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Trim Nails, Beaks, Feathers

By Angie Pearson, Ph.M.
Edited by Alan Stanford, Ph.D.

I volunteer, I volunteer! I LOVE trimming nails, beaks and stuff! Even at the shows you can find me walking around with a fingernail file in hand, gently filing down any tiny little places on my Silkies beaks. Sometimes I stand and look at other Silkies that need trims and "wish" so much the owner would be around so I could help them file it down!

Why? Birds with very long beaks can starve, the feet of birds with too long toenails permanently deform, show birds need perfect feathers, and Silkies with too many feathers in front of their eyes can't find food and starve, can't breed, or have no fun.

:) I am a perpetual perfectionist :)

Here is how I do it. It is not too scary.

Trimming Nails

For adult birds use dog nail clippers; use people toenail clippers for chicks. Gently hold the bird in your lap, turn her over with feet up, and grasp a foot. Hold a toe and look carefully "inside" the toenail. You can kind of see a "vein" in the middle of the nail; there's a clearer part on the end. It is the clear part you want to trim off. Carefully snip off the end. Look at the nail's end to see rings like a tree stump. If you see a dark spot in the middle of the nail's end, stop there. Trim until you see that spot or until you can tell from a side view of the nail that you are close to the vein.

If You Cut Too Short
Don't Panic

If.........if you get too close, don't panic! Just quickly dab the bleeding nail with ordinary flour or some pet quickstop for nails. The bleeding will stop. Check a bit later to make sure it stayed "stopped".

Just as a side note, don't feel bad if you get a nail too close. I have trimmed many too close and they always live. (Ed: Of course Angie always makes sure the bleeding stops and stops soon.). You feel horrible, but they survive, just get the bleeding to stop.

I trimmed a parrot's nails last night. I got all of them perfect until the last. He moved and I cut too short. It really started to bleed. I whipped out my quick stop and got it to quit. THEN, when I was done, the owners told me what they had paid for the bird. I almost was a $1000 .....yes .....a 1 thousand dollar bird!! If I had known that, I would not have touched it with a 10 foot pole! I even trimmed its wings......aaaaahhhhhhh....... I am glad I didn't know. He survived. I almost didn't.

Trimming Beaks
Tricky, But Can Be Done

Hold the bird upside down in your lap just like for trimming toenails. Look at the top and bottom beak. Sometimes the beak has a chip or a pointed end; sometimes it is just too long. Take your people toenail clippers and just barely clip off any extra clear beak. Then, take a fingernail file and gently file the beak smooth and round. Be very careful because, unlike in toenails, the vein is hard to see. Look underneath the top beak to see where the extra beak starts. Just trim a little bit at a time.

This was hard for me at first, but now I find easy and they look so much better too.

Plucking or Trimming Feathers

I usually only pluck if I find a damaged bleeding feather. Sometimes, when you bathe and blow dry, a feather breaks and bleeds from the round shaft close to the skin. If the feather is bleeding and will not stop, I grab it firmly and pull. I don't like doing it, but it is something that needs be done.

I sometimes pull out a feather if it is horribly broken or stained beyond help. Feathers usually grow back in 10 weeks but sometimes they don't. That is why cleaning feathers as soon as they get dirty is safer but, of course, sometimes impossible to do. I have a couple of head dunkers! Try and keep them spotless.

Anyway, I hope helped you a tiny bit,
Pearson Zoo

Ph.M. Dr, Mom
Ph.D. Physics Devotee

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