How to Hold a Bird Safely

Funny budgerigar. Cute green budgie parrot sits on a finger and looking at the camera.
Lusyaya / Getty Images

As with most things, there are right ways and wrong ways to hold a pet bird. Birds are rather fragile creatures both physically and emotionally, and since they are not domesticated, scooping one up into your arms is not quite as simple as it would be with a dog or a cat. However, if you practice the correct techniques, you will find that safely holding your feathered friend can be easier than you might think. Check out the tips below for information that will help both you and your bird enjoy your handling time to the fullest extent.

  • 01 of 05

    Teach Your Bird to "Step Up"

    Turquiose Conure wearing Birthday hat
    Jessica Holden Photography / Getty Images

    The majority of bird owners are not professional bird trainers—but it's still important for them to teach their pets a few basic commands in order for them to remain healthy and happy. The most important of these is the Step-Up Command, an easy to teach "trick" that trains a bird to step onto their owners' finger. Teaching this command to your bird will make it much easier for you to remove your pet from its cage, in addition to enabling you to easily move your bird from place to place within your home without the need for frightening episodes of "catch me if you can."

  • 02 of 05

    Never Squeeze, Shake, or Strike Your Bird

    Cropped Hands Holding Young Bird

    Ryhor Bruyeu / Getty Images

    Because birds are such highly specialized creatures built for flight, they have complex anatomy that makes them quite fragile as compared to other types of pets. When handling your bird, it's important to remember to always be as gentle as possible. Never squeeze your bird or hold it too firmly, even if he or she resists handling. Doing so could break one of your pet's bones, damage his or her internal organs, or worse. If it seems like the only way you can hold your bird is to keep a tight grasp on him, try practicing some bonding techniques that will help your pet enjoy being handled and accept it without fright or hesitation.

  • 03 of 05

    Use a Towel If Necessary

    Veterinarian Treating Bird's Wing

    Corbis / VCG / Getty Images

    Sometimes it can be difficult to hold onto a bird if you need to conduct a wing or nail trim, so it can be beneficial to both of you to practice toweling in these situations. While toweling your bird all the time is far from ideal, it can help to calm your pet and keep him or her safe during times when it's necessary to restrain your feathered friend. Keep in mind that birds can become overheated rather easily, so make sure that if you do need to towel your bird for any reason, you get it over with as quickly as possible. Toweling a bird can be rather traumatic for some pets, so if you must do it, allow your bird some quiet time alone in his cage afterward so that he can recuperate.

  • 04 of 05

    Don't Allow Your Bird to Sit on Your Shoulder

    Pearl Cockatiel Pet

    Reimar Gaertner / Getty Images

    It's a common practice for bird owners to allow their pets to climb, ride, and sit on their shoulders—but it's a bad idea for several reasons. First of all, allowing your bird to sit on your shoulder gives your feathered friend access to your ears, eyes, and other sensitive parts of your face. Should your bird become frightened or upset while riding on your shoulder, you could very well be subjected to a painful and damaging bite. Eliminate the risk by always holding your bird on your hands or forearms, and making sure that they are at a safe distance from your face.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Never Hold a Bird by the Wings, Legs, or Tail

    Bird trapped in mist net for bird banding, (Japanese Network). Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros), famale, perched on a bare branch. Spain, Europe.
    Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

    Even if your bird has not yet mastered the "step-up" command, it is never okay to grab him by the wings, legs, or tail. Not only could doing so frighten your bird and damage his delicate plumage, but it could also cause complications such as broken bones or other trauma. If you must pick up a bird who absolutely refuses to step up, do it safely by gently grasping them in a small towel or with padded gloves that will protect your fingers from bites or scratches.