Grooming Your Bird


Pet birds frequently require wing trims. It is not recommended that the owner perform the wing trim. Our staff are the best people to trim wings for several reasons:

Many birds react negatively to wing trims and resent the person doing the trim.

We are prepared to handle any unforeseen medical emergency as a result of a wing trim.

We know how to hold the bird so that its breathing will not be restricted. Birds become excited when they are held for wing trims, and if their chest is inadvertently compressed or their breathing is impaired they can die without warning.

We know at which point on the feather it is safe to trim so as not to cause bleeding or discomfort (poke the bird in the side, or catch on cage bars). We also know the correct number of feathers to trim on each wing for each species of pet bird.


Feathers that are ragged and unkempt may be the result of malnutrition, self-inflicted feather mutilation, or disease. An exam may reveal a potential problem, and we can make recommendations toward an improved appearance of the feathers.

Feathers that are broken and bleeding, or that are causing obvious discomfort for the bird, need to be carefully and quickly removed. If possible, this should be done at the Surgery.

There are no feathers other than wing feathers or broken, bleeding feathers that need to be trimmed.


Bathing is an important part of grooming. Most birds like to bathe and, if given the opportunity, will take daily baths. If the bird(s) will use a bowl to bathe, provide a bath every day and remove the bath water when the bird has bathed. If the bird does not willingly bathe, other methods can be employed to accomplish a bath.

Birds that do not bathe on their own can be misted with clean water using a spray bottle. Most birds will groom their feathers after a bath. Canaries will bathe almost every day throughout the year if offered a shallow bowl of water. Budgies rarely bathe in a bowl, but will bathe in a pile of wet, clean lettuce leaves. This is a suitable substitute providing that the leaves are removed immediately after the bath and new ones are used the next time.

Plain tap water or filtered water without cosmetic additives may be the safest for bathing your pet bird. If possible, birds should not be permitted to contaminate their drinking water by bathing in it. It is sometimes necessary to provide a water-tube for drinking and a bowl for bathing that can be removed immediately after the bath.


The most common reason for overgrown nails is disease; however some birds develop long nails because they are kept on small, soft or inappropriate perches. If your bird’s nails are overgrown, a visit to the West Toowoomba Vet Surgery will help determine the cause.

We should be consulted for nail trims the same as for wing trims, as proper handling during the procedure will ensure that the bird is not overly stressed. Some birds have underlying problems that only manifest themselves during such procedures, and a complete physical exam is recommended before the bird is subjected to the stresses of wing or nail trims.

Stone or ceramic perches are recognized by many as safe for most pet birds. These types of perches will generally keep the bird’s nails dull, but not short. They can be used along with, but not instead of, traditional wood perches. Do not use sandpaper perches as the rough surface may cause foot lesions that become difficult to eradicate.


Unless the beak is diseased, trimming is not recommended. The beak is porous, and the bird uses its sharp point to eat, climb in its cage, and groom itself. If the beak is trimmed too aggressively, infection can enter the soft inner-beak tissue and may be difficult to eradicate.

Birds with overgrown beaks should be examined. Do not paint over-the-counter medication on overgrown beaks. See us for new methods of treatment and instructions on how to clean the environment so the problem does not recur.


Effective medication for the treatment of scaly legs, feet, and face has been available since 1983. See us for treatment. We will also make recommendations on disinfecting the aviaries so that infestation does not return.


If you have birds you wish to show, some recommend they be given a daily bath for up to four weeks prior to the show. Be sure the bath is clean, cool water only, as some substances commonly added to bath water for show-birds actually harm the feathers. Do not use hair sprays, oils, or additives of any kind in the bath water.


If dirt or faecal matter is caked on the feet, nails, legs, or feathers, do not attempt to pull it off. Hold the bird gently and lightly, keeping the soiled area (not the head or face) in lukewarm water until the caked dirt is softened. Gently brush it away with your fingers or a baby hairbrush, or apply gentle pressure to break up the material and allow it to wash away. If the caked matter does not break up easily, repeat the procedure until it is soft enough to wash off. If the bird struggles, screams or seems stressed, or if you are unsure how to do this, ask us to perform this procedure. Legs, toes, and nails are easily broken by improper removal of caked dirt, and birds can die of associated stress.