Pet Connection Q&A: Towel can tame bird when it needs a trim

09/18/2012 12:00 AM

09/17/2012 2:47 PM

My parrot has bitten me badly when I've tried to clip flight feathers or nails. How can I make this easier on us both?

Make sure you're doing these procedures properly to minimize pain. Have an expert show you exactly where and how much to clip those flight feathers and nails, and learn what to do if things get bloody by accident. Ideally, that should be an avian veterinarian, a veterinary technician or someone on the staff of a reputable bird shop.

You'll also need a towel to restrain your bird, and ask for a demonstration of the art of "toweling." An old, clean hand towel is fine for small parrots such as cockatiels and budgies, while a larger bath towel is better for large parrots such as cockatoos and macaws.

My "Birds for Dummies" co-author, avian veterinarian Dr. Brian Speer, says that toweling shouldn't be frightening for the bird. He suggests that you hold the towel with the ends draped over each hand, make eye contact with your bird, and approach from the front. Show your bird the towel and then gently wrap it around the bird, usually from the front. When using a towel to restrain your bird, you do not need to keep direct hold of the head, but do expect a few new holes to be chewed in the towel while you're working with your bird.

Wrap the towel tightly enough to control your bird, but not so tightly as to restrict breathing. Pet birds breathe by moving their breastbones forward and back, like a bellows. You must leave the towel wrapped loosely enough for your bird to draw breath normally.

When your bird is gently wrapped up in the towel, you are in control and can take care of grooming or of investigating any injuries. Attitude is everything: Always handle your bird with respect, but also with gentle firmness.

Keep in mind, too, that the towel is not supposed to terrify your bird. It's a good idea to play "towel games" now and then, covering and uncovering your bird while providing praise and special seeds for treats. That way, your bird won't come to believe the appearance of the towel is always a sign of something uncomfortable and unpleasant to come.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Ohio tightens regulation of exotic animal ownership

Following the shocking deaths of lions, tigers, bears and other exotic animals last fall on an Ohio farm after their owner released them before committing suicide, the state has now put regulations in place in hopes of preventing similar tragedies. Ohio was once one of the easiest and least regulated places to keep exotic animals, but no more: The new law prohibits buying, selling, transferring and trading exotic animals. Those who already have them will be allowed to keep them, but they must obtain a license and insurance and have the pets microchipped, among other requirements. – Gina Spadafori

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