Escaping the home:
One of the biggest reasons I see given for clipping parakeets and other small parrots is the fear that they will get out of the house and be lost forever. It’s a valid fear, a parakeet that flew out of the front door would be in a total panic, and they are not suited to any kind of bad weather, nor do they have the skills to fend for themselves in the wild. So, if they get out they are going to react in terror and will almost certainly not have the sense to land somewhere close and wait for you to save them.
I don’t think this is a reason to clip your budgie though, I think this is a reason to commit yourself to not allowing that to happen so that your budgie can have the best life possible with you. It’s clear to me that an animal that’s designed to fly needs that outlet for physical and mental heath. Also, a budgie is relatively easy to keep flighted in the home due to their small size, they don’t need a ton of room to have satisfying flights, and they aren’t really interested in distance flying, short burst and loops of the living room are enough to leave them worked out and happy.
The way that we’ve worked it out so our parakeets are safe flying indoors with very limited risk of escaping is a system that we refer to as air-locking, and it is a bit like staying safe on a space craft.
If you’re the first person home at the end of a work day, you can feel free to enter through the front door, since the parakeets would never be out of their cage with no one at home. If you’re anything other than the first person entering the home, then the rule is you go in through the garage.
First you open the garage door and enter, then shut that door, after that you enter a hallway and shut that door behind you. Finally, you come in through the kitchen and shut that door.
That’s a series of three doors and if you follow the procedure of always closing doors behind you there is literally no way a bird could escape any further than one room away. Maybe you don’t have that many doors in between your birds and the outside world. In that case coordinate with the humans in your house to set up a workable schedule or rules for entry.
Injuries in the home due to flight:
I’m not going to say these are totally avoidable. Toby once conked herself on the noggin pretty good flying into a window at full speed. Fortunately she was okay after a couple hours of rest.
But, it makes me sad to read that people are afraid their birds will fly into furniture or kitchen appliances. The bird knows how to fly, and he know how not to smash into things he can see. That’s what he is all about. Toby is such an expert flier that she can purposely buzz your head – only touching you with the tip of her tail. She can also hover mid-air for short periods of time, and I’ve seen her fly through the slats in our dining room chairs. If your body was capable of all these magical acts, don’t you think it would be important to use it that way?
I have a feeling that when a small parrot’s clipped wings are growing back it can be alarming for a bird-parent to watch them learning to fly, it’s a bit clumsy, like human children starting to walk. Just because a baby is going to fall when he learns to walk would you discourage him from ever trying?
Of course you should put decals on windows that don’t have screens on the interior. Windows with screens are fine in our experience; although we had to do a lot of training about not chewing window screens they are a very convenient landing spot and apparently very fun to grip.
I think that a flighted bird can get himself out of a lot more trouble than he can get himself into. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Toby fall off something because she wasn’t paying attention while playing. A clipped bird would fall straight to the floor, but Toby rights herself mid-fall and zooms off. She also never ends up anywhere she doesn’t want to be, and she can always go home for food, water, rest or if something scares her (which is a frequent occurrence!).
It’s up to you:
The issue of flighted budgie safety is really down to how much you are willing to commit to make it possible. Will you be vigilant while your parakeet it out of the cage? Can you make it second nature to never be careless about opening doors to the outside/are you willing to put decals on your windows and otherwise bird-proof your home?
Further, can you always watch your step and be aware of your budgies so you don’t injure them? This also includes being careful about shutting doors, as you never know when someone’s following you. Can you limit when you cook and/or eat and drink things that would be dangerous to your parakeets?
Putting it that way may better highlight the life changes that you need to make for your bird’s safety. In my opinion, although it may seem inflammatory and harsh, if you cannot make these commitments then please think long and hard about whether parakeets are the right pet for your family. That is how highly I rank the important of flight to their overall well-being. Please note that I’m referring to parakeets only, I am not familiar enough with any larger parrot to make judgments about whether they are happy without flight.