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How To Clip & Trim The Wings Of Your Chicken To Prevent Flight


Graphic and text courtesy of "A Guide to Raising Chickens" by Gail Damerow.


Wing clipping, the most common method of controlling the flight of backyard chickens, involves using sharp shears to cut off the first ten flight feathers of onewing.


diagram of how to clip a chicken's wingClipping causes a bird to lack the balance needed for flight but lasts only until new feathers grow during the next molt, which may be a few months in young birds or up to a year for older ones.


A potential problem is that clipped feathers may not readily fall out during the molt, requiring your assistance.






Our wing clipping notes


Wing clipping doesn't seem to hurt the bird at all, and isn't noticeable when they are walking around. The primary flying feathers are hidden underneath when the wings are folded. Also, the flying feathers are easy to pick out -- often a different color than the rest. Make sure to use a SHARP scissors.


Here are some pics (before, during and after) of Darla, a Rhode Island Red hen:


GB-wingclip1.jpg GB-wingclip2.jpgGB-wingclip3.jpg


Read about raising chickens in our chicken forum

Comments (49)

Sounds helpful if your run is not covered. If your run is covered would you still need to trim their feathers? I want my chickens to be able to fly but if it is unsafe then I would definately want to trim them. Any thoughts?
If you run is covered you dont need to trim their wings, and keeping their wings be able to fly helps them avoid predators. But if you free range them you need to clip their wings
hope it helped :)
I don't have any hens (yet), but I want to be fully prepared before we do so. We plan on having a covered run AND letting them free range some in our back (privacy fenced) yard. Should I still clip them? Thanks in advance :)
I'm surprised there aren't more comments about the possibility of bleeding. So here's something from another article: "It is absolutely imperative that you do not cut any new growth feathers with blood in the shaft. You should be able to tell the difference because the shaft will have a pinkish hue to it. Sometimes darker colored birds require holding the wing up to the sun to be able to clearly tell if they are new growth feathers. Cutting these feathers causes major pain to the chicken and major blood loss." For the complete text:
Thank you for posting that article, Clbz. :-)
loviedoviemomma - We raised 3 hens to now 6 months old, and I just today clipped the wings on them. They are fenced in a side alley run but we let them out in the evening so they forage around in our fenced backyard. They definitely start to get curious about what is outside the fenced yard, and one flew up on the fence the other day. I ran around the outside and got her to fly back in, but it was close. The next day I clipped her wings. If you follow the diagram above and you won't have any problem with cutting blood wings. It is a little sad since I enjoy watching the learn to fly so well, but I think it is safer for them. I cut 8 feathers on both sides and left the outer two
If you carefully follow the diagram above you won't come close to any blood feathers.
Are any breeds less likely to be flighty? We have Orpingtons, Ameracunas, and Sex-Links, that are all still chicks but enjoy to flap when they run.
Does sex aid in this? Hens fly more than roosters? Vise versa?
Thank you,
We have found that our Ameraucanas are lighter bodied than others and can still, at one year age, fly over a 4 + foot fence. My others -- Orpingtons, Barred Rock, Leghorn, Australorp -- are too heavy. Although they have a large fenced area, the grass is always greener :-) and they've recently discovered my freshly composted garden beds. Tomorrow they'll be getting clipped! Thanks for the info.
After reviewing a couple entries, it should be emphasized what the article above advised: clip the feathers of only ONE wing on the bird. This imbalances the bird, making it difficult for her/him to fly. If you've clipped BOTH wings on your bird, I wouldn't trust the bird to not eventually figure out how to make-do and regain flight, albeit short ;)
We had a chicken named Popcorn she was always flying out of the coop. So we had to trim her wings. We were afraid to beacuse we didnt know if it would hurt the chicken. But with the help of BYC we did it!
Granddaughter Moria was the first to occupy our new coop. We are having a grat time with our first flock. Learning alot as we go and being entertained all the way.
When is a good age to do a first clip? Mine are only 3 weeks old today so they aren't even going into their coop for a while yet but I'd like to know if I should do this at that time or wait until they are older.
Thank you for this post, we had to do this today, one of our banny's started flying into the yard next door yesterday..and I've had to go over the past two morning and bring her home..
Thank you so much for the detailed instructions and graphics. We are clipping duck and turkeys this weekend to allow free ranging in our fenced in property. I just hope the different birds get along socially!!
Thanks guys for the info. I will try. Fortunately for me i have an avian vet about a quarter of a mile away in case of blood feather problems. If I do cut a blood feather, what can I do to control bleeding until I can get there.
Just dip the tip of the bleeding feather in cornstarch and pinch it off until the blood stops. But you should be able to tell a blood feather easily.. It won't be as long as the other wing feathers and will oftentimes still have the keratin sheath around part of the feather.
Great article...we free range our flock in the backyard from 4pm (when I get home from work) until they return to the coop to roost. We would free range them all day but there are too many eagles, hawks, coyotes, cats, and such in our area. I will be clipping their wings in a few months as they have just turned 11 weeks old today.
sgarth05, it seems the best age to clip their wings is when they're flying out of their enclosures or nearly so. My Barred Rocks started flying at eight weeks, but I made the mistake of clipping both wings. I had heard that you only have to clip one wing, but in my head I figured that was just laziness, and besides I figured it would make the bird spin when trying to fly and mess with their heads! But I was wrong. Clipping both wings makes flying more difficult, but the really determined ones will do it. So from now on, it's one wing only.
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