How To Clip A Cockatiel’s Nails In 5 Easy Steps


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    If you are a first-timer to owning cockatiels, you might be afraid of what’s about to come in this article: how to clip a cockatiel’s nails! Well, I have tried to make it as clear and simple as possible. 

    Cockatiel ownership is fun, but it also comes with all the responsibilities of keeping your pet healthy and safe. 

    Just like cats and dogs, a pet bird also requires grooming. You need to clip a cockatiel’s nails and wings for the sake of its safety.

    This article, however, focuses on clipping a cockatiel’s nails.

    How To Clip A Cockatiels Nails

    Do Cockatiels Trim Or File Their Own Nails in The Wild?

    You might wonder if wild cockatiels trim or file their nails in the wild or if it’s just a thing among bird owners. 

    Well, wild birds do trim their nails, but naturally. Their nails get filed against the various rough surfaces they walk and land on.

    When they perch on a scrawny branch or walk against a harsh surface, their nails are automatically trimmed.

    Are You Supposed To Trim a Domestic Cockatiels Nails?

    Most parrot owners know that it is important to keep the nails of your pet trimmed, but why? 

    Firstly, bird nails can get very sharp, and it’s easy to get scratched by them – so one part of the reason is your own safety.

    Secondly, overgrown nails can get stuck in clothes, furniture, cage bars, toys, perches, and other surfaces. 

    This often results in the nail getting broken or ripped off – both of which are very painful and dangerous for your pet.

    In the wild, bird nails get trimmed automatically because they have to sit on various perches of different shapes and sizes.

    Won’t Perches Do the Job?

    Since wild cockatiels get their nails naturally filed on tree branches, you might wonder if the perches in the cage would do the job. 

    Unfortunately, even natural wood perches won’t suffice for this purpose. This is because:

    • Unlike tree branches in the wild, most perches in the cage are of the same diameter.
    • There isn’t much variety in the kind of surface offered by perches
    • In the wild, cockatiels also walk on various other rough surfaces, like dirt.

    Some bird owners seem to think concrete purchases are excellent for trimming their birds’ nails.

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      I want to add a word of caution here.

      I recently read in an avian forum that an African Grey parrot fell sick from lead poisoning. 

      Upon testing, it was discovered that lead was present in the concrete perch that the bird’s owner had been using.

      I would therefore suggest extreme caution while using concrete perches. Make sure the item does not contain lead in any shape or form.

      When Will Cockatiels Need A Nail Cut?

      You need to give your cockatiel a nail clipping each time its nails start to overlap its toes so that it doesn’t walk on its nails. 

      On average, this would be around once every two months. 

      Walking on overgrown nails will prevent the toes from staying flat, which can cause joint pain to the bird in the long run.

      On average, cockatiel nails need to be trimmed every two months

      How To Clip Your Cockatiels Nails: Step By Step Guide

      I know you might be a little nervous if this is the first time you’re going to clip a bird’s nails. 

      Don’t worry, I have created a step-by-step guide to make it as easy for you as possible. 

      However, if you are hesitant and fear that you might hurt your beloved pet, it might be easier and better to take it to an avian vet instead.

      You can learn from watching the vet do it once or twice and then take it up yourself.

      What You Will Need

      Here’s a list of everything you will need to clip your cockatiel’s nails:

      • Human nail clippers
      • A light source
      • Styptic powder (as a clotting agent to stop bleeding)
      • Q tip (to apply the Styptic powder)
      • A towel or a mitten (to hold the bird)

      Regarding the styptic powder, I’d advise you to buy it only from pet stores. 

      Quality issues are common in styptic powder purchased from online places like Amazon. 

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        If you don’t have the powder available immediately, use cornstarch instead.

        Steps To Clip

        I’ll cut to the chase right away and discuss the steps to clip your cockatiel’s nails. Although you can do it alone, it’s easier if you have someone helping you.

        Step 1

        Once you have everything ready, gently bring the bird out of its cage. Don’t forget to shut all the doors and windows first, though. 

        If your cockatiel is yet to be hand-tamed, it’s best to do this at night since it would be sleepy and won’t resist as much.

        Step 2

        Hold the cockatiel in one hand and check its nails with another. 

        You might want to use a towel to grab the bird if you’re uncomfortable about holding it in your bare hand or afraid of hurting it. 

        If you have a helper, he/she can wear work gloves to hold the cockatiel.

        It is harder to see the vein if the nails are black. You need to hold them against the light

        Step 3

        A cockatiels nail has a blood vessel inside it, which you should avoid cutting at all costs. 

        Hold up your pet’s feet in front of the light source. 

        If the nails are pale, the blood vessels should be visible. In case the bird has dark nails, you have to be very careful and can trim only a bit of it.

        Step 4

        Carefully snip off the sharp points at the end of the nails using the nail cutter. 

        If you can’t see the blood vessel, don’t clip off more than a sixteenth inch. 

        Cut at a 30-degree forward-sloping angle, as shown in the picture below.

        The pointed end of the nail should be facing you directly.

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          Step 5

          While you’re at it, keep your feathered friend calm by speaking soothingly to it. 

          Remember, being held for an extended period is stressful for birds. 

          You should also work as fast as possible to avoid keeping your pet in this stressful situation for too long.

          What To Do In Case of Bleeding?

          In case things go a little wrong and your cockatiel ends up bleeding, do not panic. 

          Take the Q tip and dab some styptic powder or cornstarch on the wound. It should clot and stop bleeding quite soon, but take the bird to a vet if it doesn’t. 

          Let the cockatiel rest in a quiet, dark, and warm place for a while. 

          Depending on how much blood loss it has suffered, it might need some time to recoup. 

          You might want to move the perches to the lower part of the cage and place the bird’s food somewhere easily accessible.

          Frequently asked questions

          Can I file my cockatiels nails?

          As an alternative to trimming your cockatiel’s nails, you may file it instead. 
          Filing takes longer than trimming, but it’s much safer for your feathered friend. 
          Check with a store selling bird supplies for a special nail file designed for birds.

          What happens if you don’t cut your bird’s nails?

          If you don’t cut your bird’s nails, it might suffer joint pain in the toes due to walking on nails. 
          Overgrown nails are also prone to get caught onto parts of the cage an other items inside it. 
          Besides, getting scratched by sharp and overgrown nails is an experience you’d want to avoid.

          How do you know if your bird’s nails are too long?

          Your cockatiels nail is too long if it overlaps the toe completely when walking on a flat surface. 
          In simpler words, the bird should be able to keep its toes flat when it walks around without the nails touching the surface. 
          Every time the nails overlap the toes, give them a trim.

          How much does it cost to get a bird’s nails clipped?

          It might cost you anywhere between USD 20 and USD 40 to get a bird’s nails trimmed.
          Bird veterinarians charge for nail clipping based on the type of the bird and the hardness of the nails.
          You’ll have to shell out more for larger birds and birds with hard, curved nails.

          Wrapping up

          So, that pretty much covers it all. As cockatiels are small birds, clipping their nails isn’t too hard. 

          You should be able to get the hang of it after just a couple of nail-clipping sessions. I hope you found this guide helpful, and thank you for reading it.

          It would be even easier if your cockatiel were hand-reared at a young age before you have to give its nails a trim. Lastly, you may also want to trim your cockatiel’s wings early to ensure it does not get hurt while flying around.

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