This article discusses flying time during weaning and then progresses into whether to clip your mature pet.

Fly Time is Critical During Weaning

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These are my reasons for "fly time" being so critical to the developing parrot:

During the weaning process, it is a critical component. God intended for birds to fly. He designed them physically and psychologically for flying. They know it. I always know when our babies are on the verge of flying for their first time due to the look in their eyes. They get this glow and
determination.

Picture by Joi who also raises green cheeks at wildwest@nwi.net

First off, our goal is to produce well-adjusted adult birds that are trusting and confident. There are many stages a baby in the wild jungle must go through to wean. These developmental processes are critical and may even parallel our own kind going through the process of crawling. Again in a natural jungle situation, a baby depends on his parents for food until he can fly to it himself. He seems to instinctively know that flying is essential to his survival. Thus, our handfed babies may not feel confident about weaning until they have learned to fly to the food. They must be able to maneuver and land safely.

The act of flying impacts the bird's appetite in a big way! When a bird gets ready to fledge, it will instinctively reduce its food intake. That is to loose some of the accumulated baby fat and make it lighter. Many times handfeeders become concerned about lack of eating and weight loss. The exercise of flying helps the babies regain their "normal appetite".

Additionally, a bird is a prey animal. Being a prey animal greatly shapes who they are. Their escape from the predator is the act of flying. If we deny them the knowledge that they can fly, they are going to be less confident. Here, I could generalize and say that some species tend to be more phobic than others (African Greys), but that is not truly fair in the big picture. I have seen individuals in every species that are more phobic naturally, and the knowledge that they can fly to safety greatly increases their security.

Many breeders clip their babies due to their ability to fly, poop, throw food and spray handfeeding formula all at the same time. It does get messy, but the health of the baby is more important than a clean kitchen!

So do I clip my Mature Bird???

This is not to say that birds must stay flighted. Usually I gradually clip our babies and reduce their ability to gain much air before they go home. I do this for the initial bonding period with their new family. Many homes are not safe for a flighted bird, and that has to be the decision of the family. I do urge buyers to let those feathers regrow though and I keep our pets flighted for the below reasons. Once in a while, a pet gets too big for their britches and their first 3-5 primaries will meet the scissor blade.

Safety Concerns

If you can make your home safe for a flighted pet, I believe that it is best for them. The main worry for most families is that a pet will escape when a door is opened. One idea to help trigger the brain that a bird is lose or to help prevent a child from opening a door, is to put the old fashioned chain inside on your door. We only lock this chain when a bird is loose. It is like hanging a reminder on the door and it keeps a child from bursting into the house from the outside and allowing the bird to fly off. I have also had so many say they had a bird on the shoulder, got preoccupied with life and then walked outside. Poof, the bird was gone! If you chain the doors when a bird is out, it will hopefully wake up your distracted brain.

All of our doors also have security doors with screens on them to double our safety.
Does clipping your bird decrease your chances of losing him/her to the big blue yonder? I say, "No." I get so many emails from people stating that they "thought" their bird was clipped and off he went. Everytime I hear of a bird flying away, the sad owners repeat a story I have heard before...."He was due to be clipped next week, I thought that he was clipped and they must have regrown...." Owners of birds that are clipped are not as vigilant as those owners who know their bird is flighted. Remember that whether or not your bird is clipped, and even if you think they are severely clipped, many have flown off when frightened or outside. They don't fly with their wings alone, but use those tail feathers to fly as well. Check out the tails in these flying pictures.

If your pet is flighted, he/she will have a tremendous advantage if he does escape outside over your clipped pets. Obviously, the chances for survival outside are much higher for those that are completely flighted.

Other safety issues to think about are ceiling fans, toxic plants and substances, boiling pots on the stove, open toilets, all of which are potentially fatal to your flighted bird. On the up side, parrots are very smart and learn where danger lies. I have seen my Jardine skillfully maneuver around our ceiling fan mulitple times. I have seen Greys stop and hover midair to purposely avoid smashing into a window. On the other hand, your flighted bird has a much better chance of escaping death when he/she encounters your pet dog or cat.

In a home where there are mulitple pet parrots (many of us have *MBS disease), the birds are less likely to have a serious conflict if one can take to wing. If they are clipped, you end up forcing them to take each other head on beak to beak.

Teaching recall is vital also when dealing with a flighted bird. Their natural appetites for food and relationship goes a LONG way in teaching recall. Click here to see a Green Cheek called in. Click here to see an African Grey called to me! Click here to see an Eclectus wearing a flight suit fly in to Lisa.I would recommend reading up on clicker training and flight recall if you would like to learn more.

Health Concerns

Just this year alone, I had a fellow breeder contact me and said that she had lost 3 birds to fatty liver disease. Birds are designed by our Lord for flight. This is their exercise. If you read on the Internet about parrots, everyone stresses diet, diet and more diet. Yes, diet is important and you can read about our mash and sprouts by clicking on those words. BUT, c'mon, you have to have exercise too. What if you ate the perfect diet, but did not exercise. Would you be healthy? Yes, climbing is exercise and important to birds, but flying is by far the best.

A parrot has an incredible respiratory system that also needs to be exercised. This is NOT accomplished by climbing. Remember the Canary in the coal mine trick? That worked due to the highly efficient system our birds have been given. Diseases of the respiratory tract are the most common illness found in parrots. They breathe up to 25-40 times per minute, whereas, we breathe about 16-20 times per minute.

The anatomy of their respiratory tract is very unlike ours...they don't have a diaphragm and their lungs have rigid walls (remember how they don't expand?). They have air sacs and much more area of capillaries. Thus, more oxygen is transferred with each breath. Birds are incredible athletes and need to be able to quickly absorb oxygen. The critical feature of their respiration sensitivity and efficiency is that there is more oxygen transferred with each breath.  In birds the lungs expand very little because the air goes through them into the air sacs and back through the lungs on expiration. Thus not only can a greater volume of air pass through the lungs, but since it passes through twice, gas exchange is more efficient.

When birds fly, they actually get to use this incredibly efficient system. You will see them visibly panting when they first begin. I never see a clipped bird pant from climbing.

 

Emotional Concerns

Freddie in May, 2007

Plucked birds is a huge concern in the parrot pet population. We have 2 stories on our site about feather plucking parrots. Click on their names to read about Belleek and Freddie. Of course, once a bird is plucked, you cannot even think about them flying, but I believe a flighted bird is less likely to pluck. I have already covered why they would feel more emotionally secure.

Plucking is a habit that often develops due to health issues (toxins, allergies), but can also be the result of emotional issues such as anxiety and boredom.

To see one of our baby Eclectus flying to my daughter while wearing a flight suit, click here. I have one friend who puts on her flight suit during hormonal times when she begins to pluck. This actually distracts Wilma from destroying her own feathers. She does chew up the flightsuit, but better that than the feathers.

Freddie,  in August, 2007

Common sense tells me that a clipped bird has to be more bored and more anxious. Even in the articles you read about how to clip your Grey or Eclectus, they stress that the birds seemed bothered by the shortened chopped end of the clip. If you are curious about this correlation between clipping and plucking, enter into google words such as "clipped wings plucking" and your eyes will see more with this opinion.

I have also noticed that the baby Greys we send home that end up clipped will sometimes end up with broken tails from falling and not being able to catch themselves. This is not so, with the babies that have gone into a flighted home.

 

For beautiful slow motion video of birds flying, click here. The featured birds are an Ekkie, a Grey and a Yellow Sided Green Cheek.

I have considered the above dialogue, and I do want to clip my bird's wings....

After all of this is said above, I do clip our pet here in our home if she is too aggressive or if their hormones are driving them, or if there is a training time period needed. I then let those primaries regrow and that individual regains her flight. Presently, everyone is completely flighted, except for my Grey. Honestly, it boils down to clipping about 1 time every year and that seems to be enough.

If you choose to clip, some good articles on wing clipping are:

http://www.parrottalk.com/wing-clipping.htm or at
http://www.birdsnways.com/wisdom/ww25ev.htm 

Do not clip only one wing. You will read this advice on Internet sites, but it really unbalances a bird (obviously). This lack of balance makes them unable to judge direction when they attempt a take-off. Many injuries have resulted from this type of wing clip.

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*MBS = Mulitple Bird Syndrome