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Trimming Wings

A quick, professional trim will be less traumatic for your bird.

Do not trim your bird's wings yourself if you have never done it before. Have an experienced person show you the procedure and help you through it before trying it alone. Many pet bird owners do not trim their birds' wings but have a bird groomer, the retail store they purchased the bird from or an avian veterinarian do it. Your bird will have to be restrained to have its wings trimmed, and often times birds are disturbed by this restraint. Some pet owners prefer to have their birds upset with a third party rather than with themselves.

If you plan to trim your bird's wings, you will need someone to assist you, a towel, blunt-tipped scissors, cauterizing powder (such as Kwik-Stop, flour or cornstarch) and a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

It is important to do this quickly and calmly because your bird will most likely panic at being restrained. First, one person should restrain the bird by wrapping it in a towel. Only its face and the wing you are trimming should be exposed. The person restraining the bird should have a firm grip--but not too firm--around the back of the bird's head, behind the eyes, with the thumb and index finger. Also, keep a firm grip on the towel near the bird's lower body. Never grip the bird around the chest area.

The second person should extend the exposed wing, holding the wing portion closest to the bird's body. The other wing should remain wrapped in the towel to keep it out of the way. Examine each quill before trimming because you do not want to cut any feathers that are still growing. These feathers are called blood feathers because there is still blood in the shaft. If you cut this shaft, it will begin to bleed. Birds cannot afford to lose too much blood, so it must be stopped immediately. If your bird ever has a broken blood feather, use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to pull the entire broken feather shaft straight out of its follicle. Then, cover the follicle with a paper towel and apply pressure. If the bird continues to bleed after pressure has been applied several times, take the bird to an avian vet immediately.

Begin trimming with the outermost primary feather. Cut the nine outer primary feathers. Stout birds like Amazons will not need as many feathers trimmed to prevent them from flying (trim from five to nine feathers). The long, streamlined species, like cockatiels, will require more. Make sure to trim the feathers on both wings, not just on one side. Your bird needs to have enough balance to be able to control its landing if it falls off its gym or cage top or is suddenly startled into flight.


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