Tuesday, May 3, 2011


In the next few days I will be replacing nest boxes on my cages. The birds have been fed healthy breeding formulas and they are ready, except for one final detail.
Tame Rainbow won't bite, but he also doesn't hold still.

I took a good look at some of our future fathers and, sure enough, two of them had very long nails, or claws if you prefer that terminology. I prefer calling them nails because it sounds friendlier, less sinister for my feathered companions than claws. Although these two guys had what looked like curved daggers.

Bonnie's mate, Clyde, gets a trim. He bites, hence the washrag.
Domestic caged birds are unable to wear down their nails like wild birds that have to scratch for their food.
A male bird with overly long nails may have difficulty convincing his hen to stand still during the mating process. And, although she must stand still if things are going to connect properly, how can she if his nails are painfully digging into her back? She’s going to squawk and throw him off, ruining any chance of fertilizing her eggs.

Hence, trimming nails when they’re much too long can be a valuable thing when breeding your birds. If you have a very tame, docile bird, it might sit on a perch and let you clip its nails. However, most birds won’t want you handling their feet and you’ll have to restrain them to trim their nails. You definitely don’t want to clip a toe instead of a nail. The bird should recover, but how sad to cause them pain and injury!

Make sure you have the foot held firmly and the toes spread so that you only clip what you want to clip. Some birds squirm more than others. Like us, they exhibit a wide variety of personalities and attitudes. I like using a bathroom washcloth to hold them. They can bite it all they want to and avoid biting me.

Rosy Bourkes have light nails with visible blood vessels
Budgies and Rosy Bourkes have light colored nails that expose the blood vessel within them. You DO NOT want to cut their nails so short that you run into a blood vessel. Better to leave a little nail beyond the dark line running through the nail.

Notice the black nails on a Splendid parakeet.
Lowest nail is already clipped, so no point on it.
With the Scarlet-chested parakeet shown here, his nails are black, so the vessel can’t be seen. I tend to err on the side of caution and am more likely to leave the nail longer than it absolutely needs to be, rather than chance cutting it too close. Doing that will make the nail bleed, and no doubt cause the bird distress you don’t want it to undergo. Sprinkle any wound with cornstarch; it will stop the bleeding and has antiseptic properties.

Remember to reassure your birds with a gentle, sweet voice telling them that you only want to help them. Tone of voice is very important when reassuring your birds. Losing your temper or yelling only upsets them. If you want their cooperation, be gentle, kind and friendly.

Peace & Blessings!


Anonymous said...

I've waited to long to clip my parakeet's nails. His are black, and one of them is twisted. What do I do?

G. A. Lewis said...

If the bird is not tame, have someone else hold it in a washcloth or something that will hold it firmly and not allow it to bite you. Might be wise with a tame bird too, to be sure it doesn't wiggle at the wrong time.

A 2nd person (you?)can hold the foot up and carefully clip a bit at the tip of the bent nail, being careful not to go too far in. If it bleeds, dip it in cornstarch to staunch the bleeding. Hopefully, that won't happen. I haven't seen the extent of your bird's bent nail, but I doubt that it's anything that is harmful to your bird. Best of luck.