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Wing Clipping

At Sugarloaf Animal Hospital we are frequently asked whether or not to clip a bird’s wings.  While we ALWAYS want birds to be able to fly — because we know that they are healthiest when they can — we also know there is no simple, universal answer. 

There are a number of things to consider before making what is a very individual decision: 

Pros:

  • Clipping is not a permanent procedure to prevent flight, but rather a trimming of certain flight feathers to curtail soaring 
  • Clipping can help prevent accident and injury, as birds panic easily 
  • Allows you to take your bird outdoors on a non-windy day
  • Acts as a safety feature if children cannot ensure doors & windows are closed when your bird is let out of its enclosure
  • Normally only takes about 20 minutes and your bird can usually go home shortly afterwards 

Cons:

  • An ideal clip can never be attained if administered at home, as the bird will be awake
  • The experience is often traumatic for both the owner and the bird if performed at home. You may break the trust in the relationship
  • If an incorrect clip is performed, birds are likely to crash-land. They may hurt themselves or break other feathers.  The resulting trauma can be severe enough to permanently affect quality of life, or in extreme situations, even be fatal
  • Even if the wing clip is performed correctly, there is still an increased risk of crash-landing, fracturing their sternum (keel bone) or causing a traumatic injury.  At SAH, we try to minimise this risk through the type of wing-clip we perform 
  • Clipping can encourage birds to become feather-pickers due to irritation of poorly cut feathers.  This over-attention can become a habit and continue even after the feathers regrow.

General: 

  • Baby birds should not have their wings clipped until after they have learned to fly – and land! 
  • The only feathers that should be clipped are the primary flight feathers 
  • If your bird has any injuries or is recuperating from surgery, cage rest is preferred to wing clipping
  • Feathers of both wings must be clipped evenly to avoid imbalance and problems landing 
  • In general, the more aerodynamic the bird, the more feathers need to be clipped 
  • Trimmed birds tend to be more docile than unclipped birds 

How is a wing-clip performed?

At Sugarloaf Animal Hospital, our Vets advise that wing clipping should be performed only if absolutely necessary once other avenues have been exhausted – For example, it’s entirely possible to take your bird for a walk outdoors with custom-made bird harnesses! 

  • We perform all wing clips under general anaesthesia
  • We always clip both wings evenly to maintain balance and promote safe landing
  • We don’t clip all the feathers – only certain ones. This is to reduce lift and thrust capability without affecting the bird’s ability to slow down and land safely
  • We clip the feathers in such a way that the quill tips don’t scratch against the bird’s body, which is very irritating!

NOTE: 

  • As mentioned, a clipped bird is still able to land safely. On a windy day, the bird may be able to generate lift into the air and glide a fair distance
  • General anaesthesia has its own risks. SAH has a fantastic team of experienced and well-qualified veterinarians and nurses to ensure your bird’s safety at all times throughout the procedure and after
  • Birds almost always recover quite quickly from the anaesthesia and the procedure is not painful

Have we answered your questions?  It’s not an easy decision to make, so we always recommend having it done professionally. This will ensure your bird’s safety at all times.  

If you have any questions about clipping your bird’s wings, then please do not hesitate to call us at Sugarloaf Animal Hospital.  Our friendly staff have a wealth of experience in this specific problem and are only too happy to help!

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