If you’re a beginner poultry farmer, one of the major concerns you might have is about your birds escaping from your backyard. Although chickens are not on your radar when it comes to flying, some breeds are quite good at it. Now, some people talk of clipping their birds’ wings to prevent them from flying. So, what is clipping and how high can chickens fly with clipped wings?
Well, this is exactly what we’ll be discussing in this short guide. But, before we get to that, it doesn’t hurt to learn how high chickens can fly. Now, on average, chickens can fly around 4-6 feet high. However, this depends on the weight, breed, and size of your chicken.
Before setting up your structure, you need to lay out a plan. You need to ensure that the type of fence you erect is high enough to keep your chickens safe and contained. However, if things get out of hand, then clipping a few feathers might seem like the only alternative.
Can Chickens Still Fly if Their Wings Are Clipped?
Technically yes. Chickens can still fly even after their primary feathers are clipped. You see, clipping doesn’t make flying entirely impossible but rather makes it hard, especially if your chicken had mastered how to fly. So, it grounds your chicken. Although it will struggle to adapt, it will soon accept its new situation.
If your chicken is among those flying breeds, then it will manage to fly at least 2-3 feet off the ground. The best thing about such a height is that it’s not enough to allow your chicken to get over the fence to your neighbor’s yard.
Chicken Fences Height
When planning your premise, the first question you must ask yourself is how high the fence should be. You see, a fence is quite essential when raising a flock of chickens. It deters your chickens from sneaking outside and it prevents potential predators from getting in.
But, a fence isn’t just a fence. For instance, a 2-4 feet fence is better than nothing. However, this height is not enough to stop foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and other predators from jumping over and attacking your flock. Therefore, to keep your flock safe, you need a fence with an ideal height of 6 feet and above.
Longest Recorded Flight of a Chicken
Before we get to the matter at hand, allow me to mention that chickens are descendants of the Red Junglefowl. While this wild bird feeds from the ground, it flies perfectly and roosts on top of trees. The same can’t be said of chickens.
Due to their domestication, chickens have large breasts and excess weight that prevent them from flying. That said, how high can chickens fly? Well, according to records, as of 2014, the longest recorded flight of a domesticated chicken was 13 continuous seconds. Additionally, the furthest recorded distance covered by a flying chicken was 301.5 feet.
When to Clip Chicken Wings
Clipping your chicken wings is essential. However, there are times when you may not need to clip them. For instance, if your flock is housed in an enclosed structure that inhibits air and ground predators from entering, then there’s no reason to clip their wings.
Another case is if your chickens are not confined at all. So, if you’re in an area where the flock is permitted to free range without any limits, then it would be cruel to clip their wings. You see, in this situation, your chickens will require their wings to function perfectly to allow them to fly away in case ground predators attack them.
So, when should you clip the wings? Well, the best time to clip your chickens’ wings is when you have a low fence. Here, your chickens might accidentally sneak out of the barrier and end up in an insecure area. Also, your chickens might escape and go to your neighbor’s property leading to a dispute.
How to Clip Chicken Wings
Although chickens can’t fly high enough as other birds do, they can fly over fences and cause inconveniences if they end up in your neighbors’ properties. So, to keep them grounded in your backyard, it’s safer to clip their wings. But, how do you clip chicken wings with feathers? Well, that’s what we’re going to discuss in this section.
1. Gather Your Supplies:
- Clean sharp scissors
- Clean towel for securing the chicken
- First aid kit in case of an accident
- Cornstarch to stop the bleeding
2. Catch the Chicken
With the help of someone, corner the chicken in a tiny space and grab its wings. While some breeds are gentle and docile, others are aggressive, especially roosters. Once you catch the chicken, pat it softly to calm it down.
3. Expose the Wings
Turn your chicken upside down and stretch the wings away from the body. This will allow you to access the primary feathers, which are the longest feathers that extend to the tip.
4. Clip the Feathers Gently
With the feather stretched out, clip the primary feathers gently. Cut off a substantial amount while avoiding areas with blood veins. In case you cut too close to the veins and your chicken bleeds, use the first aid kit to stop the bleeding. When you’re done, release the chicken and get the next one.
In most cases, the clipped wings will remain short until the next molt when new feathers will develop. While some chickens will abandon their attempts to fly, some breeds are obstinate and will try to fly when new feathers regrow. In this case, you’ll have to repeat the clipping process.
Pros and Cons of Clipping Chicken Wings
So, should you clip your chicken wings or should you allow them to fly freely? Well, according to most poultry farmers, clipping chicken wings is a smart strategy if you want to ground them. However, before picking your scissors, you need to consider the benefits vs. the cons of doing this. That said, this section will discuss some pros and cons of clipping your chicken wings.
- It prevents you from losing your flock. Remember, if one chicken flies, the rest will follow.
- Clipping allows your chickens to stay within a fenced-in boundary to protect them from predators.
- A light trim of the wings reduces aggression in a dominant chicken.
- Lastly, if you have neighbors around, clipping your chickens ensures that they don’t fly to your neighbor’s backyard.
- Clipping makes it impossible for a chicken to fly leading to injuries caused by crushed landing.
- If not done well, your chicken may suffer severe bleeding.
- Since your chicken is unable to fly high enough, they become susceptible to ground predators.
Do You Clip Both or Only One Wing of Your Chicken?
There has been a debate in the chicken community on whether to clip one wing or both wings. Some people argue that clipping one wing is better as it doesn’t deny your chicken the freedom to fly entirely. However, others argue that clipping one wing makes your chicken unstable and unable to fly properly.
So, to end this debate, let me mention that clipping both wings is the best option. By doing so, you deny your chicken the ability to fly over a fence. It also allows your chicken to adapt to its new situation faster.
Is It Cruel to Clip the Wings of Your Chicken?
Well, first, let me mention that clipping chicken wings don’t cause any pain. That’s because the wings don’t contain any blood veins or nerve endings.
Also, clipping the feathers doesn’t cause any bleeding provided you don’t get too close to the secondary feathers. The reason why clipping is not considered cruel is that it’s a safety measure that prevents your chicken from flying to restricted areas.
When clipping your chicken wings, you should clip both wings to prevent instability. Remember, if your chicken is unstable, it can easily fall while landing causing severe injuries in the process.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How Many Feathers Does a Chicken Have?
According to experts and credible sources, the total number of feathers in an average chicken is anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000. Smaller birds such as the songbirds have an average of 1,500 to 3,000 feathers. Now, these feathers are categorized into three main groups. They include:
- Contour Feathers: These are the feathers you usually see when you look at your chicken. They’re colorful and streamlined and in most cases, they give a bird the aerodynamic benefits when flying.
- Down Feathers: These are short and usually grow close to the body. Their main purpose is to insulate the chicken by keeping it warm.
- Hackle Feathers: Hackle feathers are located on the neck and are designed to protect the chicken from head and neck injuries.
Q2. Do Clipped Wings Grow Back?
If done correctly, clipping chicken wings with feathers isn’t permanent. The chickens will regrow their wings in the next winter season when they molt. Remember, chicken feathers are made from keratin, the same material used to make fingernails. Therefore, trimming chicken wings is the same as trimming your nails or shaving your hair.
Q3. Can a Chicken Survive With One Wing?
Yes, of course. A chicken can survive perfectly with a single wing. However, you need to understand that your chicken will be handicapped when approaching life. For that reason, you need to take special care of your chicken to ensure that it lives a healthy life.
Now, chickens are domesticated birds. While birds can fly high up in the air, chickens’ ability to fly is quite limited. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t fly high enough to get over high fences. Therefore, to keep them safe, most poultry farmers prefer to clip chicken feathers to control their ability to fly.
With that in mind, this short guide has discussed everything you need to know when it comes to clipping your chickens’ wings.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!