Not looking at your bird holistically may be dangerous to its health

How many times have you watched in awe as a flighted bird hops off the top of it’s cage – the “flap, flap, flap” then it lands on an inch wide piece of ceiling crown molding or a computer monitor and in bird speak says “what’s up?” Never giving a thought to that gravity thing that keeps the rest of us tethered to Mother Earth. These are special creatures indeed.

2 cockatoo perched on a barbed wire fence

Do we really give our birds enough credit for their ability to adapt?

It’s been my observation that most caged bird keepers fail (sell, rehome or give to a rescue) because the birds are unable to adapt to the keepers expectations. “She’s way messier than I thought.” “We’ll have none of that flying, we don’t want it to get hurt”, and the heart of todays topic “We gotta trim those nails Marlene, I can’t keep buying new sweaters”.

It’s been awhile since I’ve used the term “holistic” and I have been remiss. If you read enough Facebook threads about birds you hear all the gushing caged bird keepers who extol the virtues of organic and holistic diets for our FIDS (Feather kids) as if the two terms were interchangeable.

One of the many definitions of the word holistic is characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. In other words looking at anything as a “whole”

What that means is that everything we do to our bird, ie clip it’s wings, or even cut it’s nails, impacts everything the bird does. For example, once the bird’s wings are clipped you solve the (not) flying problem but create a balance problem. Ever see a downhill skier without poles?

Take away the poles (ends of the wings) and you can no longer feel where the ground is. If you have a 5 foot tall cage and your clipped bird falls from a top interior perch for lack of balance, an injury may be sustained. This is why flighted birds need different cage configurations than clipped birds. But that’s another story.

What triggered this topic was a call from a woman who had ordered a Jumbo (2 – 3 Inch diameter) manzanita perch for her Moluccan Cockatoo. she call to return the perch because her bird kept slipping off it. She went on to say the perch clearly was defective because her bird “never had this problem” .

I patiently listed to her entire story including the part about just getting back from the vet for a nail and wing trim and the bird was traumatized enough. When she finished, In my dr. mitch voice I said “ there may be a relationship to the shortened nails with blunt ends and her inability to grab onto a piece of wood equal to the diameter of her body, don’t you think?”

cockatiel perched on foot board of bed

Comfortably perched on a 4 inch diameter sleigh bed footboard – whoda thunk it?

We’ve not heard from the customer since so I’m guessing as the nails grew, so did the birds ability to grab the new perch. Which bring us to the moral of this story which is “every action taken with a bird impacts it ability to do – anything”. I’m not saying don’t trim your bird’s nails, but it comes with the understanding that you have an animal whose balance and grip have both been compromised, even if only temporarily.

When you do, as with any change in a bird’s body or environment, watch closely for it’s ability to cope with the new change how ever minor it may be. A 4 foot fall from a perch at the top of the cage, can cause injury to your bird if they were used to being able to recover from a slip before due to longer nails and unclipped wings.

Not that I’m an expert on the subject but having just spent 8 days “helicopter parenting” over our cockatiel whose foot was in a paper cast, made us realize how something not much larger than a postage stamp wrapped around our birds foot and leg changed EVERYTHING in her life!


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