Beak and Claw Trimming for Caged Birds

Sandra Ferguson
by Sandra Ferguson
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Caged birds live in a very "geometric" world, in contrast to their wild counterparts. Most of the surfaces they perch on (perches, cage bars, etc.) are very smooth and regular. Consequently, the claws and beaks of pet birds tend to overgrow, and the surfaces of their beaks also tend to become rough and irregular.

In a wild bird's natural environment, this problem never arises because wild birds are very active and wear down their claws on tree bark, rocks and other abrasive surfaces. Most caged birds need their claws trimmed periodically in spite of gimmicks often employed to keep them shortened. Sandpaper perch covers, for example, do not prevent nail overgrowth but they do cause irritation and excessive wear of the soles of the feet. Sandpaper perch covers should not be used.


An emery board, nail clippers or cautery instrument can be used to shorten the claws of smaller caged birds. A rapidly rotating grinding stone is used to trim the claws and to shorten, shape and smooth the beaks of larger birds. The results are very professional and satisfying. You should not attempt to trim the beak of your bird. If you do attempt to trim the claws, you must have something on hand with which to stop any bleeding. These clotting aids are called styptics.

If bleeding occurs while trimming the claws, do not panic. First, carefully restrain the bird. Next, squeeze the toe just above the claw (tourniquet effect). Then apply the styptic to the bleeding claw. Alternate the last 2 steps until the bleeding has stopped. Always seek veterinary help when your bird is bleeding or has bled. Bleeding always represents an emergency situation. Corn starch or flour is a common household item that can be applied to bleeding claws or other wounds to help with blood clotting and to stop bleeding. The steps outlined above are first-aid procedures only and are not a substitute for veterinary assistance.