Grooming Companion Birds: A Review

Key Points

  • Although grooming is a basic procedure it is not simple, and should only be performed at practices experienced in the handling, wellness care, and emergency care of birds.
  • Nail trims, particularly one in which the tips of the nails are rounded off, can increase the risk of falls–particularly in young birds.
  • Primary feathers provide the lift and thrust needed for flight. Secondaries allow the bird to slow its descent and land safely. This is why during a wing trim, the primaries are clipped but the secondaries are left intact.
  • A good trim is performed in a bilaterally symmetrical fashion in such a way that mature feathers provide some protection for newly emerging blood feathers.
  • Perform wing trims, conservatively taking as few feathers as possible.
  • Be particularly conservative when trimming young birds, obese birds, or stocky, heavy-bodied species. Smaller, lighter-bodied birds require more feathers be clipped.
  • A ‘show clip’, in which primary feathers #9 and #10 are left in place, can be more aesthetically pleasing to clients, but it may also increase the risk of blood feather trauma.
  • Excess keratin that builds up on the lateral surfaces of the beak, can be smoothed away during a “routine” beak trim, however this procedure is generally unnecessary if the bird is fed an appropriate diet and allowed to practice normal grooming behavior on abrasive cage furniture like a lava stone or cement perch.
  • An abnormally long beak is most commonly caused by chronic, severe malnutrition and/or liver disease. Always screen these patients for disease before commencing the beak trim.

Grooming in the bird can refer to clipping wing feathers, trimming nails, and smoothing and/or trimming the beak. Grooming can be performed by the veterinarian or an astute, skilled veterinary technician, however before the procedure begins one must always ask should the bird be groomed and should the bird be groomed at my practice . . .

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