will depend on the size of the bird of course. To trim them, you clip off the very tip and have to be careful not to cut too much or you may hit the quick...the blood source. It can be scary to the bird, so I recommend wrapping them in a towel and letting them hold the towel with one foot while you work on the other. Let me know if that answers your question.

    • kids-toy-box profile image

      kids-toy-box 6 years ago

      Thanks for the answer...one more question I have not clipped our budgies nails! He is now one year old! how often should the nails be clipped and how short should they be?

    • Donna Sundblad profile image
      Author

      Donna Sundblad 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks roc6. My blue-front Amazon, Neelix, doesn't like to get his wings clipped. He hates getting his nails clipped even more, but as soon as it is over he's a happy camper asking to "step up." If he sees a bug or some "unknown" thing it scares him, so it is best not to take the chance. Birds reared indoors can get frightened if they get outside and fly for a couple of miles before they settle down. By that time, they are lost.

    • roc6 profile image

      roc6 6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I have my Senegals wings cut every 6 months, it is quite traumatic for me the visit to the vet, never mind him. I do it religiously, once he got a fright and ended up outside calling me to "come on", he is quite jumpy so I prefer to have his wings clipped.

    • Donna Sundblad profile image
      Author

      Donna Sundblad 6 years ago from Georgia

      Good question, but not a simple answer. First let me say I knew someone whose budgie lost a leg to a ceiling fan. Their bird lived but often used a seed dish to help prop himself up. As to how often, it will depend on the molting process. The rule of thumb is to watch for the flight feathers to come back in. Often when two or three grow back in they should be clipped. Thanks so much for asking.

    • kids-toy-box profile image

      kids-toy-box 6 years ago

      Good advice on a sensitive topic...for bird owners:)I am too afraid to clip our budgies wings. We usually let our budgies fly around in the apartment-they seem to do very well they often fly around then sit on a plant before flying back into their cage so I don't feel the need to clip them. I am however curious as to how often would birds need their feathers clipped?

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)