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Bird Care

To clip or not to clip?

Why Birds Should Not Be Clipped

  1. Birds spend hours a day preening themselves so they can keep their flying skills, it shows how much they care about flying
  2. Flying allows them to get out of harm's way
  3. Flying is what they do, it is unfair to take away this ability, it is handicapping the bird
  4. Flying keeps a bird healthy and so prolongs their life span (flying is one of the top ways birds exercise, clipping may promote inactivity and possibly muscle atrophy)
  5. A bird in flight is truly an amazing thing to watch
  6. If the bird falls from a high place and is unable to fly, he will fall like a hot potato and most likely be injured
  7. Flying makes them happy. If you have ever witnessed birds playing “air tag” with each other, you will not have the heart to clip their wings
  8. It is quite an experience to have a bird fly to you upon calling
  9. When a bird is accustomed to a room, he is unlikely to crash into windows and injure himself, so clipping is unnecessary as a safety measure
  10. A bird can become very frustrated when his flying ability is taken away from him and may display annoyance and grumpy behaviors (such as screeching, biting, and kicking objects around).


Why Birds Should be Clipped

  1. It gives you more control of the bird so the bird can be more easy to tame
  2. For young birds that have not learned to fly properly, clipped wings prevent them from injuring themselves in crashes
  3. Because a bird's bones are mostly hollow, they are fragile and can easily be broken if they crash into the wall or an object (it is even possible for them to break their neck upon crashing impact – instant death)
  4. To allow a bird to have full flight would require the room to be totally bird proof – which is almost entirely impossible (there is always bound to be a way the bird can hurt himself that we have overlooked – sharp edges of the furniture?)
  5. Clipped wings prevent the bird from flying out the window and escaping. Even if this occurs, it is more likely that you will recover him because he cannot get very far with clipped wings
  6. A clipped bird can hover and can still fly around the room but is only restricted to the degree of height he can gain, so in a way you are not completely taking away his ability to fly at all
  7. With full flight, the bird can get to high places and sometimes refuse to come down
  8. A bird's flight feathers will grow back, so clipping is not a permanent thing
  9. Clipping, if done properly, is a painless procedure. It is analogous to humans getting a hair cut

Discussion:Regarding concerns on point 3 mentioned above.

Question from LFB member:

What do people think about this? Bubba is coming along nicely. He enjoys time out of his cage and he will stay on my finger for a little while before he gets nervous and jumps off. Would clipping make him tamed faster? What are the pros and cons of clipping?   I checked some budgie sites earlier this morning and some of the reason they gave for clipping or not clipping sounds absurd. Do birds actually die from crashing in to the wall? I didn't think they were that fragile.   What does everyone think?

Answer from LFB member:

Umm- yes, they do die from crashing into walls, mirrors, windows, and so on. My wife has experienced it first hand when a friends unclipped bird darted out of its cage and crashed hard into a wall and broke its neck. Bang, gone, just like that.

Why exactly is wing clipping a "dreaded" topic? If you wish to keep your bird safe it is best to clip their wings. It does not hurt the bird, and if done correctly they can still fly short distances so they will not "fall". Next moult they will get new flight feathers, and you can choose to clip them again or not clip them if you really think they are tame enough to not need it. Its not like declawing a cat or docking a dogs tail.

Birds are light creatures with hollow bones. They aren't particularly sturdy although they can be resilient in other ways. Keeping them indoors is utterly and completely unnatural to them, because they are used to having huge amounts of space to fly free - that is how they evolved. Even a captive bred bird still has that instinct to fly free, and that's why millions of people lose their pet birds every year either through escape or injury. Clipping their wings to slow them down and keep them from getting into trouble makes sense to me, and anyone who says it is unnatural to clip a bird's (who lives in a house) wings should just stop keeping birds in the house altogether because that is a lot more unnatural. That's my view, anyway.

Obviously, if you keep your birds in a large aviary you may not want to clip them. It is not a universal must-do. If your circumstances dictate that your bird is in a cage and has limited space and has any chance of getting outdoors, or you need to let them out and about to try and tame them down, or even if you are trying to tame them enough to talk (which apparently takes an extremely tame bird as well as tremendous patience and persistence) then I feel they should be clipped. If your bird is very tame, or has a very large space to live in and does not come out of his "bird" space into "people" space then clipping is probably not important. If you have your house completely bird-proofed with all the windows and mirrors covered and all hazards put away when the bird is out perhaps you can get away with it too. Just imagine, though - you have your bird out and someone knocks on your door - he gets startled and bolts for a high place. Will you not answer the door to be sure he can't get out? My feeling is that the more "people-centred" your budgie, the more clipping is desirable.

All the horror stories you read about unclipped birds and their misadventures are most likely told because they happened to someone. Not only did my wife have her tragedy, but I know of a budgie who plunked fatally into of all things a deep fryer because the kids let him out while Mom was cooking dinner. They are nosey, curious, nervous and reactive critters who often don't look before they leap.