How to Trim Your Bird's Nails and Live to Tell the Tale

5 min read

The Soft and Easy Way to Trim Your Bird’s Nails



Some of the best things about having a bird for a pet is holding it on your hand, letting it hang out on your shoulders, even on your head, and listening to it chirp and chatter in your ear. Birds, like humans, have nails, and when their nails get too long the experience can be annoying, if not painful, when the bird digs its little nails into our skin. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to remedy, but you will need to plan ahead and have all of the tools necessary for the task.


Prepare for success: Because you will need to wrap your bird in a towel for grooming, part of the planning includes getting your bird accustomed to towels. Using a light colored towel -- bright colored towels might alarm your bird -- lay the towel on your hand and allow the bird to climb onto the towel, maybe with some little treats and "good bird" affirmations to encourage your bird to be comfortable with the towel. Do this on a regular basis so that when it is time to use the towel, your bird will associate it with good times.


Tools of the trade: For G-Day (grooming day), gather all your grooming materials and ask a friend or family member to help (it is best if your bird is already familiar with the person). Again, you don’t want your bird to be overly alarmed by the process. If you should happen to cut a little too close to the quick when clipping the nail, use styptic powder, an antihemorrhagic that stops excessive bleeding. The other essential tool is the specially designed nail clipper for birds. The size of the clipper will depend on whether you a small or large bird. For a small bird, a pair of nail scissors may work out well enough, but for a big bird, a clipper that can cut through the thicker nail quickly and cleanly will be essential.


Take control: Begin by draping the towel over your bird’s back, leaving its head uncovered. As you wrap the towel around your bird’s body and take the bird into your hands, be sure that you are holding it firmly at its sides, taking care not to press against its chest. This is important because birds do not have a diaphragm, so putting too much pressure on the chest may cause them to suffocate. Even the most domesticated birds can get a little upset by being wrapped up, so you will need to take control of your bird’s head to keep from being bitten. While holding the body with one hand, use your other hand to hold the bird’s head. Place your thumb on one side of the bird’s head and your middle finger on the other, holding firmly enough to keep the bird from turning its head freely. Maintain the bird's head still from the top with your index finger and reassure your bird with kind words to keep it calm.