An often heated discussion among those in the avian world is wing clipping. Like any impassioned issue, it often becomes a battle of right and wrong. And like every impassioned issue, there is no “correct” answer. Choice is based on opinion and the comfort level of each bird owner. This is just one perspective.
There are many reasons for clipping your bird’s wings, but the main reason should always be safety. Granted, if you have very small birds that never leave their cages, this is a moot point, but for those who have larger birds that are allowed to leave the confines of their cages, it should be a consideration.
To debunk one myth common among those who decry clipping birds as an abuse, literally taking away their god given right to fly, think again. All birds that are clipped properly can still fly. Clipping them does not hobble them in any way. It is a failsafe at best. Without their major primary feathers intact, they are unable to gain lift, which shortens their flight to several feet. The smaller the bird, the farther they will be able to fly. Most large birds when clipped will literally just glide to the floor. This allows owners the ability to gain control more easily without having to chase them and if they do happen to gain access to the outdoors, will hopefully lessen their need to spend days wandering through neighborhoods searching for their lost bird.
Most larger birds, when let loose in your home, won’t have the urge to fly. They are content being propped on a perch to preen the day away. Some, like the cockatoo, prefer wandering about on foot because they are instinctual ground foragers and prefer to do so even in the wild. Many who consider clipping an abuse seem to think the practice is inhumane. If you step back and consider your bird’s life, is it any more inhumane than keeping it locked in a cage for a good part of their day? Unless you own an aviary, or an open flight of your own, having an argument against clipping is imprudent. Even if you are at home every day and never cage your bird, how often are they really in flight? This answer alone should lessen the need to have concern.
Another consideration for and against would be predators in your home. If you have other animals that can be a threat and are loose in the home, opting not to clip your birds is a preference. With other pets, especially dogs who in themselves are instinctual hunters, watching reactions between the two and supervising play times is a must until both are comfortable with one another. If the comfort level never comes to pass, playtimes must be based upon which pets are loose when and the need to clip is based on the size of the bird and their ability to get away from danger on their own. One nip on the nose and most dogs and cats get the point quite quickly. Watch their interactions and make your choice prudently.
Do not forget about the ever popular ferret. Many people have them these days and they inherently love to hunt birds. They also have the uncanny ability to crawl into even the smallest of cages, where safety becomes an issue for both parties. Birds of any size with defend themselves with all the viciousness of a barracuda and can do damage that most new parrot owners can’t fathom. So again, keep safety in mind and supervise your pets when they are out together.
If you live in a household where doors and windows are frequently left open, where traffic is constant and the energy is chaotic, clipping should be a consideration. Most birds will frighten easily, especially when the energy levels are high, and they will instinctually take flight. The last thing you need is a loose bird in a house full of people with windows and doors left hastily ajar.
Consider putting screens in every window as a precaution. Don’t forget skylights and vents. If you have a door that is frequently used, consider a secondary screen door there as well. As an added precaution, consider placing your bird’s perch in a room that has its own door so that they are free of traffic and easily caught if they were to take flight.
In all, use your common sense. Know your pets, know their tendencies and make your choice based on the possibilities. Should you decide to clip your bird, bring them to an avian vet and ask for a demonstration. Most vets will be more than happy to assist in teaching you proper clipping methods. Never clip your birds without first gaining this instruction. Clipping improper feathers can hobble and in some cases kill your bird as there are feathers that can bleed out if trimmed in error. If your vet is unable to show you the proper method of clipping, visit your local bird rescue and ask for guidance.