Friday, June 16, 2017

How to: trimming a chickens wing feathers

Your pet chickens may not seem to like flying much, but they are much better at it then you think. The longest recorded continuous flight of a chicken is 13 seconds. The furthest distance a chicken has flown in one flight is over 300 feet! 

I don't know about you, but I don't even think I have 300 feet for them to fly...unless they head towards the street. I definitely don't want that happening! While not all chickens like to fly, if you have one who does you may have considered trimming her wings.

clipping chickens wing feathers

There are several reasons why you might decide to trim your chickens wing feathers. You might want to keep her from flying out of her run, getting up high in a tree, or flying over the garden fence to feast on your veggies. For whatever reason you decide to clip your chickens flight feathers, it's simple and painless when done correctly.

Clipping a chickens wing feathers is very easy to do. You'll only be cutting the primary flight feathers of one wing as shown in the photo below. You will not need to cut the secondary flight feathers.

Trimming flight feathers


Since the chicken spreads both wings to fly, clipping one wing makes her unbalanced and makes it harder to fly. If you clipped both she would still have problems flying but she would be balanced so flight would be easier.

Now there is a chance that after clipping one wing your chicken might still be able to fly. Some chickens can adapt like that. If that's the case, you'll just have to trim both. It is rather easy though, so get started with one and if you see them flying again just catch them and clip the second wing. (I know that is the exact opposite as what I said a paragraph ago, but sometimes it works!)

Don't be afraid to cut your hens feathers, it hurts them no more then a hair cut or a nail trim hurts you. As long as the feathers are done growing when you trim them, the chicken will not feel pain or bleed.

The flight feathers are the long feathers at the end of the wing. There are 10 flight feathers. I've numbered them in the picture below. Starting at number 1 you're going to clip in an outwards direction ending at number 10. 

To clip the flight feathers:
  • Have someone hold the chicken with it's rear end facing you.
  • Extend the wing with one hand like in the picture below.
  • Using a pair of sharp scissors, start closest to the body at flight feather #1 and clip about halfway up the feather. 
  • Work your way out until all the primary flight feathers are clipped.


trimming chicken feathers


Some things to keep in mind: 

I find it easier to handle my birds at bedtime after they've "put themselves to bed" on the perch. Depending on how high they like to perch though, trimming a chickens feathers may affect how well they can get up or down from their nightly roost.

The more you handle your birds on a daily basis, the easier it will be when you need to handle them for wing clipping. 

It is possible for 1 person to clip wings but it's much more difficult. Having someone help you makes the feather trimming experience easier on you and the chicken.

The feathers will grow back. You will have to trim the feathers again especially after molting. You'll probably have to clip them yearly. Make sure the feathers are completely grown in before clipping them. Growing feathers are still full of blood and the chicken will bleed if you cut a still growing feather. The quills will be white, opaque or hollow looking when they are done growing.

Without their flight feathers the chickens will have a harder time getting away from predators since they won't be able to fly away from a threat.

Also, trimming the flight feathers will disqualify a chicken when showing. It can take up to a year to grow back so plan around shows if you plan on wing clipping.

I've only had to trim my chickens flight feathers a few times, but it was very effective at keeping them from flying over their run fence. I would not hesitate to do it again to keep them safe.
~L

Chicken flight facts from Reference.com   
 

2 comments:

  1. Lisa--
    Thank you for this article! I'm SO learning right now. Even though we've had chickens for several years, we've not had to clip their wings. However....the heritage turkeys are another story. I clipped them slightly wrong--due to looking at wrong information... :-0 . I love your pictures and information---they are very clear and easy to understand. Heidi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! I'm so glad that you found it helpful! I haven't had to do much wing clipping either, just a few times in 8 years. I don't know a thing about turkeys though....I was under the impression they don't fly much but obviously that's wrong!

      ~L

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