Clipping Chicken Wings to Prevent Flying

Cutting Chicken Wings

 Before I had chickens, I didn’t know that they could fly so high.  They can’t fly very far, maybe twenty – thirty feet if they start from a higher position, but some breeds can fly high enough to escape over 6 foot fences when they’re younger and lighter, as my two Bantams did when they were about 3 months old.  If you want to keep your chickens from wandering out of your yard and into the neighbor’s, or into the street where they might get hit by a car, then you need to clip their wings so they can’t fly over the fence.

For those who think that clipping chicken wings is cruel, you are mistaken.  The chickens do not feel any pain at all.  I know that there are some animal rights activists out there that would not agree, but that is an opinion based on no experience with chickens.  Beside, they molt every year anyway, and the following year their wings come back and by that time they are too big to fly over the fence anyway.

Clipping wings is very easy.  All you need is a sharp pair of scissors. Once my chickens figured out they could fly over the 3 foot wire fencing that kept them out of my garden, I had to clip their wings.  These photos show how to hold the chicken and how far up you can clip their wings.  I’ve heard that it’s enough to just clip one wing, but my friend Ron thinks that sets them off balance, so he clips both.  Don’t worry, as uncomfortable as it is for them to be held down at first, it’s not painful for them to clip their wings.  Just be gentle and don’t clip them too short.  Clipping the longer feathers up to the first ridge of feathers is adequate.

Since September, I’ve been letting my hens outside their area to wander around my yard almost daily, but mostly while I’m home so I can keep my eye on them.  I want them to be able to roam in my garden areas, partly because I think they need more nutrition before winter sets in, and also to eat slugs.  Now that it’s fall and I’ve harvested most of my vegetables, the hens can’t do much harm except scattering straw and a little dirt around.  They did finish off my Swiss Chard, however.

I try to be kind and gentle with my chickens, because I want them to trust me and come up to me when I’m out in the yard.  I like these chickens better than my Road Island Reds because they are friendlier, and not so skittish, especially the Buff Orpington.  When I bought my four hens in early May, the description on the chart at Wilco said that the Buff Orpington was “affectionate”, and it was true!  She was always coming up to me to be touched and cradled.  The black Giant Jersey isn’t friendly, but I love her black velvety feathers.  The Golden Laced Wyandotte is just plain gorgeous, and she has the most beautiful color patterns.  The Plymouth Barred Rock is also friendlier than most, and she is supposed to be an excellent egg layer, but up to now she hasn’t been doing a good job.  They are supposed to eventually lay around 175 – 200 eggs a year.  My Road Island Reds started laying eggs almost exactly at 5 months to the day and proceeded to lay eggs almost daily.  If you only care about egg production, then you will want to choose Leghorns (300 eggs a year) or Road Island Reds (250 – 300 per year).

Check out    for characteristics of common breeds and how much you can expect them to produce.  It is a good website for all kinds of information on chickens and you can order chicken supplies too.


Here are two photos of the fencing that I now use to separate my chickens from the rest of my garden.  I prefer the 3 feet high green vinyl fencing because it’s practically invisible and doesn’t obstruct my view.  As long as you clip your chickens’ wings, a 3 foot fence is high enough to keep them in. The green vinyl fencing is quite a bit more expensive than the bare metal fencing wire, but it’s worth it.  It not only provides for better viewing, it’s easier to work with and move around as needed. It’s flexible for opening and closing but sturdy enough to stand upright as long as it’s attached to some sturdy stakes.  The 4 foot high metal fencing is certainly sturdy and useful for its purpose, but it’s just not attractive.

Always remember, no matter how high or how strong the fencing is, it won’t keep out the racoons at night.  They can climb over anything.  If you want your chickens protected by predators at night, then you absolutely must make sure that the coop is secured every night so your chickens will be safe.  It’s easy to get lured into a false sense of security when it comes to racoons.  They’ll stay away for long periods of time, and then when you least expect it they come back!  I went almost two years thinking that racoons would never try to get my Road Island Reds because they were perching so high up in their coop, but when my chickens went neurotic on me and started staying outside at night - that’s what made them vulnerable.  I don’t want that to happen to these girls, so I’ll be much more careful this time.

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2 Comments to Clipping Chicken Wings to Prevent Flying

  1. Debbs cooper's Gravatar Debbs cooper
    March 28, 2015 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    thanks for the web site very informative has we have just bought 5 hens at present. Only had these hens a few weeks one agile one flies on to the top of the post. So we needed to know how to clip the wings.

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