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

5 min read


Clipping the nails: Whether it is you, a friend, or family member that is trimming your bird's nails, the steps are the same. Place one finger within reach of your bird’s feet so that it can grasp onto the finger. Use your thumb to lift each nail off of your finger, clipping just a small amount of the nail. You can always clip a little more from the nail, but if you miss the mark and clip too much the first time, you will have a very freaked out and bleeding bird to deal with, which is dangerous, as birds can bleed to death from this type of injury if it is not handled quickly. To avoid this scenario, first identify where the edge of the nail meets the quick (you can usually see this with light colored nails, as the nail is white and the quick is pink). If your bird’s nails are dark, use extra care and trim just a little at a time. Additionally, if your bird is handling the experience well, you may want to try smoothing out the edges of the nail with a nail file, but it is not necessary.


What to watch out for: Watch your bird closely as you are trimming its nails. You can expect your bird to be vocal about the indignity of the situation, often attempting to escape from your grasp. But if your bird appears to be having trouble breathing, is panting, is moving too much to keep a firm hold, or seems to have lost motor coordination -- like its eyes rolling back in its head -- stop immediately and place your bird back on its perch or in its cage and allow it to calm down, while speaking in a soothing tone. You can try to trim its nails again later, but if you encounter the same problems, have a skilled veterinarian or bird groomer do it for you.


Final tips: Try to begin the nail trimming routine while your bird is young and use treats after the clipping so that your bird always associates this activity as a good thing. In between clips, place a sand or pumice stone perch (in addition to its natural wooden perch) in the cage. This will allow the bird to file its own nails and reduce the frequency of the nail clippings. In the wild, birds use both wood and stone to groom their own nails and beak, so having both for your bird will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.


Image: Eric Bryan / via Flickr