Avian First Aid: Mastering the Art of Towel Restraint

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Mastering the art of safe and non invasive restraint techniques for your companion bird is essential for proper grooming and emergency first aid procedures.

Practice Makes Perfect When It Comes to Towel Restraint

Mastering the art of safe and non invasive restraint techniques for your companion bird is essential for proper grooming and emergency first aid procedures. One of the most primary lessons in our Parrot Life Seminars is a demonstration of proper towel restraint for various species of birds. It’s also one of the crucial items avian caretakers need to know in the event of an emergency or for grooming and general health assessment. In a previous post we’ve discussed how HARI fledglings are desensitized to towel by teaching them towel cradling.

Learning to restrain a cockatiel at a Parrot Life Seminar
Learning to restrain a cockatiel at a Parrot Life Seminar

Fledglings learn very quickly that their towel is “OK” which makes grooming or emergency handling a less stressful situation. Well, what about parrots that were not towel trained…that can be challenging for both the bird and the novice handler. In the same manner we practice fire drills or other emergency procedures at home or at work, we do recommend that you practice towel restraint with birds long before an actual emergency arises. With regular practice on a method that is non invasive, your feathered buddy will soon learn that this is “OK” too! If you are uncomfortable at first, ask your avian veterinarian or an experienced bird friend to assist.

Step by Step Towel Restraint

So let’s begin this first lesson in a step by step guideline for Towel Restraint, but first take a moment to understand the cautionary statement about preparing your bird for a towel restraint!
CAUTION: Care must be taken never to apply pressure on the body of the bird. The bird’s air sacs are found throughout the body. Many handlers fail to realize that compressing the lower body (above the hips) can be suffocating to the bird!
If the bird shows signs of hypoventilation (rapid breathing and signs of overheating), then release the bird immediately to resume at a later time. Overweight and inactive birds have lower tolerance to restraint and stress. The towel will restrict movement of your bird if it is tucked properly.
TIP: overweight birds or birds unaccustomed to handling can be sprayed with water prior to towel restraint. This cools the body temperature and actually eases the “wrap” process.

Assemble Your Tools

  • Towels: choose a towel material that does not slip or one that does not shred or unthread easily, as nails tend to get caught in the loops and loose threads.

For All Size Birds

  • Gel Pad (A Gel-type Seat cushion is perfect as it protects the bird’s shoulder region when he’s lying on his back on the counter)
  • Spray mist bottle with room temperature water

Large Bird

  • Advisable for 2 people
  • 2 Large towels (3 X the size of the bird with wings expanded)
  • VelcroTM strap for larger bird restraint

Small Bird

  • 2 Hand size towel
  • Small Velcro strap

Place the Gel Pad Cushion on Counter

This adds extra padding. You can use a large towel if you don’t have a cushion.

Place Open Velcro Strip on the Pad

Ideally place it about where the bird middle section would be once he’s on the Gel Pad. It doesn’t have to be perfectly placed-but rather ready.

Once Everything is in Place, Follow These 7 Steps to Successful Towel Restraint!

  1. Drape the towel over the bird’s body and most of the head, tuck a bit of towel under the neck with one hand while in a swift motion, wrap the towel sides around the bird’s underside with your other hand.
  2. Turn the swaddled bird up keeping one hand on the side of the towel that keeps the towel in a closed wrap.
  3. With your other hand, keep the towel wrapped around the birds neck. A “helmet” hold with your hand is optimal to keep the bird still while you roll a bit of the upper towel around the neck with the other hand. Place the bird on the gel pad.
  4. Finish wrapping the bird. The key here is to only allow the towel to directly touch the bird – not your hands.
  5. The second large towel can then be used to wrap a macaw size bird securely prior to using the Velcro strap. Note the placement of your hand as you feel for his feet!
  6. Place the Velcro wrap around the bird to secure the towel wrap – please use caution as to where you place the Velcro strap and your hands so as not to suffocate the bird.
  7. Fasten the Velcro and you’re all set! The bird is safe and secure!

If this is a new experience for your bird, please do not leave him swaddled for long. Unfasten the Velcro and towel and be sure to praise him with nurturing reassurance!

And, that will lead us to our next segment: Pododermatitis Normal and Not Normal!
So until then, practice!

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