Mother Bird

Mother Bird

Michelle Zhu | Art by Allison Li

Clipping your Feathered Friend’s Wings: A STEP BY STEP Guide!

  • Find the Appropriate Location
  • Complete the procedure in an environment without open doors or windows. 
  • Natural light is best for the clipping, but you don’t want your bird to fly out during the process!
  • Restrain your Bird
  • Using a towel of your bird’s approximate size, bind their chest and head to prevent struggle and biting. You can use your hand to reinforce pressure.
  • Expect resistance!
  • Locate the Primary Flight Feathers
  • Spread the bird’s wings apart and notice two sets of overlapping feathers. 
  • The larger ones are your “primary feathers”. 
  • Trim the first six starting from the side of the wing tip– a ¼  of an inch below the shorter feathers

* cut one feather at a time, to avoid startling or injuring your bird!*

  • Trim the other side equally
  • Enjoy life with your domesticated friend! 
  • (Regularly reclipping may be necessary)

The apartment is quiet, except for the occasional rip of packing tape. This shouldn’t bother me so much–considering the number of times I’ve been in this exact situation, but the quiet suffocates me everytime. 

This is something I will never get used to and can’t believe that there was a time when I would pack with her, giggling at how bare the rooms looked. Mom tapes another box of lab equipment shut and punctuates the act with a grunt. I wonder if packing muscles (pun intended) are a thing. If so, mom is practically a bodybuilder. I flex my wings as I think about it and gaze out the window. I am on the twenty second floor of an apartment complex located in Fuzhou, China. Mom appreciates a good view, so we always live on the higher floors, but I don’t like it. Seeing the tops of buildings makes me jealous. The cars and people and tiny flecks on the ground march inch by inch from here, but I know I’ll never get a closer look. One of our windows are open, and through it, I hear a singular honk drift into our apartment. 

“Gabby! How’re things going?” she calls.

I stare at the upside-down box that I had kicked across the room. My pale yellow eyes, unblinking. Clothes still hang in my closet, photographs still top my dresser, and books still sit squarely at the foot of my bed. Things are not going well. 

I don’t answer fast enough, so my mom’s rapid footsteps ring down my hallway. I brace myself.

“Gabs, did you hear-” she sucks in a breath, “–ah. No progress. Wonderful. We’re in a time crunch here. You know how much I don’t need this right now.”

A frustrated huff exits her and guilt digs into my gut.

“Do we have to go?” I ask.

Mom blinks. I look up at her and notice the edges of her blonde hair graying. Her bronzen eyes dart around, surprised. We’re close, her and I, but there has always been a clear dynamic, where she treats me like an adult until her job demands that we move. At the age of thirteen, I’ve lived in more countries than the number of years I have been alive. I guess no one wants an opinionated gene engineer and her bird-girl around for long. Sometimes, we run away and sometimes, we chase. Either way, I’m pretty bitter I never got to perfect my Portuguese. Mom is good to me, though. She doesn’t keep me tied to the radiator anymore and I haven’t had my wings cuffed in years. Mom isn’t related to me, of course, but the way she’s pursing her lips at me and squinting would make anyone think she was about to give me a motherly smack. 

“Gabby,” she says slowly, “I’m doing this for you. You’re a smart girl and you’ll finish packing. Now. Yes?” 

She raises the end of the sentence, like a question, but we both know the choice doesn’t exist.

“What’s the point of keeping me hidden away all the time if we’re going to be gone in a few months? You said I could go out more after my primaries start growing again and they’re almost done. I want a life, mom. I’ll be so careful, I swear-”



I tense up. 

Surprisingly, Mom sits next to me gently and brushes a few feathers off the bed. I can’t get angry at her. Not when I’m the whole reason this is happening. 

“Gabby. Why do you have wings?” she says, softly.

I roll my eyes heavenward. This, again. I know what she wants me to say. She’s said this to me every time I get difficult. 

“To fly,” I mutter.

This response is mind-bogglingly stupid. I don’t know why she loves it so much when I’ve never even flown before. She clipped my wings years ago. 

“That’s right and when can you start flying?” she coos.

She wants me to say what I have always said. She wants me to say that I’ll fly when she says so and when it’s safe but something about her tone rubs me the wrong way this time. I slap her hand away.

“When I’m free,” I tell her.

Her hands freeze in the middle of stroking the outline of my wings and there is thick fury on her face. I swallow, nervously. Looking dead into my eyes, she squeezes her hand into a fist with my feathers held in the palms. I wince.

“Ow! Wait, Mom! Stop-please-” 

She balls her fist tighter and hauls me to the living room. The fear that has been steadily building within me turns into clanging panic when she reaches for the scissors—scissors that filled every one of our homes in abundance. My wings feel like they have been bound again and although I know it’s in my head, I hear test tubes rattle distantly. I let out a shriek and yank my wing away. A few more feathers stay clutched in her grasp and the metallic scissors are poised in her hand. She stares at me cooly between the stringy strands of her hair. Her back is arched, like a cat ready to pounce. My vision flits over—

To the open window…                                                                                           

And her eyes widen in horror.

Before she can formulate words of warning, I launch myself at the opening and hear her scream behind me. The air is frigid against my skin. The wind whistles. 

I unfold. 

When I’m free.