The Golden Rule

Clipping a parrot's wings is an emotional decision. It should be based solely on the parrot's health and safety needs. Not for convenience sake of the parent.

The Golden Rule

Kirby, the wing clip volunteer.

Mind you, as we walk through this story together, every one of our parrots is different, take what would apply to your parrot, and disregard that which would never fly. Pun intended.

My experiences with parrot grooming personally consist of my avian vet only. I have witnessed free grooming services of many parrots though. I have witnessed grooming done in quiet settings and boisterous areas with lots of strangers, noise and action. The one thing I can say confidently is, this is a very personal, intimidating and stressful exercise for the parrot. Whether we are talking about wing feathers,nails or beak, it is stressful. If we are talking about wings it is doubly stressful. That being said, wing clipping is a very personal choice for very personal reasons and needs. I do not hold opinion in either direction. I am an agent of balance. Done properly by a skilled individual, in the proper setting with cleanliness in mind, and empathetic to the parrot's physical and emotional wellbeing and for the right reasons it can make the whole flock happier and healthier. 

I only clip one bird out of our 8. And this clip is so conservative, it doesn't affect flight capabilities, just his awnry mindset. Kirby being a male Indian Ringneck, is a proud, confident, opinionated, fearless individual. I use those words with their full meaning. Seriously, he will stand up for his perching rights against our macaws if allowed.

We abundance weaned Kirby and fledged him here at home. His first flight was as though he'd been doing it in the egg. I was startled to say the least. When he was flightless Kirby learned we could be trusted with his feet, beak and wings. He allowed us to open his wings, rub his toes, open and close his little feet and rub his beak. He learned to love burrito cuddling in a towel. We shared recall via running rather than flight.  He would always return to us on the couch with a little hop. Once he took flight, those lessons stuck and translated right through to the new Fighter Jet Kirby. That being said, all trust and interaction can be brought into any parrot's world; rescue bird, senior bird, or juvenile never handled before. It is only an investment of time and patience.

I decided I needed to find out where his favored location for relaxing would be. I let him fly free and ridiculous to observe his patterns. Bathroom mirrors of course.  When he flew upstairs to the masterbath, to sit on dad's small bath chest, I would follow. We would talk and laugh at the mirror. One day I didn't follow him up. I waited. I waited for his flock call.  

"Kirby!"  he sang out.

I went upstairs and joined him. That day I opened his wing kindly and said, "What a wing!" Kirby laughed.

With every bath mirror meeting I would hold his wing a bit longer, and every time Kirby would wait and allow that length of time to pass. Eventually he chose different bathroom mirrors, between the three available. I had to wait to see which bathroom he chose and for his flock call invitation. Kirby loves this game. It is still a game even after a clip.

One day, I brought in scissors with me to the game. Small hair sheers, with his favorite color on the handles. I just laid them down. I did not reference them. I made the whole thing no big deal.  For a few weeks we did this new exercise and then one morning, he hopped over to the scissors and investigated them. (they were locked shut). I didn't intervene, I just let him investigate safely. He soon got bored and went back to the mirror.

The day, after many iterational steps closer, the scissors, my hands and his open wing were in position for the first attempted clip. I held the scissors up in position to cut, and waited.  Kirby just looked at me, and I at him. I saw his eyes pin, and his body language change. I stopped and put the scissors down and completed the game as normal, "What a wing! I said. I was not going to proceed if there was any sign of stress and lack of trust.

This step went on for a week. And I was willing to take even longer if necessary, I had no time frame in mind. This wasn't a race.  On day 9 I trimmed his right wing and immediately released it. He looked shocked, I just laughed. He allowed the left wing. Again he was shocked, I just laughed. It was just no big deal.

Twice a year we have this event, it takes 5 minutes each.

He flies upstairs, calls me. I arrive. We laugh. I take a wing kindly and say, "What a wing!" Clip. And again on the left. No big deal. He's taken to adding, "Good boy KirbyKirby!" to the process.

And that is a big deal.

This learning process took from fledge to his first molt through first new growth and then some months. We never clipped his baby feathering. I suppose that's about a year's investment. But we would have played that game anyway, and in that year he learned to trust me more, and I, him.

The Golden Rule of Parrot Negotiations; never use deceit in negotiations. This takes time and communication and most importantly no unreasonable expectations. Enjoy the process. Afterall every day with our parrots is one more day of joy.

Share this post