New - Video of Nail Trimming ( Windows
Media / Real Audio
strawberries are in frequent need of nail clipping - a
common problem with the species.
clipping is sometimes necessary. How often depends on the type
of finch. My zebra finches hardly ever need their nails trimmed.
Society finches and owls need them trimmed occasionally. Waxbills,
like strawberry finches and orange cheeks need them trimmed
frequently, or they will become very long and quite dangerous.
I once took in a female strawberry finch from a pet store. Her
nails were so long, the back nail curled in a spiral. It was
grey, and when I trimmed it, it was obvious that it no longer
had a live blood supply and had become a "dead" nail.
you don't clip nails and they need it, the bird could become
caught - on a perch, a nestbox, a rope fiber, nesting material,
or anything else that a long nail could hook itself around.
A bird whose nail is caught could end up dangling upside down
- if he cannot extricate himself, he could die. A bird could
also become injured trying to free himself. If the injury results
in blood loss, it could be fatal. Therefore, nail-trimming should
not be put off.
If you have birds whose nails are frequently in need of
trimming, you can make their environment safer by removing
objects that they can become caught on - bamboo/stick
nestboxes, nesting material, ropes, etc. This is not a
substitute for nail trimming, as excessively long nails
can still become caught on perches, but it may help prevent
an accident between trims.
me, the hardest part about trimming nails is catching the bird
in question (see Catching
Birds in an Aviary). Once caught, a regular nail clipper
can be used to trim off the excess portion of the nail. I try
to trim as close to the quick (the blood supply within the toenail)
as possible, without cutting it. This is easier with species
that have light colored toenails. With other species, you just
have to guess (I error on the side of a little too long). A
good article with nice pictures by Kathy Dezern can be found
on her website, FinchFancier.com. (It appears this website no
longer exists or has moved. The article,
however, has been reprinted with permission at Salem's
Java Finches.) She also explains how to cauterize the nail,
should you accidentally cut into the quick. I keep blood stop
powder on hand in case I ever make this mistake. Blood stop
powder is available from Birds2Grow.
As the article indicates, a better method for stopping blood
flow is cauterization. I have used both blood stop powder and
cauterization with a match tip with great success. It rarely
is needed, but when it is, both methods have been effective
and I have never lost a bird trimming its nails.
NEW - 8/21/2006 ***
When I trim nails, I hold the bird in my left hand, with its
back against my palm and its head secure between my index and
middle finger, close to the webbing between the fingers. Holding
the bird with its belly face up, I gently grab one of its legs
with my right hand and pass it to my left hand, held between
my thumb and index finger. I then try to separate the toes.
Sometimes a finch will try to clench their toes in a ball, and
I try to unclench them and separate them so no toe or toenail
gets cut by mistake. When I have at least one of the nails clearly
separated from the others, I take the nail clippers in my right
hand and carefully gage where I want to cut. When I have that
position secured and the foot is tightly held so that the bird
cannot move that toe, I cut quickly and cleanly. I then move
on to the other toes. The two side toes can be cut very short.
The back and the front need a little extra length. Again, if
you can see the quick, use the quick as a guide for how short
it is helpful to see something done, so I made the following
video of me clipping the nails of an orange-cheeked waxbill.
This bird had managed to sneak by without a clipping in a while
and his nails were quite long. Because his nails are dark in
places, I cannot always see the quick, so I have to make a judgment
call. I cut this bird's nails conservatively - I could have
gotten a bit closer in a few places. The video is not as crisp
as I would like because my point and shoot camera cannot focus
well at extremely close distances and because I was trying to
both run the camera and cut the bird's nails at the same time
- a tricky feat. However, the video is clear enough to serve
its purpose. (Note that on the second foot, there is a strange
extension of the back nail - it looked like the nail had started
to break because it had been allowed to grow too long.)