Clipping Chicken Wings: How to Do It and Why You Should

One of the most frustrating things when raising backyard chickens is chasing after a bird that’s flown the coop. While chickens can’t fly around like a typical bird, they can still use their wings to travel a good distance. This is fine in rural areas where they have lots of space to roam, but it can be a problem for chicken raisers in towns or cities. After all, we don’t want our chickens winding up in our neighbor’s backyard.

Thankfully, there is a way to prevent this. By clipping your chickens’ wings, you can stop them from flying away. Read on to learn more.Clipping Chicken Wings: How to Do It and Why You Should

Why Should You Clip a Chicken’s Wings?

The major reason to clip your chickens’ wings is to prevent them from wandering off your property. While chickens can’t fly the same distance as other birds, they can fly over fences and into your neighbors’ backyards. This isn’t a problem for more rural areas, where the next neighbor is several miles away. However, it is a problem for chicken raisers in the cities or suburbs. The last thing you want is your neighbor calling up to complain that one of your chickens is ruining their garden.

Additionally, letting your chickens wander can lead them straight to predators. Dogs, hawks, foxes, and coyotes all hunt during the daytime. If your chickens wander too far away from the coop, they can easily become prey.

Will it Hurt Your Chickens to Clip Their Wings?

Many chicken owners understand the importance of clipping their chickens’ wings. But they also worry if doing so will hurt their beloved birds. Thankfully, if done right, clipping a chicken’s wings is relatively painless. Feathers are about 85% keratin, a fibrous protein that makes up hair, nails, claws, hooves, calluses, and more. Clipping a chicken’s feathers would be no more painful than cutting your hair or nails.

Can Chickens Still Fly with Clipped Wings?

Technically, yes, your chickens can still fly with clipped wings. But they cannot travel as far. A chicken with clipped wings will be able to jump up or fly for a short distance, but not long enough for them to hop over a fence or go into someone’s backyard.

How to Clip a Chicken’s Wings

Clipping a chicken’s wings is painless, but only if it’s done right. Below we explain how to clip a chicken’s wings safely and effectively:

Clip them at 18 to 24 weeks old

Growing feathers contain blood inside the shaft. As such, cutting these feathers would be painful for your chickens. You should only clip feathers once your chickens are about 18 to 24 weeks old. This ensures that the feathers are fully formed and have stopped growing.

Primaries, secondaries, and flight coverts

Before you begin cutting, you should first understand the anatomy of a chicken’s wings. When you extend the wing, you will see a number of feathers. The ten largest feathers on the outer part of the wing are called the primaries. The set of feathers closest to the body are known as the secondaries. The flight coverts are the small feathers that overlap both the primaries and the secondaries. You should never cut the flight coverts.

Only clip one wing

When clipping your chickens’ wings, you should only ever clip one wing. This unbalances the bird, making it harder for them to take flight. Although some owners clip both wings with relative success.

Clip the primaries

In most cases, you only need to clip the primary flight wings to keep your chickens grounded. Start slowly, clipping around one-half to two-thirds of the length. Remember, the primaries are the first ten feathers on a chicken’s wing.

Clip the secondaries only if necessary

If you find your chickens are still flying off, then you may have to clip the secondaries as well as the primaries. This is a rather extreme option, so be extra careful and gentle as you clip these wings. Similar to the primaries, you can cut off around one-half to two-thirds of the length of the feathers.

To learn more about clipping your chickens’ wings, contact us at Chickens for Backyards today!