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How to Clip a Bird's Nails

There’s no getting around it: clipping your bird’s nails can be nerve-racking for both you and your feathered friend. But it’s got to be done.


  • Step 1: Step 1: No sandpaper perches Don’t rely on 'sandpaper' perches to keep your bird’s nails in shape. They don’t work, and they may hurt your bird’s feet.
  • Step 2: Step 2: Consult your vet Ask an avian vet, bird breeder, or pet store employee what will work best for your bird. For tiny finches, regular nail clippers can be used. For large parrots, you may need an electric nail grinder—no kidding!
  • Step 3: Step 3: Seal the room Make sure all doors and windows in the room are closed.
  • Step 4: Step 4: Remove the bird Gently remove your bird from her cage.
  • TIP: If your bird isn’t hand-tame, wait until late at night when she’s sleepy.
  • Step 5: Step 5: Have a helper If your bird is large, have a helper—wearing work gloves—hold her while you check her feet. If she’s small, hold her with one hand while you check her nails with the other.
  • TIP: f you have a large parrot with a strong beak, your helper should use a towel to cover the bird’s head—gently, of course.
  • Step 6: Step 6: Examine the nails Hold the bird’s foot up to the light. If she has pale nails, you can easily avoid nicking the vein inside the nail.
  • Step 7: Step 7: Clip the nails If your bird has dark nails, clip off only about one-sixteenth of an inch.
  • Step 8: Step 8: Snip only the point No matter how long the bird’s nails are, snip off only the short point at the end of each nail.
  • Step 9: Step 9: Work quickly Work as quickly as you can. Pedicures are stressful for birds, so speak calmly and soothingly to your bird as you clip.
  • Step 10: Step 10: Don’t freak Don’t freak if you take off a little too much and the bird’s nail starts to bleed—this happens. Just wipe the nail gently with a paper towel and dip it into styptic powder. The bleeding should stop quickly.
  • TIP: Watch your bird carefully once she’s back in the cage. If the bleeding persists, call an avian vet.
  • Step 11: Step 11: Return the bird When you’re done, return your bird to her cage and heave a sigh of relief. You two will get used to pedicures. Besides, you’ve just helped to protect her from hurting herself—and you—without the stress of a vet visit.
  • FACT: A hawk’s talons are curved so it can grab prey, while a hen’s claws are flat and stumpy so she can walk around easily.

You Will Need

  • A bird whose nails could use a clipping
  • Bird nail clippers
  • Styptic powder
  • Paper towels
  • A helper
  • Work gloves for your helper
  • A towel

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