Wing clipping is a hot topic among bird communities, with people on both sides of the spectrum saying that you should or shouldn’t clip a bird’s wings. Before you make a decision for your bird based on the loudest voice online, take a step back and consider the pros and cons of both sides.
There is no definitive side to this argument, some birds are safer without clipping while some are safer with clipping. It wholly depends on the bird, the house, and the people inside that house. While clipping a bird’s wings isn’t the same a declawing a cat, it is still a big decision for a bird owner, and all situations need to be addressed before a final decision is made.
Why you Should vs Why you Shouldn't
There are many reasons why people say you shouldn’t clip a bird’s wings, as well as many reasons why people say you should. Here are some of the main reasons advocated by both groups.
When you clip your bird’s wings, you are essentially taking away their main mode of movement, exercise, and defense. Without full flight capability, birds often become obese due to their inability to burn off energy. They can also become more aggressive and bite-prone, because they cannot fly away when something frightens them.
If you have a dog, a cat, or a small child, the inability to fly can become a disastrous situation. Birds are seen as prey by other animals, and small children are clumsy. A bird on the floor can be bitten, batted at, stepped on, tripped over, and killed. The ground isn’t where a bird should naturally be.
If clipping was done poorly, it can stunt the growth of new feathers, leaving them permanently unable to fly.
These are all only physical reasons not to clip your bird’s wings, but birds do suffer mentally from clipping as well. Clipped birds can be in a constant state of anxiety and fear, without their means to escape dangerous situations. They also have tendency to develop compulsive behaviors like feather plucking if their wings are constantly clipped.
There are a few advantages to clipping a bird’s wings. Namely, for safety in tight spaces like the home.
In an ideal situation, involving someone with proper knowledge of clipping wings, you are not taking the ability to fly entirely away; instead, you are turning flight into gliding with no chance of ascension.
Clipping can stop common and dangerous accidents from occurring. Clipping can mitigate the chance of your bird slamming into walls and windows, or flying into a nook they can’t escape from. If you like to leave a ceiling fan on, then clipping can prevent them from hitting the fan. A clipped bird cannot accidentally land on the surface of the stove and suffer burns.
Clipping can also prevent escape. If you or someone in your family routinely leave doors or windows open, a clipped bird cannot go far and can often be rescued before being lost.
Should your Own Bird have their Wings Clipped?
There are some big factors that can determine whether or not you should clip your bird’s wings. The chart below should help you in making a good decision for the long-term health and safety of your bird.
- You have a dog, cat, or small child in the home with your bird.
- If you have 2+ birds together in one cage.
- Your only reason for clipping is so your bird is more dependent on you or can’t fly away from you.
- You don’t like that they can get into places or poop in places that you don’t like.
- You want to clip your bird’s wings for aesthetic purposes.
- Someone in your home constantly leaves doors and windows open, despite warnings.
- You have to turn your ceiling fan on for cold air and you have no AC – common in Europe.
- Your house has areas that they can fly into and not escape from – this one is situational. If you are in the process of renovating your home or you have holes in the walls to access plumbing or valves, you need to be wary of letting your bird out at all in these areas.
How to Clip Wings Safely and Properly
If you do decide to clip your bird’s wings, I recommend that you go to a professional such as a vet. If, for some reason you can’t, then you should do so with the correct technique so that you don’t risk damaging feathers or over stressing your bird.
What you are essentially doing is trimming the primary feathers. It’s best to trim only the two or three uppermost primary feathers (in green); however, you can trim them down to the end of the primary feathers (in blue). Ensure your bird is properly held down and is not squirming. Use a pair of nice and sharp shears, not normal scissors or dull shears.
There should be no bleeding, but if you mess up, apply liberal amounts of flour to the wounded feather.
Clipping is a Big Decision
Do not take the idea of wing clipping lightly. The act of restricting an animal’s means of mobility is a big decision, one which you should consider from an unbiased standpoint. Ask yourself, is this going to improve my bird’s health and happiness? If you do decide to cut them, ensure you are doing so safely and without causing stress or injury to your bird.
If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment below!