Do I need to be concerned about my bird’s beak and nails?
Most wild birds are naturally very active during the day and would normally encounter a huge variety of perching textures and perch sizes in their wild environment. This, along with ordinary preening and grooming, wears the nails down and helps maintain consistent length and health of the nails. Unfortunately, in captivity, the bird typically has perches of the same size and smooth texture. This leads to an imbalance in the rate of nail growth and the rate of wear. Without trimming, the beak and nails could become overgrown and flaky. Overgrown nails may become caught or trapped and cause injuries to the bird.
Can I trim my bird’s nails at home?
Yes, but it is important to be careful when trimming the nails. The quick is the blood and nerve supply that grows part way down the middle of each nail (birds have a very long quick). In light colored nails it is visible as the pink area in the nail. In dark or black nails the quick is completely hidden. When cut, the quick may bleed profusely. Birds do not have a very good clotting mechanism, so be careful. If you choose to attempt nail trims at home then you must have a clotting agent or styptic powder on hand. A pet store or your veterinarian may have a safe pet product available. Powdered clotting agents seem to work better than liquids.
Small bird nails may be trimmed with a human nail clipper. Larger birds require a stronger dog nail scissor or guillotine type nail trimmer. The bird should be securely and safely restrained. The nail may be trimmed a little at a time to help lessen the chance of bleeding. It takes good judgment and practice to trim nails properly. If bleeding occurs, remain calm, restrain the bird safely and securely and use finger pressure to pinch the toe just before the nail. This will provide a tourniquet action while a clotting agent or styptic powder is pushed into the cut end. Cornstarch or flour may be used in an emergency but is not an adequate substitute under normal situations.
Your veterinarian can trim the nails safely during regular health examinations and is prepared to deal with any bleeding should it occur. Some veterinarians may use an electric grinder on the nails and beak of larger birds such as parrots, cockatoos and macaws.
What else can I do at home to help the beak and nails?
Any changes in the rate of growth, color, texture symmetry or the way the beak or nail grows should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately.
Beak, wing, and/or nail trims is a service our clinic provides to our avian patients. A yearly exam is required to have trims performed.