Whether or not to clip your bird’s wings is a hotbed of controversy, but it doesn’t have to be. One side believes adamantly that you should never clip a bird’s wings, and the other insists you should for the bird’s safety, among other reasons. In this article we will explore the pros and cons and explain why there is a very good reason for both views. More than likely, the specifics of your home environment will influence your stance on the subject.
Just for the record, we feel strongly that birds should be flighted, and only use clipping for training circumstances, curbing severe behavior, or if there is an environmental risk to the bird. But we respect everyone’s point of view.
Lets start with the flighted opinion. For this discussion we are not talking about free-flight, which is training your bird to fly outside, free from any restraints. This article deals with clipping or allowing the bird to have full or partial flight inside your home.
Birds are meant to fly. It seems to be a simple and well known statement. For now, we will ignore the fact that there are some birds who do not fly, or who cannot fly far: the chicken, ostrich and penguin for example.
Birds are extremely social animals. They call to one another as soon as they are separated, they preen each other, care for each other, and, if you have not noticed, usually want to be with the other members of the household, even if they do not want hands-on interaction. They want to be with us. Many owners of flighted parrots will say that they are happier and more socially adjusted than non-flighted birds. They have the freedom to go to their cages or other areas of the house, which offers them choices. This allows them to feel they are part of the ‘flock’ and not restricted and kept away from the social areas of the house.
Unclipped birds can return to cages when hungry, scared, thirsty, or tired. They can fly to perches to interact and be more social and near their bonded humans. This can reduce unwanted behaviors, such as feather picking, screaming or cage aggression.
We love to see our birds in flight. There is something magical in their ability to defy gravity and carry themselves through the air.
However, this can quickly get out of hand and even dangerous for an untrained bird. Birds who have not been trained can panic easily and fly into walls or windows, severely injuring themselves or even end up in the death of the bird. They can fly into toilets and drown or into pots on stoves. They can fly out of windows or doors and be lost forever, which happens with heartbreaking frequency. Without training, they can become very intrusive and destructive, continually flying to their human when not encouraged to, or fly to cabinets and other furniture, or damage electrical cords on floors. The possibilities for injury to your bird and damage to your home are endless.
For this reason we never recommend that you allow your bird out of its cage without supervision and training. For a truly optimal experience for both you and the bird, training them to fly only to allowable designations, such as play-stands, is recommended.
So with that said, what are the reasons you would you clip your bird’s wings? Well, for their safety, for one. What is your household like? Do you have children, animals or ceiling fans that can injure unclipped birds or cause injury to your bird? Do you have an active home where open doors happen with frequency? Assessing your home-life and the safety of your bird is essential before making the decision whether to allow your bird to be flighted.
Clipped birds can become depressed, turn to feather destructive behavior, scream incessantly, and engage in other negative behavior. This is also true for flighted birds who simply are not given enough to do, regardless if they are allowed to fly.
Sometimes clipping your bird is an important training technique. If it is a new bird and unfamiliar with your home and occupants, having your bird clipped gives you the opportunity to take the bird around and safely familiarize it with its surroundings. Show your bird windows, walls and mirrors. Tap on them and let them tap on the surfaces as well. This will not keep a panicked bird from flying into surfaces, but it can deter some possible accidents. Clipping your bird can help you with training and taming if it is not used to humans. Clipping your bird can often squelch aggressive behavior, allow for positive reinforcement training. After successful training you can allow the wing feathers to grow back.
Also be aware of the dangers of clipping your bird. An improperly clipped bird can injure itself just as easily as a flighted bird. A clipping done wrong can cause your bird to fall like a rock, causing severe injury and even killing birds, so please, if you decide on this route, make sure you take them to an experienced person. There are cases where bad wing clippings have ruined a bird’s chances to learn to fly at all, especially when clipped at a young age before fledging. Let your bird learn to fly before deciding to clip, or it may lose that important time period in its mental growth where balance, landing and maneuvering are all learned.
We hope this has given you something to think about regarding your stance on wing-clipping, and help you to make a better decision in the life of your bird.