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1875 illustration of swans being pinioned during the Swan Upping

Pinioning is the act of surgically removing one pinion joint, the joint of a bird's wing farthest from the body, to prevent flight. Pinioning is often done to waterfowl and poultry. It is not typically done to companion bird species such as parrots.


Removing the pinion joint of a bird stops the growth of the primary feathers, preventing the acceleration required for flight.[1] Pinioning may be done by a veterinarian or by a trained breeder, dependent on the country in which the keeper is operating. For example, it is illegal for anyone other than a veterinarian to carry out the procedure in England. It is similar to other forms of modification of domestically raised animals, such as docking the tail of a dog.

In general, there is thought to be little to no long term negative effect from pinioning if performed correctly and at a young age.[2] However, the animal welfare impact of pinioning is debated, with some evidence that is unnecessarily painful even in young birds, and that it may cause a phantom limb syndrome similar to what is observed in human amputees.[1]

Alternatives to pinioning[edit]

A non-surgical alternative is clipping the flight feathers. This only lasts until feathers are replaced during the moult; however, the flight feathers are only replaced once every year.

Permanent enclosures designed to prevent accidental egress (escape) of birds remove the need for pinioning.

Keeping birds who through natural adaptation or selective breeding have lost the ability to fly removes the need for pinioning; for example, keeping Indian runner ducks as opposed to wild-type mallard ducks.

Legal status[edit]

Pinioning is legally restricted in some countries. In England, if the bird is more than 10 days old its pinioning may only be performed using anaesthetic and, regardless of the bird's age, the procedure is illegal unless performed by a veterinarian. It is also illegal to perform on farmed birds.[3]


  1. ^ a b Ian J. h. Duncan; Penny Hawkins (13 January 2010). The Welfare of Domestic Fowl and Other Captive Birds. Springer. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-90-481-3649-0. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Gail Damerow (23 March 2011). The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals. Storey Publishing. pp. 100–101. ISBN 978-1-60342-969-6. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007".