Your parakeet's feet can tell you a lot about his health, so keep an eye on them. While a simple pedicure now and then keeps the feet themselves healthy, caring for his feet as much as you care for the rest of him gives you clues about his overall well-being.
Check his feet for scales. When your parakeet's feet look scaly, this can be the sign of parasitic mites or even a nutritional deficiency.
Monitor the length of his toenails. While typical animal toe trimming leaves the nails short and blunt, parakeets need a little length and curve so that they can climb and grip their perches. When his nails start to curve all the way around into the toes, it's time for a pedicure.
Trim the toenails just at the sharp tips. They should retain their "C" shape. This enables your bird to go on supporting himself with his feet.
If you accidentally trim the nail too close, it will snip the blood vessel inside (called the quick), hurting your parakeet and making him bleed. Have some flour or cornstarch on hand just in case. If you cause bleeding when trimming your bird's nails, moisten your finger and dip it in the flour or cornstarch, then pack the powder onto the bleeding area. This expedites clotting.
- Always use a trimmer specifically designed for bird nails, or, alternatively, dog or cat nails. These are specifically shaped to target the tip of the nail, making it harder to accidentally trim them too short.
- If you have difficulty getting your bird to hold still while you care for his feet, gently drape a washcloth over his back and turn him over, holding him like a bird taco with his feet in the air. This prevents him from wriggling or flying away, as well as from taking a bite out of your fingers.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.