Clipping Cockatiel Wings, Nails and Beaks

Clipping Cockatiel Wings, Nails and Beaks
Written by Nancy Kizuka for the NCS Magazine and © 1997 by NCS

Clipping Wings

Nothing is more beautiful than watching your cockatiel fly. Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching it fly outside.

I hope that most of us clip wings. I know that some do not. It doesn’t hurt, nor is it cruel. I feel it is more cruel for a predator to end up with a ‘tiel snack.

I do however, let my babies (of all species) learn to fly and land safely. Once they have mastered that, their wings are clipped. Now, before you show members start getting the feathers raised, remember, we are talking about pet cockatiels.

I prefer to clip evenly on both sides; that way the bird can control its descent. Try clipping the first 5 flight feathers. You don’t want the bird to drop – just glide gently to the floor. Continue one feather at a time, until the bird cannot gain altitude.

Your bird will need to be clipped again after the next molt. Be careful, sometimes those feathers can sneak up on you. All it takes is 1 feather on each wing for a cockatiel to be able to fly.

(Permission to use photos from Kaytee, September 27, 2006.)

When clipping these flight feathers, be careful not to clip any growing feathers. You will recognize these blood feathers from the others since you can see the dark blood area in the shaft.

If you are not quite sure you can be your bird’s barber, contact your avian veterinarian or local pet shop. Most will do this grooming for you for a nominal charge. Many will give you hands-on experience.

Clipping Nails

Nails need to be clipped when they are becoming snagged on toys, cage covers or clothes. I use a human nail clipper or baby nail scissors, and take off just the tippy-tips.

All nails have a blood supply. If you nick into this blood supply or quick, have some Quik-Stop or Stay on hand. If you do not have these commercial products on hand, flour or corn starch will work. Apply this with gentle pressure until the bleeding stops. Occasionally the nail gets cut too short and these products don’t work. I like to use silver nitrate sticks to stop any bleeding. They are available from your avian veterinarian.

The proper size perch can help keep nails at the correct length. The tips of the nails should touch the perch. You can also use concrete perches, pedi-perches, sandy perches, hard wood perches or any of the other conditioning perches available today. Using a variety of perches also helps the bird stay comfortable since they are on their feet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also helps to prevent early onset arthritis.

Keeping Beaks Trimmed

Beaks do not need to be trimmed under normal circumstances. Birds that are have a chronic illness, a previously injury to the beak or a nutritional deficiency may occasionally need their beak trimmed by an avian veterinarian.

I had only one cockatiel that ever needed her beak trimmed on a regular basis. She was an older bird with liver disease. Her upper beak was trimmed every other week or so.

Keeping a cuttlebone, a mineral block or small bird lava stone in the cage will assist in keeping the cockatiel’s beak at the proper size and shape. Toys and other bird-safe objects to chew on also help with this condition as well as prevents boredom.

If you think your bird’s beak may need to be trimmed, please check with your avian veterinarian. I’m sure they will be happy to do this for you and teach you how to keep your bird’s beak in shape.

Editor’s Note: A bird’s beak contains a blood supply as well as a sensory organ at the tip. This tells the bird whether what he has in his beak is hot or cold, and basically whether it is food or not. To damage this sensory organ would mean that the beak will not regrow normally and could pose a threat to the bird’s ability to eat normally. Please do not ever try trimming your bird’s beak yourself. Take it to your trusted avian vet first for an evaluation.

14 thoughts on “Clipping Cockatiel Wings, Nails and Beaks”

  1. I talked about clipping my birds wings on a bird chat on face book because my bird flew out of his cage and almost got caught by my cats and before I clipped his wings he bit me hard and drew blood. well the chat group got made at me and band me from the group because they said me clipping his wings was me being mean to the bird and punishing it. I don’t think clipping a birds wings is being mean do you?

  2. Clipping the feathers is quite harmless, as long as the bird has enough feathers to glide safely, and fly a short distance when in danger. However, care should be taken around predators and potentially dangerous situations; the bird cannot fly properly, and will therefore be vulnerable.

    I personally clip the feathers when they’re able to fly, but only for one molt. During this time they become more accustomed to being with people, and learn to communicate. After that I let the feathers grow out normally, and am left with very social tame cockatiels, that can follow me around the house.

    Keeping the feathers short deprives the bird of flight, which I would not like if I were a bird, so I only clip them once (twice if the bird is a danger to itself, but I’ve only needed to do that once).

    It’s your choice, but try and see it from the perspective of the bird. And never clip the wings themselves, since that does count as mutilation, and is an unnecessary cruel intervention for a problem that does not realliy exist.

  3. Clipping a cockatiel’s wings is not cruel, all though you do not want to clip that much or it will be unbalanced and watch out for the blood feathers

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