The first time you have your bird’s wings clipped, get it done by an expert who can demonstrate precisely what to do. It is NOT advised that you do this without first seeing an in-person presentation. It is also NOT advisable to do this on bigger parrots. On budgies, lovebirds, and cockatiels, this wing trim is simple, but bigger parrots usually need two persons, one to hold the bird and one to trim.
With smaller birds, such as lovebirds, you may trim with one hand while holding the bird with the other.
Trim just the first four to six major flight feathers. Never clip these long feathers so far up that you cut into the little feathers that lie on top of them. If you look carefully at the image below, you will see two layers of small feathers on top of the larger flying feathers. DO NOT CUT THE SHORT FLIES. You should only cut the primaries about a quarter inch below them. Follow the angle of the top, overlying feathers so that the trimmed wings lie comfortably on the body and do not annoy the bird by digging into its skin.
The following illustration demonstrates how to cut along the single layer of long flying feathers, a few millimeters below the top layers of short feathers. Remember to keep the wings at their natural angle so the clipped feathers lie smoothly on the body and don’t dig into the bird’s skin.
These two images demonstrate how to cut an angle along the major flying feathers. At the start, merely clip five (5) feathers and then check how far your bird can fly. It’s excellent if it smoothly glides to the ground without gaining lift. You don’t want your bird to be unable to fly because it lacks “lift.” This adjusted wing trim is ideal for birds like African Greys, who are often over-trimmed and end up breaking their keel when landing too hard on the floor.
Cut as few flying feathers as possible. You want it to be able to fall softly, rather than with a thud. Overtrimming the wings restricts the bird’s activity. However, the sort of trim I suggest must be maintained on a regular basis since it grows out fast and the bird may gain lift in as little as four weeks.
Make sure to trim along the lower flight feathers at an angle, following the feathers’ “line.”
There should be no bleeding at all. You are cutting much too high if you make the bird bleed!!! This should be a painless treatment (although the bird will not like being held in such a constricted manner, it only lasts a few seconds).
Again, we strongly advise that you learn how to do this in person the first time, and then use this tutorial to refresh your memory.
Remember that these flight feathers will grow back in very rapidly for young birds like the ones in this photo (9 weeks old), so keep watch of how your bird is flying and whether it is obtaining “lift.” If the bird can achieve “lift” (flying up rather than coasting down to land), it can fly a long way outdoors, particularly if there is a breeze.
Please keep in mind that there should never be any bleeding. If the bird bleeds, you’ve done something wrong. When done correctly, this is a painless technique (albeit the bird will not appreciate being held in this position for a short duration during cutting). Household flour is an excellent first-aid solution for halting bleeding.
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