How to trim the nails

Watch the claws of your parrot - make sure they don't grow too long as that can be uncomfortable for the bird and lead to problems with the claws getting caught in your clothes or even the mesh of the cage in some cases - I have seen some birds where the claws was so long and twisted that they reminded me of a corkscrew. That kind of neglect is a crime! 🙁

If the claws are too pointed you can easily keep them blunt by regularly trimming them to avoid getting scratches on your arms or hands.

When you buy a new cage for a bird it will often come with a few perches made of plastic or hard smooth tree. Start by trowing them in the garbage bin and replace them with perches from natural branches. Make sure you do not use branches from anything poisonous to parrots!

You can also buy special perches in the pet store e.g. the "Sandy Perch" that help grinding the claws so you do not have to trim so often.

Watch the red blood vein in the claw - be careful not to cut too close! Only trim the tip of the claw.

Before you start trimming

  • Notice that inside a birds nail there is a blood vein - if you cut too much off the nail while trimming it will hurt and your parrot is not likely to let you trim it any more! Also it will start bleeding and blood loss can quickly become dangerous as a small bird only have a small amount of blood in their tiny body! So please try to avoid that!
  • Place the parrot on your hand and hold it close to a light - this way it is easier to see the blood vein in the talon. Notice how close the blood vessel is to the tip of the claw. On some parrots it is very easy to see a small red line in the talon but on species with darker talons it can be almost impossible.
  • Make sure you have some blood stopping powder in case you cut too deep. 
  • Also make sure you have the right equipment for the task: For small parrots you can use the same nail clippers you use for your own nails - for larger birds with stronger talons you should buy a special nail clippers at the pet store. 
  • If you are in doubt then don't try trimming yourself - visit a vet instead!

If you are careful and only trim a little (like 0,5 - 1 mm) you are not likely to cut into the blood vessel. It is better to trim often but only a little than to wait too long and have to trim a longer piece of the nail.


In case of an accident

To stop bleeding:

  • If it is just a minor cut it will likely stop by itself in 30 seconds or so.
  • If not: Use Kwik Stop or any other kind of styptic powder.
  • If that is not available (shame on you!) try corn starch instead - or flour as a last resort.
  • Apply the powder to the wound and apply a gently pressure for 5-10 seconds
  • Remember to disinfect the cage, all the perches, toys etc. if you have an accident while trimming.

Using a styptic powder will cause the vessel to contract further back into the claw and clots the blood and helps avoiding bacteria from the surrounding area getting into the wound. You can buy it at your local pet store or on Amazon. Kwik Stop also contains benzocaine for pain relief. 


How to trim nails Ninja style

Many parrots do not like to have their nails trimmed so in many cases it is recommended to wrap the bird in a towel before trimming. There is just one problem: My parrot hate being wrapped in a towel even more than having her nails trimmed! So instead I use a "stealth attack" approach when trimming:

  • While the bird is sitting on my hand or finger I keep talking with it to attract its attention while the other hand slowly approach the targeted nail and softly trim the tip of the nail (0,5-1mm) without the bird even noticing the "attack".  If she does notice she is likely to jump or fly away after a few nails have been trimmed - then I take a break and try again a little later.
  • Another method can be used when the bird is her cage. I then lure her into climbing on the side of the cage and cuddle her cheek or neck while talking to her to keep her distracted. I then slowly and carefully move my other hand with the nail clipper closer to her nails (that she is using to hang in the bars or mesh on the side of the cage). In most cases she doesn't even notice that I trim her nail - she is too buzy enjoying the cuddling. 
  • If you have an assistent (e.g. my daughter) the second approach can be made even easier by one person cuddling and talking while the other move in silently like a Ninja and now have both hands free to trim the nails.

If you lack my Ninja skills you should probably just use the old fashion towel or maybe visit the vet - for more information checkout this page.