Clipping your Cockatiel

Many people decide to prevent their birds from flying. I will be clear its not a practice we support and we strongly discourage the practice. I do however recognise its a decision for the individual to make given their circumstances. If this is what you choose to do then its important to do it correctly. It is important to realise that a clipped bird may still be able to fly and that having a clipped bird outside unrestrained is inadvisable.

We recommend that all birds be given the opportunity to learn to fly when young and to gradually reduce their ability to fly. Cockatiel chicks who learn to fly, land, and use their bodies to move about a cage are surer of themselves when they’ve lost the ability to fly. You can give your Cockatiel varying amounts of flight capability depending on the amount of feathers you clip on their wings.

It is important to note that without flight their birds will become more likely suffer respiratory infections due to lack of exercise. It is therefor essential to provide alternative exercise, fresh air, sunshine as well as maintaining high standards of hygiene.

How to clip

Different types of body feathers have different names.

The longest feathers of the wings are called primary feathers or flight feathers.
The shorter wing feathers, secondary feathers. Together, they are called remiges.
The base of these wing feathers are called coverts.
Tail feathers are called retrices.
The feathers that cover the bird’s body and give it its shape are called contour feathers.
Under the contour body feathers are the fluffy down feathers that provide insulation.
Before a parrot’s wings are clipped, each feather needs to be examined to be sure an immature pin feather is not going to be cut. If one is found, delay clipping the wing until the feather is fully mature and the quill has lightened to the colour of the adjoining feathers.

Be sure to do a symmetrical job, trimming both wings an equal amount.

  1. start by clipping just the two outer primary feathers or flight feathers on each wing, your bird should still fly quite well
  2. after seven days, clip the next two feathers.
  3. in another seven days clip the next feather making a maximum of five. This should be sufficient unless your bird is a very strong flyer. Never cut all ten primaries. By the time your Cockatiel is grounded, it will have gradually lost the ability to fly and gotten progressively better at controlling her mobility
A proper wing clip allows the bird to glide gently to the ground without gaining height. This helps prevent injury to the bird.
Even with ten primary flight feathers clipped from each wing, don’t risk taking your Cockatiel outside on your shoulder. She may get scared by a dog, cat, or car and fly into danger. If you want your Cockatiel to be outside in the sunshine, take her out in a carrying cage or train her to use a bird harness and leash.
Don’t leave stray long feathers. A long feather caught in cage bars or entangled in toys.