When should you clip your budgies wings?

Wing clipping is a controversial subject within the pet bird community. Some people swear by it while others are heavily against it. I believe that all pet birds deserve the freedom of indoor flight. However, there are some exceptions. In this article, I will explain what these exceptions are, and why I believe that (temporarily) clipping your budgies wings can be beneficial to your bird. I will also discuss some unnecessary situations in which budgies are commonly clipped and why I believe they don’t have to be.

To clip: if your avian vet says so

Every budgie will likely suffer some kind of injury in their life. It’s not a question of IF it happens, but WHEN. This is just part of life and all we can do is hope that the injury isn’t too serious. However, for those few unlucky budgies that do suffer some more serious injuries like a broken wing, it might be in their best interest to clip their wings during the healing process to prevent further injury. This does differ per bird and per situation, so please discuss with your avian vet if temporary clipping will be necessary. Your vet is in the best position to judge your budgies’ situation.

Not to clip: to take your budgie outside

Many people believe that if their budgies’ wings are clipped, they can safely take them outside with them. However, this is not the case. Every year, many budgies get lost because of this. When budgies’ wings are clipped, the primary flight feathers are cut short. This results in your budgie not being able to gain altitude on its own. This, to many people, sounds like ‘If my budgie can’t gain altitude, it can’t fly away, right?’. WRONG. Even though your budgie can’t gain altitude on its own, a gust of wind can still carry it. Their other wing feathers have enough capacity to still carry your budgie. This leads to many budgies getting stuck in trees or other high places. And the worst part is: due to their clipped wings they don’t have the skills to come back down on their own. This doesn’t mean you can’t take your budgie outside at all, it just means that clipping their wings is not the way to do it. If you want to take your budgie outside safely, please read my article about this topic.

To clip: in some cases of a permanent disability

Please note: sometimes it’s best to clip your budgies wings in case of certain permanent disabilities. This does not mean ALL permanent disabilities. Some disabilities (like a broken beak) don’t impact your birds’ safety when fully flighted. Again, your avian vet is the best person to judge your unique situation and to advise you on what’s best for your budgie. 

That being said, an example of a situation in which a vet might advise to clip a birds’ wings, is in case of blindness. When in the air, a budgie doesn’t have anything to guide them except their memory of where things are. This means that moving a chair can lead to some serious situations for a fully flighted blind budgie. Being blind doesn’t have to limit your budgies time out of their cage and their ability to roam the room freely. You can always put out play stands it can use to spend time on without the risk of hurting itself.

Not to clip: to tame your budgie

Some people think wing clipping is nescessary to tame a budgie. However, this is not the case and might even have a negative effect on your bond with your bird. When you clip your budgies wings, it becomes fully dependent on you to be moved across the room. This means you basically force your bird to interact with you in order to be able to move around. It might get you the results you want short term, but is your budgie really your friend or are you their taxi? In some countries it’s common for breeders and pet stores to clip a budgies wings before selling it to you, as a kind of ensurance you won’t loose the bird on your way home. If this is your situation and the breeder is not willing to keep the budgie fully flighted, you just have to work with it. However, if you do have the choice to clip or not, please consider that your bond will be much stronger if your budgie has the choice to interact with you out of free will. 

If you would like to learn more about taming your budgie, even when fully flighted, you can read my article about gaining your budgies trust.

Although wing clipping is a controversial topic and a personal choice of the birds’ owner, I think it’s important to raise awareness especially to those who consider wing clipping for all the wrong reasons. In my opinion wing clipping should only be a last resort and not a default. All birds deserve to use their ability to fly, even in captivity. I’ve seen firsthand what a lack of flight can do to a bird with my rescue cockatiel Falky. Although not clipped, he was cage bound for 2+ years and didn’t know how to fly when I got him. Luckily I was able to teach him again and he blossomed so much. You can read his full story on my ‘meet the flock’ page if you want to know more about his journey from cage bound to fully flighted bird.

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