27 August 2008

Pet angst

Once Chester had finished his molt, he began growing new a lot of new feathers. This included his flight feathers.

The flight feathers are the outermost 6 feathers on the trailing edge of each wing. When the bird has his wings folded on his back, they stick out at the bottom. If the flight feathers are clipped back so that they no longer protrude beneath the wing when it’s folded, then when the wing is unfolded the bird can’t gain enough lift to gain altitude.

In other words: with clipped flight feathers, a budgie can fly downwards, but can’t fly up. A bird with a full set of flight feathers is referred to as “flighted”.

The question of whether a companion bird should be flighted is somewhat controversial . It’s said that being flighted makes a bird more confident. On the other hand, a house can be a dangerous place for a fully flighted bird.

My feeling was that so long as Chester’s flying didn’t become problematic, and he continued to be well behaved enough that we could keep him safe, he could keep his flight feathers.

Sadly, it didn’t work out that way. Last week his flight feathers got long enough that he was able to demonstrate his ability to fly up to ceiling level. When he landed on the floor, I bent down and offered my hand so he could step up to safety, which he had been trained to do and had always done in the past. He gave me a look as if to say “Screw you, human, I can fly !” and took off.

He flew around the kitchen. He flew into the utility room. He flew back out onto the windowsill above the sink. It became clear that he could easily end up on top of the kitchen cabinets, down the back of the fridge, behind the washing machine, or in the sink disposal. This was not good for him or us.

So regretfully, we took him to the vet and had his wings clipped again. It is, of course, a totally painless process. He was fluffing his feathers and enjoying the car ride by the time we were driving home. But for the time being at least, he’s grounded. He can make short hopping flights, but no soaring around the ceiling fan.

Ironically, he loves his cage so much that if we were willing to let him spend his life in the cage, he probably wouldn’t make any effort to come out, and we could let him stay flighted. It’s because we want him to come out and have a rich and stimulating life that he needs to be clipped for the time being.

© mathew 2017