Bird Claws and Feet
Parakeets have zygodactyl claws, meaning that two point forward and two point backwards. This helps a parakeet climb in all directions and cling onto vertical surfaces.
Parakeets and Budgies
A parakeet's claws are just like your fingernails - they are made of a hard substance that can't feel pain. However, their soft, pink flesh IS sensitive. You should never put gravel on the bottom of the cage or on your perches. That will scrape open the parakeet's flesh and cause sores. You should give your parakeet a variety of perch types to sit on - soft rope perches, various sizes of wooden perches, even natural wood twigs. That will let the parakeet exercise his or her feet and sit in comfort.
While your bird's claws should naturally stay trimmed as it does its normal climbing about, it might happen that your bird's claw gets to be too long. A claw nail is too long when it starts to wrap back in onto itself - instead of forming a letter C it starts to try to form a letter O. Of course this is bad for the bird because now the bird can't sit on a perch - the claw is not able to hold on.
Pet shops sell bird claw trimmers which are in essence like little scizzors. Before you attempt a claw trimming, be sure to have a styptic pencil within easy reach so, if you do cause the bird to start bleeding, you can stop it immediately.
First, you need to get the bird into your hand. The easiest way for me to do this is to get the bird to sit on my finger and then to trap his feet with my thumb over his feet. Do it gently! Now put a washcloth across the top of the bird's back and put the palm of your other hand on top of the washcloth. Form a O with your thumb and forefinger around the bird's neck, using the washcloth to protect your fingers from being ... nibbled on. Turn your hand so the bird is now on its back, nestled in the washcloth, with your thumb and forefinger holding him in place GENTLY. The bird will be quite nervous of course but if you're calm and soothing about it he shouldn't go too wild.
Now use the other hand (or have a friend help) and trim just the TIPS of each claw nail. You never want to cut down to where you see the blood vessel in the nail. Trim just enough to get the nail back into a C shape. You want the bird to still be able to hold on to perches and the side of the cage. You just don't want the bird's nail to be so curved that it is no longer able to sit on perches or climb on the cage.
If you run into any trouble with the trimming process, or if your parakeet starts refusing to put weight onto one of its feet, be sure to take him to a vet immediately. While birds do sleep with one foot up sometimes, it should not be a 24 hour a day thing.
Caring for Parakeet Wings, Claws, and Beak
Cat / Parakeet Info Homepage