By Diane Burroughs
While different species of birds have different beaks, a bird beak is designed to consume the diet that that particular species eats in its native environment and to groom feathers. Bird’s also use their beaks to feed their young. All beaks are made up of Keratin and dermis woven with vascular layers and supported by bone.
A parrots beak, in particular grows in three directions – from tom to tip from the center to the edges and from inside, deep to the surface. Keratin is the same protein that our fingernails are made of. Hooves and horns are also made of Keratin. Your birds’ beak grows between 1 to 3 inches per year, depending on your birds’ species and its health.
The germinal layer of the beak contains the organs blood supply and it extends from the skull to the tip of the beak. A birds’ beak is a very sensitive yet strong organ.
In the wild, birds groom their beak through day to day activities such as chewing abrasive or hard substances, using the beak when climbing and rubbing their beak on branches to clean it after eating.
A pet bird may not have as many opportunities to groom its beak and they may need occasional assistance. An overgrown beak can be trimmed down with the use of a Dremel tool, clippers or a file. Get the lowest power available. We suggest between 6,500 and 13,000 rpm which is slow enough to help you control the device so that you don’t get into the germinal layer or the blood supply. Should you get into the germinal layer, it is very painful and may cause bleeding.
Consider providing natural ways for your parrot to groom its own beak. First, insure that you are feeding your pet a premium diet such as Harrison’s Bird Food. Also, provide plenty of toys to chew. Wood bird toys in particular wear down the excess growth. Conditioning or pedicure perches such as the Sandy Perch provide safe yet abrasive surfaces that a bird can rub its beak on for self-grooming. Place a pedicure perch near the food bowl so that when your bird finishes eating it can rub food crumbs off onto the perch while filing off excess grown.
You are encouraged to routinely check the condition of your birds’ beak looking for cracks, lesions, unusual colorations and overgrowth. Consult a veterinarian or avian specialist for guidance about any abnormalities or injuries that you notice on your birds’ beak. An over-aggressive wing trim job will cause your bird become unbalanced making it susceptible to falling forward and injuring or cracking its beak. Should your bird chip and expose germinal tissue of its beak you can stop minor bleeding with styptic powder. For more aggressive bleeding consider taking your bird to the vet to cauterize the injury.