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

Are your hens escaping your yard? You may need to clip their wings. Learn how to safely perform this process and this article.
By BYC Support · Jan 10, 2012 · Updated Mar 19, 2012 · ·
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  1. BYC Support
    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 one wing.

    [​IMG]
    Clipping 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:

    [​IMG] [​IMG][​IMG]

    Read about raising chickens in our chicken forum

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Recent User Reviews

  1. BarnhartChickens98
    "helpful article!!"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Nov 13, 2018 at 1:51 PM
    I used this on my chickens and it worked great!!!
    That is, except for penny, my EE hen who flies out anyway:barnie :).
  2. andreanar
    "Short and sweet"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 5, 2018
    Great photos and explanations! Easy to follow instructions
  3. Stardustrose
    "Easy to follow"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 26, 2018
    We were just talking about this, if we could trim our girls wings, since she likes to fly. Good article, easy to follow.

Comments

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  1. Kylo_Hen!
  2. MyCuteCoop
    Nice! Thanks!
  3. Shady Oak Farm
    So torn about this... Any info would be appreciated. I have a small flock of 12 hens and two roosters. Currently they have freedom to roam around the farm. I also have seen at least two coyotes in broad day light in my pastures. One had a hen and the other was we think stalking them. I do have a fenced pen/paddock attached to their house to keep them in. And considered clipping and keeping them in. But my dilemmas are...
    A) No way to put a roof over the paddock.
    B) I was told the coyotes can jump 7ft fence and can scale a higher one if they want to.
    C) If I did clip them and one did get in to the enclosure he could have a field day and they couldn't get away.
    D) Their Nesting boxes about 3-4ft off the ground and roosts are well above my head. I would have to build new structures? Would the opossums, raccoons and skunks get them? They currently come in to eat feed at night.
    E) And most importantly. They would hate me even if it is in their best interest. They love to come up to the yard near the porch to lounge under the bushes and gobble up the veggie scraps I toss for them. They would miss their freedom I am sure.

    Confused :(
      sonomacluck, Cluckers25 and medinam like this.
  4. DavisNinja
    Thank you, very helpful!
  5. Beth the chicken mama
    At what age can you begin clipping their wings?
      alaskandaisy likes this.
    1. kellylaurin523
      I am also interested in knowing this! My girls are still young, about 9wks and they are certainly getting more brave with each passing day! I leave them to roam my 6ft fenced in back yard while I am at work, however the gate to enter the yard is only about 3ft. I get nervous they may soon try and escape!
      ninarod08 likes this.
  6. kfitt1776
    Can you clip a duck's wing?
  7. Tami Lyons
    Does it hurt them?
    1. Chicken-lovebirdchihuahua
      No it doesn't because it's just like cutting hair or fingernails unless you go to far
      Stampin.Hannah and Tami Lyons like this.
  8. Chasingcars
    I clip one wing as shown and it always worked..until peach came along..a feisty Orpington! As a final resort and breaking with tradition I cut both wings flight feathers , something I had always been told not to do ..worked perfectly, no more getting herself into places she shouldn’t be.
    My advice is try one, doesn’t work, clip the other one as well. Defies logic but worked a treat on my naughty peach!
    I’ve had hens for 17years...first time for everything!
    Learning & Growing as i go along ❤️
  9. Chicken-lovebirdchihuahua
    I tried clipping the wings of my chickens and it didn't work what did I do wrong one i even clipped too far on one wing and I cleaned up the blood but she could still fly
    1. Tami Lyons
      Oh my god, that must have hurt her!!
    2. Chicken-lovebirdchihuahua
      Yes I felt awful but she's all happy and sadly still very flappy today but flappy is MUCH better then in pain but she's fine now
      Tami Lyons likes this.
  10. Rondack
    Bad Idea.... When we tried that the chickens couldn't fly up to their roosts, they had to spend nights on the floor... (especially the older ones)
  11. Rob Tof
    I have clipped birds for over 30 years doing it your way. I have found leaving last few feathers at the ends protects the wing Incase there confined and get spooked no damage to the tips.
  12. Featherbrain1986
    I clipped the wings on my four hens for the first time. I remembered my dad telling me "Clip one side and they fly around in circles, Haha, it's funny" I thought he was just being mean, so I clipped both sides!
    Now I know he wasn't just making a joke! :th
    Did I mess up my girls?!?
      Comets likes this.
    1. Jnkmoultonr1
      No you didn't. They will be able to fly better! I cut 1 wing only they are able to get up a little bit but not really able to fly. It throws them of balance and shortens flight path.
      Motherofodin and Comets like this.
    2. Rondack
      They'll heal... but I would only do it if they were always trying to fly away. If you can avoid it don't (I think).
  13. Brawley Leigh
    I've recently learned that cutting the flight feathers leaves sharp edges to remaining feather that CAN cause injury to chicken when wing folded next to body. I was shown how to PLUCK the flight feathers instead of cutting. I would like to find a video as reminder on how to safely pluck the flight feathers. Any help appreciated.
    1. Henrik Petersson
      Plucking sounds very painful for the chicken.
    2. 112Days
      Old post, but plucking is, in fact, very painful and will cause more harm than an incorrect clip. If you're concerned, clip the ends of the feathers to a curved edge resembling the ends before clipping.
  14. Banana552
    What about birds such as pidgeons do they need extra clipping?
  15. jc_d1
    This is likely a silly question but what if you clipped both wings?
    1. Brawley Leigh
      If BOTH wings clipped they are no longer off balance. You need the off balance to prevent flight
      Stampin.Hannah, Shirlain and Comets like this.
  16. Amanda16
    would this be the same for turkeys, or is there a different method?
  17. Awestruck
    How in the world can you catch the chicken in order to clip its wings? My chickens run away from me and are hard to handle. I tried to tame them when they were young, but they still run away from me? Is there any chance I would cut a blood vessel when clipping the wing feathers?
      jc_d1 likes this.
    1. rdcowman
      What i do is i clip them at night when they go to bed. i take them down from the roosts, clip them and then put them back on the roost.
    2. Rob Tof
      Only if you cut a blood feather
    3. oldhen2345
      May not be the best, but works for me. I get up early, before the chickens are awake (I tried at night, but those girls don't sleep soundly at all). I close the pop door and get my butterfly net. I catch one, clip and release outside. Finally all are clipped and released outside. I also do a butt check while I have them.
      MyCuteCoop and rosieredbantam like this.
  18. Johntodd
    OK, my Buff Orp is still able to fly over the 5' fence. She is clipped primary on one side.

    I read something somewhere about clipping secondary flight feathers. Any pointers on that?
    Thanks!
    -Johntodd
      Amanda16 and jc_d1 like this.
  19. Johntodd
    Thanks for the article! We just clipped the wings on our 3 gamefowl. They were all escape artists. Outside the fence are predators, and we didn't want those beautiful birds to get hurt.

    The actual clipping is easy, provided you clip one feather at a time. Use a large pair of new scissors, and you won't have a problem.

    The hardest part, really, is catching them. The 3" gash across my forearm and a red left eye (got clobbered by the rooster's wings) will testify to that.
      Amanda16 likes this.
  20. cynroux
    Wing clipping has opened up our girl's world to the entire backyard, now that they can't hop the 3 and a half foot fence, venture through the woods (which are dark and full of terrors!) and into my neighbors newly mulched garden, which they had been doing with great frequency and testing my neighbor's patience. They spent a few months in "chicken jail" which was boring for them and not great for the particular part of the yard they were sentenced to. A careful, one-wing clip gives them enough power to outrun/flap a potential predator and get to safety, but not enough balance to get past the fence and to the neighbors. Thanks for the information!
  21. Quilting Hen
    My girls are flying all over the place so I need to clip them but kind of scared to. They have discovered they love the cherries that fall from the tree and are now trying to get up to the ones in the tree and then it is just a short flight over the fence. Thank you for all your help on this site.
  22. Theegoliath
    Thank you for posting this information. We used it along with a you tube video to make the decision to clip our girls wings as well!
    1. sassysarah123
      Haha! That's the video I used!
    2. IzzyMom
      Me too! That's hysterical - I wonder how many others have viewed this exact video as well. ;)
  23. RedBreasted
    Thanks! This really help my black breasted red old english hen! Even though is a little sad that to the beautiful feathers is gone a little bit.
  24. eggthenoodle
    At what age approx should we clip them?
    I want to do Puossin therefore they will be approx 30 days old.
    I have chickens for eggs as well.
  25. Hooligans7
    LDSB, wing clipping is very quick and easy, especially when you hold the bird upside down, but do you really need to clip them? Perhaps it will become unnecessary if you can wait awhile longer, unless you have lightweight or small breeds (good flyers). I haven't needed to clip any of my chickens' wings for the past year. My BRs and BSLs are too big and heavy to fly up even three feet. Therefore my four-foot vegetable garden fence is working out just fine.
    1. oldhen2345
      My girls are heavy breeds and I thought they were safe behind a 4 ft fence. Well, I guess it was time to clip because one of the bigger girls actually jumped the fence. It was touch and go for a minute. She jumped into the dog yard. I have a chicken killing dog, so she is quarantined away from the chickens. Penny had not noticed the hen until I opened the gate to let her back into the chicken yard. then the chase was on- Maureen barely made it back, but lost no feathers. Thank God Penny didn't see her earlier.
  26. LDSB
    I'm kind of scared to clip my chickens wings.
  27. mamahuhn
    mine come on my porch ,which is about 10 feet of the ground and jump of it.they do this all day ,it seems like a sport ,and we clip their wings every 6 months.
      medinam likes this.
  28. The Mother Hen
    Awesome article! I have a grape arbor, and the hens LOVE to get up in the eaves. I end up clipping feathers to discourage them to fly up there, and it seems to work. I already have a chick with a broken/sprained toe from falling off her sleeping perch, so clipping feathers is a good way to keep the hen's feet from being sprained or broken.
  29. meowoui
    We have our chicken run covered but the hens found out about the gate which is four feet high and the face it is six feet high, we were told that they can't fly up more than four feet if that is so someone forgot to tell our hen's one of them sailed right over th gate down to the ground into the garden flew up over the six foot fence, today all will be getting wings clipped.
  30. 3sisters
    Hi Fellow Chicken lovers :)
    I have decided to clip my hen's wings, as they are free range, and I have decided that my garden is not ment as an all you can eat buffet, not to mention my strawberry garden! So reluctantly, I am going to trim their wings today and they will be permantly in their back yard. My question is, can they still "flutter" over their fence, which is roughly three feet high? We do not have a cover on it, so it can breath better, as we live in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Any thoughts would be appreciated. :)
  31. LorraineM
    Blondie i have 2 that jump, so as high as i can go to stop them entering parts of the garden i don't want them to, isnt high enough for them. I now have to get a small gate made to stop them entering the 'front' area.
    Ah the things we do :p
  32. blondiebee181
    Despite my best efforts, I still have an Ameri hen that is intent on flying into my garden boxes....shes always been something of a flier...the boxes have about 3 foot or so screen walls and I even ran a length of rope around the top. I heard that if a chicken can't perch on the top of something, it won't try to fly to it....IDK but she still manages to get in.....I don't want her eating my veggies, so I think I may need to at least trim a few feathers...the others don't seem to feel the need to get in....but I don't want her to continue to give them ideas...
  33. L3Home
    You _shouldn't_ cut a blood feather (they're pretty obvious on most birds -- it's kind of like the "quick" in a cat or dog's toenail; you can see the blood), and even if you don't see the blood in the shaft, if the feather is shorter than the others, it's a blood feather. They don't shut off the blood until it's fully grown.
    Just FYI, you don't have to see the vet for a cut blood feather. Keep a pair of pliers nearby (needlenose with a good, strong grip, are what I use). If you cut one, just pick up the pliers and grip the shaft of that feather as close to the bird as you can (just that one feather, don't accidentally grab another one too (use one hand to pull the feathers away), and with one hand on the wing, pull back with the pliers and the feather will just pop out. If they slip, just grab it and try again.
    I've done this with 2 turkeys who have broken a blood feather just flapping around their run (one of the two twice), and it's weird, it's like they know you're trying to help; even my flighty turkey just stood there while I worked on her wing. If I can pull out those gigantic turkey flight feathers (my tom was about 55 pounds, and that's a BIG turkey with BIG feathers), you can very easily pull a chicken feather. I'm not particularly strong. :)
    This is something I learned to do because I owned parrots. They can break them all the time, flying about (they "fly" even with clipped wings, it's just a 45 degree downward flap), or stretching their wings in their cages, etc.
    Chickens have a great clotting factor (unlike parrots) but a broken feather shaft is just like an IV, it holds the blood source open like a straw. Squeezing it closed with the pliers stops the bleeding while you're pulling it.
    Sorry, I'm a bit verbose sometimes.
  34. Catfish267
    hang them upside down. It makes it so much easier.
      ShouldabeenaVET likes this.
  35. eggspert
    thanks.very helpful
  36. LorraineM
    omgoodness i have been doing this wrong all along. :O I was clipping the whole bottom part of the wing on one wing.
    There were no probs thankfully, but i shall do it the correct way now.
    My muscovy duck has started to fly this past week and a bit. I WILL be clipping her wings - regretfully, as i think her wings are beautiful outstretched or just against her body - but even though i have a 6foot fence all round my standard sized yard, there are trees and such she can fly onto and then go over from there. She has already shown me she can fly up onto one level, i dont want her going over the big fence. My chickens and duck free range for most of the day.
  37. ChickensAreSweet
    Very helpful page!
  38. keenecowboy
    I have installed fence around the entire back coop area which is about 150 by 200 or more. I have 7 hens who just seem to get out.
    As of today if they are out they get clipped. They just love my blueberry bushes.
  39. EyeHeartBantams
    I've thought about doing this with my bantams, as they are very flighty and, due to small size, very able to fly. However, I had a thought about it...if you intend to show your birds is it still okay to wing-clip?
  40. beccybumbles
    i want to clip my girls wing but i was told to clip up the feather and not touch the shaft. will this work as well????
  41. Sallysec
    Thanks for the pictures, this really helps for those of us new to chickens :)
  42. SOchic4
    hi im so anxious to clip my girls wings ive read everything on this page and it does make me feel a little more confident i have a golden comet, barred plymouth, black sexlink, white leggern, when i looked up things before i found this website it said that the leggerns typically get only half the weight of a bunch of the other chicks therefore will be easier to fly. Go figure they are all about 4 months or more and the leggern flew out of the pen the other day and was loose by herself for who knows how long, thank goodness i think they are trained good because she didnt wonder anywhere just waited for me to come get her sooo im hoping i only have to do the leggerns wing, does anybody have any stories of any of the other breeds i have flying? and just to double check only do one side on one wing?, and does it have to be all 10 flight feathers or can it be just a couple?
  43. awbp
    i have about 14 chickens and i am confused of how tall they can fly with clipped wings?
  44. Goober1201
    wouldnt you want to not clip there wings if there free range? that way they can get away from nasty critters?
    Just wanting to know. Im new at this.
  45. Kelsey Cathy
    Does clipping the wing affect their ability to get up on the roost? Are they able to fly at all? Mine always fly over the 4 foot fence I put up to keep them confined and out of my garden planters. They are much happier when they can range and scratch.
    1. Chickens&Dogs_12
      I am also wondering this i am going to clip my Americana's wings soon.
  46. IWantchickens20
  47. humphrey farms
    Thank you. I worked for 3 hrs yesterday adding 3 feet of chicken wire to the top of the chicks free range space. I didn't know about clipping wings. We lost two 8wk olds to predators! (Our son's hunting Beagle was one!) Luckily they weren't my pullets!!!!! I will have to show this article to my son if we have any more flight issues. Thank you all for the information. Newbie here and learning a lot! :)
  48. Hooligans7
    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.
  49. JD McGee
    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.
  50. jacdobe
    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.

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