It’s happened to us all. Whether by accident or design we find ourselves with one ~ or perhaps a whole flock, of flighty chickens. These are the nightmare birds for the backyard keeper. For the definition of this article I am including birds that spook easily. A frightened bird will fly, badly if they are a heavy breed but they’ll at least try. Being able to approach & handle any bird in your flock is necessary for health checks but also to stop them injuring themselves in their attempts to escape.

The majority of my flock can be classed as *flighty*. They include 4 Campines, 2 Wyandotte bantams & 2 Aracaunas. All of these girls fly ~ & they fly well. One of my Silver Campines will occasionally do a 50’ round circuit out over my hill amongst the tree tops. The Campines are also Spook Agents & believe I am the devil incorporated so rounding them up if they hop their fence is no easy job.

People will often suggest things like wing clipping or brailing. I am not a fan of doing either as it immediately restricts a hen’s ability to escape from a predator. So what can you do?

Firstly, adjust your expectations. Flighty breeds will fly. You can do everything you can think of to try & stop them & they will still at least try. It is in their nature to fly. Once you accept this you are in a better position to manage your flock well & give your birds their best possible life.

Find time. If you do not have loads of time to spend with your birds do yourself & them a favour & rehome them with someone who either has the space or the time to give them. Time & Patience are your biggest allies. Each time I bring new Campines into my flock I know I will have to spend loads & loads of time just sitting quietly with my birds if I don’t want them crashing madly into the wire every time I put in an appearance. Treats are good, especially if your older girls show them it’s not scary but just your presence & the sound of your voice is a new experience that they need to get used to. Flighty birds may take longer to integrate so be prepared & always move quietly & gently with no sudden movements.

Understand your breed. Each bird is unique with an unique personality. Spend the time to get to know your birds. Campines are screamers. They scream from fear. They scream from boredom. They scream for attention. They scream when they are hormonal & just about to come on the lay. They scream when they fly. A lot of their flighty behaviour settles down once they are laying regularly.

Understand their behaviour. Chickens are intensely curious & many are really intelligent. Campines & my Wyandotte bantams are both. The drive to find out what’s on the other side of their fence or where I go when I disappear is behind a lot of their fence hopping. This means I have to keep their run interesting if I want them to stay in it. We are lucky in that our run has some well established trees & shrubs that have managed to withstand chicken ravages. Stumps, logs, leaf litter, roosts ~ anything at all that I think will amuse them goes in their run. I am adding elkhorns at present. As air plants they can be added to posts & trees at different heights & it is one plant none of my chickens will eat!

The only sure way to contain flighty chickens is to build a fully enclosed run. We are in the process of doing just that. The arrival of neighbours means our birds can no longer have the freedom they once did but it is not always possible to do that depending on space, building regulations, terrain etc so...

The key to managing flighty birds well is establishing a trusting relationship with them ~ hence the time & patience. Flighty birds that will allow you to herd them home or pick them up or come when called are an absolute joy.

Tuppence, a Golden Campine, relaxing after allowing me to pick her up outside her run.

Aoife, a Silver Campine. She is my 50 ' easily, flyer. It has taken nearly 6 months & her coming onto the lay before she would allow me to handle her.
There is no fear. She didn't struggle in my arms. Her heart wasn't racing. She was quite calm.


Morrigu, an older Silver Campine, practically comatose in my arms.
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Alpia, a Wyandotte Bantam, getting a health check.
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The pictures are just to show that with lots of time & patience even the flightiest of birds can be handled without drama.​
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