Clip Your Bird's Wings

Edited by Yuliya, Eng

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Why clip your bird's wings?

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Many bird-owners clip their bird's wings. Many opponents of clipping argue that it is unnatural and cruel to the bird. On the other hand, if you have a bird as a pet friend, their safety and comfort is your first priority, and wing clipping can help.

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If you decide you do want to clip your bird's wings, first consider the reasons for and against the practice:


  • If you let your bird out of its cage often, clipping its wings will make him safer. My parakeets used to panic and fly into all my picture frames whenever I let them out. When one of them flew straight into a closed window, I knew I had to cut their wings - for their safety.
  • Clipped wings make birds easier to tame. This is especially true if you are just getting your bird. Keeping it close to the ground helps them learn to rely on you for help, and can lead to a wonderful companionship. You can always let their wings grow back in once they're tamed.
  • Clipped wings grow back within several months to a year (depending on the size of the bird), so the clipping is not permanent. If you decide that the clipping was not the best choice for your bird after all, you can simply opt not to do it when the bird gets his flight back.
  • Clipping a bird's wings does not hurt them (as long as you do it correctly).
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  • Cutting a bird's wing affects his ability to balance. It's akin to cutting a cat's whiskers. Until he gets used to his body's new center of balance, he may have trouble perching.
  • Flightless birds often lose strength and muscle tone, because they don't get the exercise benefits of flying.
  • Birds whose wings are growing back in may need to practically re-learn to fly. Some fly into things in their attempts, while others will need to build up enough strength to lift off (and descend) properly.
  • Clipped wings can cause your bird discomfort and stress, which can lead to feather picking.
  • If your bird is not used to handling, the actual process of clipping its wings can be stressful. If can cause distrust and set the taming process back.
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If you've never done it before, it is HIGHLY recommended that you watch a professional clip your bird's wings first. It's even better if they can do it every time. If you don't know what you're doing, you can easily hurt your bird or at the very least cause them discomfort until their wings grow back in. This article is only meant to provide a guide for those who have already consulted an expert and need their memory refreshed.

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How to clip your bird's wings

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What you'll need

  1. 1
    Sharp scissors with rounded tips
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  2. 2
    A small towel.
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  3. 3
    Emergency supplies such as a coagulant to stop bleeding, tweezers, and gauze.
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Before you begin

  1. 1
    Place your bird in the towel
    Hold them firmly but gently along their bottom, close to their legs. This will make your bird feel safer, while keeping it confined and keeping your skin away from potential bites.
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  2. 2
    Gently unfold the wing you are going to clip
    Place it on top of the towel.
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It's time to cut!

You will only be cutting your bird's primary flight feathers, the longer feathers past the bend in the wings. Cutting the secondary feathers can cause discomfort, pain, and health problems. The goal is to cut enough of the feathers to prevent your bird from lifting off too far off the ground, but still leave enough to give your bird the ability to safely glide down from high places.

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643px-Ara militaris -Whipsnade Zoo -flying-8a.jpg

The image above indicates the standard cut in red, and shows which feathers are to be cut.

Keep in mind that feathers with dark shafts are blood feathers, and will bleed if you cut into the shafts. Avoid these! If you do accidentally nip a blood feather, remove the offending feather as quickly as possible. You may need to use tweezers: grip the broken feather as close to the bottom of the shaft as possible, and pull quickly and firmly. You can then use a coagulant to stop the bleeding - something as simple as corn starch works well if you don't have anything else on hand.

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There are a number of different cuts used by veterinarians and bird experts:

  1. 1
    Standard clip
    This is the most commonly used cut since it's the simplest. Place the scissors diagonally down the middle of the first 5 feathers furthest from your bird's body, and cut clean through. Keep in mind that while this is common, it leaves sharp edges in the feathers which can bother birds and cause them to pick at them.
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  2. 2
    Clipping at the shaft
    This cut requires more attention, but it is more visually appealing and some argue feels better for the bird since it will be less likely to pick at the feathers after the cut. To do this cut, hold out each feather individually and cut low on the shaft, right where the feather begins. Do this symmetrically for the first five feathers on both wings. If you have a larger bird, you may want to avoid this cut as it makes it harder for them to glide, potentially causing them harm in the long run.
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  3. 3
    Half clip
    This kind of clip can be used to give the appearance that the wings are not trimmed at all. It is done in the same way as the above clip, but the last two feathers are usually left untouched. This cut is not recommended, because it only limits, not prevents the bird's flight, and can lead to injuries.
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Additional information

  • Choose a quiet place and time to clip your bird's wings. Try to find a place away from the bird's cage, and that will be safe if your bird gets away from you. A quiet enclosed area like a bathroom works well.
  • If you don't feel confident enough to handle your bird and cut its wings at the same time, ask someone to help you!
  • Always trim symmetrically. Cutting feathers on one wing and not the other will cause your bird to have poor balance, and increase the risk for injury.
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  • Mark Robinson - Clipping Chicken Wing [1]
  • Alex Smith - Ara militaris -Whipsnade Zoo -flying-8a [2]
  • Peter Békési - Black-headed Parrot [3]
  • Marie - Amazon pretrei [4]


  • Kaytee - Clipping your bird's wings [5]
  • Sweet Acre Bird Farm - Clipping wings [6]
  • Exotic Pet Vet - Proper Wing Clipping [7]
  • Birds-online - Will the feathers grow back? [8]


If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Article Info

Categories : Birds

Recent edits by: Yuliya

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