|Beaks and Claws can become overgrown for a variety of reasons. Keeping them trimmed is easy and
recommended - and is part of good animal husbandry practices!
|There are many reasons a birds beak may become overgrown. The bird may not be the greatest at personal hygiene and does not wipe it's
beak on rough surfaces to prevent the overgrowth. It has been said that over medicating a bird will cause it's beak to grow too long. And
oddly enough, an overgrown beak can be a sign of calcium deficiency. Overly rich foods can cause beaks and nails to grow excessively long
in a short period of time.
Beaks may be trimmed carefully with a pair of sharp scissors or nail clippers. It is important that you do not cut too much, as the beak will
bleed heavily if cut down too far potentially killing your bird if the bleeding cannot be stopped - read below for more information on trimming!
|Overgrown claws can also be a symptom of over medicating or calcium deficiency, however many birds just aren't getting the right type of
perch. With a variety of perch sizes and forms (cement, sand, rock, wood, etc.), your bird should be able to keep its nails trimmed on its own.
However, you may need to trim them if they become overly long. Long nails can get caught in nesting hairs or other cage accessories. The
nail can rip out and cause bleeding that if not stopped in time, can kill your bird.
Use a sharp pair of scissors or nail clippers and trim just the tip of the nail, making certain not to cut the "quick" that may be seen through the
nail if held up in front of a bright light.
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|Overgrown Beak & Claws
|In my aviary, I trim breaks and nails at the same time. I typically try to leave breeding pairs alone unless the rich breeding foods have caused
excess growth, but everyone else is fair game! If they need it, they get a good trim!
I use a pair of nail clippers made for babies - the very small ones that look like the bigger ones for adults (you can still get them at the dollar
store). For me, they are easiest to handle and I can see what I am doing more easily.
If the beak is crossed, take the bird in hand and look closely at the beak to decide what needs to be cut before you actually do it. The ultimate
goal is to trim so that the top meets the bottom when the beak is closed in a natural position. You want to try to trim the crossed portions off
first - crossed portions are typically very fine and thin and file easily, so if you are uncomfortable trimming these, you can use a nail file (I use
the red emery boards) to get the bulk off, then carefully trim any additional excess with the clippers!
I'm right handed, so I hold the bird in the palm of my left hand with its head between my forefinger and middle finger. This allows me to use my
thumb to manipulate the bird without it escaping, and gives me more control. I literally use the clippers to manipulate the beak (or nails) to
the position I want before I clip by gently holding onto the beak with the clippers, then turning or tipping them so that I can clip only what needs
to be trimmed.
Trim "crossed" portions first - anything that extends beyond the natural line of the beak - and only trim tiny bits at a time until you get to a basic
natural beak shape. Once that is complete, inspect again to see where the top and bottom should meet naturally.
I take the open clippers and place them against the bottom edge of the top beak portion, making sure to meet the longest front edge of the
lower beak, then "tip" the clippers slightly away from the bird so as not to clip too much. This will leave the top beak portion ever so slightly
longer than the lower.
Once both the upper & lower portions are clipped satisfactorily, look to see if any filing is necessary - which may be the case if the beak was
crossed or overly long.
I have birds here who will sit perfectly still while I trim, and others who try to bite me and keep their beaks open the entire time, making it a bit
more difficult. For those birds, I use my forefinger to hold their upper beak still, while using the clippers to gently force the lower beak shut.
Occasionally they will "shift" their beak so that the lower does not close in the natural position. This is merely a "patience" thing! Eventually
they will give up fighting you and relax so that you'll be able to clip! Patience is a virtue when it comes to clipping beaks and nails. You want to
make sure you are not in a hurry - if you rush, you could end up cutting too much.
If you are concerned about cutting too much and causing bleeding, keep a dish of flour or one of the blood stopping agents like Blood Stop
Powder, Stay ointment, Quick Stop, or a styptic pencil handy just in case. I have never clipped a beak too short (nails sometimes) as there is
more beak before quick than with the nails. If you are clipping for the first time, just take your time and move slowly - you'll be just fine!
While you've got the bird in hand, check the nails too! As mentioned above, a higher protein diet (typically given during breeding and/or
molting) can lead to faster growing nails & beak - and if the beak is long, I usually see long nails here too! That way you won't have to
catch the bird again for nail trimming and cause undue stress!
I personally like to dab a little Vaseline on the beak (and legs/nails) with a cotton swab after a trimming - especially if the birds are molting. This
appears to help condition the beak and gives it a little extra moisture. I tend to see less peeling and dryness during the molt when I do this -
you do not need to do this if you don't feel it is necessary! It's just my personal preference!
|I always trim nails so that they are angled (hence the tipping of the clippers away from the bird). What I'm looking for is an angle that allows the
nail to make exact flat contact with the perch so that I don't have to trim as often. I call it a "show trim" - but as far as I know, it is just what I call
Just remember, this is my personal preference - others may have a different way of going about it!
I keep the bird in my left hand holding its head firmly between my first and middle fingers. I use my thumb and forefinger (and sometimes my
middle finger if the bird is fidgety) to pull the leg up and separate the toes, holding them between the rest of my fingers (yes, while still holding
the bird! It does take practice, so hang in there! You'll be an old pro in no time!). I spread the toes like you'd fan cards then literally use the
clippers to manipulate the nail into the position I want and clip on an angle "away" from the bird so that the nail looks "natural".
I try to remember each time I trim that it is like carpentry - measure twice, cut once. In other words, be sure you have the clippers exactly where
you want them before you clip so as not to clip too deep and cause bleeding!
If for some reason you do clip too deep and the blood stopping agents don't seem to work, place your finger over the tip of the bleeding area
and apply pressure for as long as it takes for the bleeding to stop. I've actually found pressure to work better and faster than any of the blood
stop meds, but I keep a dish of diatomaceous earth around anyway!
|I will sometimes hold the bird in front of a bright light so that I can see exactly where the quick is - especially in young juveniles whose nails are
still dark in color, or with the societies whose nails grow like weeds and are almost all black. This allows me to see exactly where to cut.
NOTE: An interesting item I've noticed...
Sometimes when I clip nails I notice the blood in the quick zip backward in the vein - almost as if someone were sucking the blood back through
a straw. I've realized that this usually only happens in nails that really don't require trimming yet, but may be just a tad long. The pressure
from the clippers forces the blood back up the vein. It is NOT something to worry about, and as far as I can tell, does not cause the bird any
pain. I try to record this information for future reference when trimming that particular birds nails again, so I know not to clip as short next time!
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