Enjoy your bird more with our bird nails tutorial.
One of the fun things about owning a pet bird is holding it, chatting with it and letting it ride around on your shoulders. That is until your birds nails get long and sharp and dig into your skin. Your bird probably doesn’t appreciate long sharp claws either. Long nails make perching difficult and every time your bird has to scratch an itch, it can be painful. Most avian vets will trim nails for a fee. But, you can learn to trim most bird’s nails yourself. Wild birds naturally groom nails as they walk about the ground, on rocks and some branches. Captive birds need a little help keeping their nails groomed.
Set The Stage: It is much easier to trim a birds nails when it is contained in a towel. A loose bird will flap its wings making it impossible to trim the nails. Set the stage for grooming both nails and beak by trianing your bird to tolerate being toweled. Many bird trainers advocate making toweling a game - sort of like peek-a-boo with a baby. You can further “train” your bird to accept being restrained by offering it small, tasty treats while restrained in a towel. Taking the “training” one step further, use treats to encourage your bird to tolerate looking at the grooming tools. The name of the game is treats and praise! This will minimize your birds stress levels and its fight or flight response during grooming. Depending on the size and tolerance level of your bird, you may appreciate having a friend assist you in restraining your bird.
Safety First: Of course, you don’t want to harm your bird during the grooming process. Birds have fragile bones and several air sacs throughout their body. It is VERY easy to break a bone or suffocate your bird. Proper restraint involves holding your bird side-to-side versus top to bottom. Your goal is to restrain wing flapping. If you hold your bird chest to back, or top to bottom, you risk collapsing an air sac, which is potentially fatal.
Another thing to know about grooming nails and beaks is that they have a “quick” in them. Have you ever cut your fingernails too short or bent a nail back. You know how terribly painful it is. If you cut into your bird’s quick, not only will it be quite painful but it can be dangerous. You see, birds can easily bleed out. The lesson here is to first, carefully avoid trimming too much nail but also, to have Styptic Gel easily accessible before you even embark on a nail trim.
Your bird will most likely try to escape. Watch for signs that it is getting too stressed. This might include panting for breath, bleeding or even loss of consciousness. Remind yourself that a simple nail trim is not worth your bird’s life. If your bird gets too agitated or stressed, just take it to a groomer. A nail trim costs less than a bird toy.
Bird Grooming Tools:
Actual Trimming Process: If you have a friend assisting you, choose the designated trimmer.
The trimmer will want to encourage the bird to grasp a finger as though it were a perch. Use your stronger thumb to work the toe upward to expose the nail tip for trimming or filing. Error on the side of trimming too little off the nail tip. You can always go back and file the clip smooth. Take your time and remain calm. Your bird will feed off of your anxiety and become more agitated itself.
Final tips: It is easiest to train a younger, un-traumatized bird to tolerate nail trims. But this bird nails tutorial can help you train most birds to accept a nail trim. Even so, any bird that has been re-homed will appreciate the safety of having a trained professional trim its nails. A very cost-effective alternative, though, is to use conditioning bird perches. We’ve got several birds and we rarely trim nails and beaks because of the conditioning perches available in each cage. Two great conditioning bird perches are the Sandy Perch and the Safety Pumice Perch. Both are made from fine sanding materials that don’t dry out the foot pads. Other options may include natural sanding materials such as Seashell Perches. Artificial materials may dry out foot pads.