I posted this video because my birds flap around in it a fair bit. They’re happy, energetic, and to be honest, if I clipped them they would be very upset… and depressed. Most importantly, though, my birds are not clipped and the video shows them choosing to be with me because they want to.
I am against clipping unless in a medical situation: for instance, if you need to keep your bird from flying because he or she has an injury.
I am also on the fence about clipping to help control hormones. I know a lot of people who do it, and while I don’t consider it ‘abusive,’ I just don’t feel like it’s a good thing.
In general, wing clipping, when done for human convenience, is not a good thing. Period.
It should be noted that clipping a single wing is even worse than clipping both wings because of how lopsided it leaves birds feeling. The result can be serious injury.
And I also feel it’s important to mention that leaving a bird flighted but chaining it to one spot is just as bad as clipping. Would you chain a dog? Or a cat? A lot of people are outraged at the thought of a puppy chained to a tree all day in someone’s garden, but not by a parrot chained or confined by clipping to his T-stand.
For those who argue that chaining must be done for a bird to enjoy the sunlight hours, I have to say that he can gain the benefit of the great outdoors just as well through the bars of his regular cage, a travel cage, or an outdoors aviary, without having to resort to a chain. Owners could even consider an avian harness, which is much safer in terms of design.
I ask myself about these owners’ reasons for the chains, and decided that it must be wanting the bird to stay in one place, so it doesn’t chew things or get into anything it’s not supposed to.
Again, I’d say that’s human convenience and a bit of laziness playing into the situation: these (rare) owners don’t want to take the time to supervise or train their bird, but want it to do what they want instead. Sit there and look pretty.
Imagine if that bird fell – unable to right itself, it would probably snap its leg off; parrots’ legs are very delicate, and not durable at all. To the owners who chain their parrot outdoors, though, if that bird took off, it would lose its leg pretty much instantly.
Moving on, though, to illustrate my point, here are the pros and cons of clipping my parrot… (I’m going to refer to the bird in question as a male, as I often do, for clarity’s sake.)
Reasons for (pros) of clipping:
- You don’t want your bird to fly away from you.
- You want him to be dependent on you for literally everything.
- You don’t want him to escape.
- You don’t want him to fly into something and get hurt (aka for safety reasons).
- You don’t want him to bite you.
- You want to keep him in, or away from, one place.
- You want to control hormones.
Cons of clipping:
- A clipped bird can’t exercise and may have severe health issues due to this.
- Insecurity often arises from being clipped.
- Birds that are clipped have poor balance and can’t right themselves if they fall. They may then break something.
- A clipped bird can still get away from you if he finds an open window: all he needs is one draft from outside and he’s gone, maybe for miles.
- It’s unnatural.
Pros of fully flighted:
- Flight is a bird’s main source of exercise.
- Flight also prevents obesity and other health issues.
- Allowing a bird to fly burns off energy that could otherwise result in a bite for you.
- Birds that are clipped too young – aka before fledging – may have coordination issues for the rest of their life.
- Flighted parrots who are clipped later in life (even if accustomed to it by a gradual process) often become depressed.
- Birds feel more confident about interacting with you if they think they can get away when they feel intimidated.
Cons of flighted:
- A flighted parrot can potentially injure himself.
- He can move around on his own.
- Taming has to move at the bird’s pace.
- He can potentially escape from the house.
Big Argument No. One: Some people state that a parrot is less likely to step-up if he’s flighted because, well, why would he? He can just zip off and do whatever he likes.
Counter Argument: There are two parts to this, 1) the idea of human convenience being that you want him to do what YOU want, when you want it, and 2) that’s why we train our birds. A well-trained but fully flighted parrot steps up because he feels that he gets something out of it. Offering praise and a treat is the best way to reinforce this behaviour. Generally, a parrot wants to be with you. If not, you have to teach him being near or with you has a desirable outcome… for him.
Verdict on Argument No. One: Clipping is not needed, but training and a certain amount of patience are.
Big Argument No. Two: Clipping is said to be a must for safety’s sake. A flighted parrot can break its neck if it crashes into a mirror or wall or ceiling fan; it can drown in a waiting cup of water or open toilet bowl; it can zoom out an unattended window or into a kitchen with a hot hob.
Counter Argument: All this is true, to a degree. However, bird owners give up certain luxuries – like open toilet lids and windows – and bird-proof their houses. They make rules that the kitchen doors need to be shut, and/or the birds themselves have to be securely in their cages at meal times. It should be noted that even a clipped bird can take off and crack a bone or beak on a wall, if startled.
If you don’t want to bird-proof your home, don’t get a bird.
There is also a certain amount of training to be done, again, in introducing your bird to all areas of a room, setting boundaries, and teaching your bird the danger of mirrors and windows. You CAN teach them by touching their sides and beaks to the material and letting them see that it is impassable.
Verdict: Clipped does not mean unable to escape – and bird-proofing the house is important; while not utterly secure, it is more than okay for a flighted parrot to move around in. You just have to make the effort.
Big Argument No. 3: He can move away from me!
Counter Argument: Your parrot is a free-thinking creature with amazing intelligence. He likes to do what he wants, when he wants to, and definitely doesn’t like the idea of you forcing him to do anything. Giving your bird choice – or at least the illusion of it via training – makes him happy. Happy birds bite less.
Verdict: Clipping because you don’t want your bird to move is down to human laziness. Get a fish instead.
Big Argument No. 4: It needs to be done for taming purposes. He needs to be utterly dependent on you.
Counter Argument: Absolutely not. To tame your parrot, you need to move slowly and give things time – and do the training, yes. YOU want the bird tame, and YOU have to move at his pace. Clipping means your bird can’t get away – he is, therefore, left with one option. To bite. And bite he will.
As to being completely dependent on you, giving your bird his food, treats, and a clean place to live is enough. You don’t want to create helplessness in your birds; instead, for the healthiest and happiest animal possible, you need to teach independence. A well-trained parrot can self-amuse and does not need you 24/7. If he does, you’re in for behavioural problems later, when you’re suddenly not able to provide for that need. Biting, screaming, plucking. You name it.
Verdict: Clipping for taming purposes is done for you, not your bird. If you want your bird to bite less, give him the option of getting away if he is scared. Choice is important for a happy bird.
So often, people would rather clip their birds’ wings than train them to behave well in a human home. That is laziness.
We don’t think twice about training our puppies, do we? We should do the same for birds. The attitude needs to be ‘if you’re not willing to try life with a flighted bird, consider a different kind of pet that doesn’t have wings.’
Actually, the real attitude towards those looking to buy their first birds needs to be: ‘Parrots are autonomous, intelligent, beautiful creatures who need a huge amount of time and training.’ And if people don’t like the idea of that, they immediately need to move on to the aquatics department of the pet store. It’s true that our pet parrots are not wild and never have been, but they’re certainly not domesticated, either, and we owners MUST accomodate for that fact.
In summary, living with a flighted bird requires more vigilance, more training, and more work over all – but the end result of a confident, happy, healthy pet is more than worth it.
So tell me, after all this has got you thinking (hopefully!), what are your thoughts on wing clipping?