Grooming Your Parakeet
Just like you, your parakeet requires some occasional grooming. In this chapter, I’ll cover some of the basic grooming tasks for your parakeet and how you can handle them yourself. If you’re nervous about trying to trying some of this yourself, then ask your breeder or avian veterinarian to show you how.
There are only a few things you’ll need to handle grooming your parakeet. The first thing is a soft, clean towel. You’ll use it to hold your bird when you’re grooming him. (It’s better for him to bite the towel instead of you!) The other items you’ll need are some nail clippers (human ones are fine), some sharp scissors, and styptic powder.
Holding your Parakeet for Grooming
Here’s where your soft, clean towel will come in handy. Use the towel to gently hold your parakeet while you’re grooming him. Hold him gently from the back by the neck. Support his back either with your hand or with a table. The front of the towel should stay open so you can work on your bird’s feet and wings.
Be careful not to press down on his chest. If your bird can’t move his chest, he can’t breathe.
You may not need to trim your parakeets nails at all. Most normal parakeets wear their own nails down just by perching and their own preening. In fact, you can get perches that are specially designed to keep the nails filed down. However, if your parakeet’s nails feel particularly sharp for an extended period of time, you may need to trim them.
You can use the towel mentioned above to restrain your parakeet while you’re trimming his nails, but it’s probably a two person job. Another trick you can use is simply to trim the nails when your parakeet is holding on to the side of their cage. Just trim whenever a nail is exposed – quick and painless.
Make sure you only trim the tip. Birds’ nails have blood vessels in them, so if you trim too much you may see bleeding. If there’s any bleeding, then use styptic power to stop it.
Trimming the Wings
I strongly recommend that you have a professional trim your parakeet’s wings if you’ve never done it before. There shouldn’t be more than a nominal charge for it and it’s important to have it done. Plus, you can learn how to do it yourself by watching.
Wing trimming is very important for your bird’s own safety – especially if you’re planning on letting them fly around your house. It will keep them from getting hurt if they are startled into flight and it makes them easier to train. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them any more than a haircut hurts you.
Don’t trim your bird’s wings until he has learned to fly. Learning to fly gives your bird confidence, teaches him balance, and lets him develop the muscles in his chest.
Wing trimming is probably a two person job. I don’t recommend that you try it alone unless you really know what you’re doing.
I like to clip the first 5 primary flight feathers on each wing. It’s important to clip evenly on both wings so your parakeet can maintain balance. Be careful not to clip any growing feathers. These are also called blood feathers. You’ll recognize them by the dark line in the shaft. The dark line is the blood supply in the feather.
Remember that feathers grow back. A parakeet’s wings will require additional trimming 8-12 weeks after the start of a molt cycle.
Never Trim the Beak Yourself
Parakeets should naturally keep their beak trimmed and in shape by chewing or rubbing on perches, toys, cage bars etc. If your bird’s beak looks overly long, visit your vet for a check up. Sometimes a long beak is a sign of sickness. Beak trimming should be left to the professionals.
Dandruff or Flakes?
A common question about parakeets is what is, “Does my parakeet have dandruff?” Parakeets naturally shed a dandruff or powder from their feathers. It is not something you can change. Daily baths can help with the amount of dandruff your bird sheds.
If your parakeet is excessively scratching, you might have your vet check for mites, although this generally is not a problem for parakeets.
Most parakeets love baths. Plus it keeps their skin in good condition. An easy way to do this is to mist them with a spray bottle of warm water. Be very careful not to use hot water.
You can also provide a shallow dish in the bottom of their cage or attach a birdbath to the side of their cage. Some parakeets like to sit under the faucet in the sink or even take a shower with you.
You can bathe your parakeet often, but any more than once a day is unnecessary. Two or three times a week is normal.