Q. If I clip
my bird's wings, how soon will they grow back? What
if I pull the feathers out instead? Do they come
back quicker that way?
A. A feather that is cut, clipped, broken or
bent will be replaced during the next molt, no
matter how awful, raggedy or good it looks. However,
if a feather is pulled out (ouch!) and as long as
there is no damage to the follicle (the area that
the feather grows from, like our hair follicles) the
bird's body will immediately begin replacing the
feather. This new feather, until it is mature, will
have a blood supply to it. It is called a
blood feather. Some people prefer to pull out wing
feathers, rather than cutting them, because it looks
nicer. This not only hurts (imagine someone
'trimming' your hair by yanking out bunches), it
also puts stress on the bird's body. Feathers are
all protein, and having to replace many, large wing
feathers at once depletes bodily resources.
Q. My bird's nails are
overgrown. Can they be trimmed?
A. Yes. Use either a pair of nail clippers or
special bird claw scissors. Look for the "quick",
the vein that is in the claw. You can see in it
light colored claws as a pinkish stripe. In dark
claws, you can turn the bird over to see the
underside of the claw and the quick. You may want to
have someone show you how to clip them first.
Provide different perches and surfaces to keep claws
in trim naturally. If you do hit the quick, dip the
claw into some styptic powder to staunch the
Q. My bird's beak is
overgrown. What do I do?
A. An overgrown beak usually means that the bird
doesn't have enough to gnaw on, which is how the
bird keeps the beak trimmed in the wild. A vet or
experienced breeder must trim the beak, as it is
full of blood vessels, and a mishap could be very
serious. Offer the bird toys to chew on or lava
blocks or such to help keep the beak trimmed.
Q. Does my bird need a
A. Yes! Most birds love baths, and will bathe in
a dish or in the shower with you or like to be
spirited with a plant mister set to fine. It's
excellent for the bird's plumage and with "dusty"
birds, like Cockatiels and Cockatoos, helps keep
down the dust. Some birds may have to be gradually
introduced to misting, but it's a good move. You can
let the bird dry by itself (as long as the ambient
temperature in your house is at least 60
degrees Fahrenheit (16 Celsius) or use a hairdryer
set on medium heat. Never put a wet bird to bed for
Q. Do I need to install
A. It's a good idea, especially since birds
really don't get enough sunlight in an apartment or
some homes. You can get the bulbs at pet stores or
order them directly. These bulbs are called "R"
bulbs meaning that they cannot be used with a
covered fixture. This includes track lighting and
recessed lighting--anything with a "shade" even if
the "shade" is made of metal. Check with the
manufacturer, or get in touch with the local
electrician. The lighting should be placed 4 to 8
feet away from the cage, in an ordinary light socket
(no shade!) The light should only be hitting a
portion of the cage. The bulbs should be used a
minimum of 10 (ten) hours a week.
Q. What about an
A. Maybe. If you find you're sensitive to the
dust from your birds. They help reduce the dust load
greatly. If you have a lot of birds, this is a good
Q. What about stress in
A. The best cure for stress is prevention! Make
sure the bird is healthy, has a good diet and isn't
bored. But if this all checks out, think about the
bird's surroundings: Did it recently get a new cage
or was the cage moved? Did you rearrange the
furniture? Change the diet? Remember, birds are
usually suspicious of any new thing. Stress is
serious, it's a physical reaction to mental and
physical strain. A bird can become stressed when you
go away for a long period of time, like a vacation.
Infections can be a cause of stress--the bird is
fighting to maintain homeostasis. Even strong
perfume or even smoke can be a stress. Natural
processes, such as breeding or molting can cause
stress. Of course, what may stress one bird may be
of no consequence to another.
Q. Why does my bird
pluck it's feathers?
A. This behavior is most common in
African Greys. Plucking is usually brought on by
stress, but sometimes skin problems can cause it.
Parakeets sometimes will pluck their older babies,
in order to get them out of the nest, so that they
can clutch again. Cockatiels might do it as well. A
bird may denude itself because it wants to breed,
but cannot, as it's a pet. Sometimes, plucking is
acceptable, as when a hen may pluck her brooding
area to transfer her body heat better. Boredom can
cause plucking. A diet that is poor can cause this
behavior, too. Once started, it usually is a very
hard habit to break, and even if "cured" the bird
may regress back to plucking if it gets upset. Even
a minor change may trigger plucking.
Q. How do I stop the
bird from plucking?
A. First, take it to the vet to rule out any
medical causes. Consider any changes in the bird's
environment. Even little things. A plucker may be
dissuaded from its habit by giving the bird a toy
with rope or fabric or anything the bird can tear
up. There are bitter apple sprays available, but
they usually don't work. Collars can be used, but
don't ever try to do this without a vet's help, or
the bird could get hurt.
Q. Do I need to
vaccinate my birds?
A. There are pros and cons to vaccinations. The
biggest drawback is that every bird will react
differently to the same vaccination. Some birds
become paralyzed, others blind, some die, some
aren't even bothered. I would think that one or two
domestic birds kept as pets wouldn't need it. Birds
in a large, mixed, business aviary, maybe. I don't
feel qualified to give advice on this one. Ask your
vet. They'll be able to explain it to you, correctly
and in depth.
Q. What's a hospital
A. It's a small, enclosed cage that has a heater
in it, and usually a humidifier. A hospital cage can
be warmed up, which makes it easier for the sick
bird to maintain its normally high body temperature.
The humidifier helps ease respiratory problems. You
can make such a cage by using a small aquarium, and
placing a heating pad under it. Put a thermometer in
the bottom corner where the bird will be. Put some
bedding in there, along with food and water, and
cover with towels. Place in a dim room. The
temperature should be about 85 to 90 degrees
Fahrenheit (27 to 32 degrees Celsius). If you're
really in a pinch, place the cage, wrapped in
towels, near a light bulb.