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.
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    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.

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    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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  1. 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.
  2. Banana552
    What about birds such as pidgeons do they need extra clipping?
  3. 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
  4. Amanda16
    would this be the same for turkeys, or is there a different method?
  5. 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.
      Dr.T likes this.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
      IzzyMom, Denaya and CharleneSusan like this.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
      urban bucket farmer likes this.
    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. ;)
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. LDSB
    I'm kind of scared to clip my chickens wings.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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. :)
  19. 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
  20. 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...
  21. 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.
  22. Catfish267
    hang them upside down. It makes it so much easier.
  23. eggspert
    thanks.very helpful
  24. 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.
  25. ChickensAreSweet
    Very helpful page!
  26. 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.
  27. 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?
  28. 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????
  29. Sallysec
    Thanks for the pictures, this really helps for those of us new to chickens :)
  30. 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?
  31. awbp
    i have about 14 chickens and i am confused of how tall they can fly with clipped wings?
  32. 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.
  33. 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.
  34. IWantchickens20
  35. 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! :)
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. mousie
    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.
  40. StarFlower99654
    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!!
  41. bug58
    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..
  42. sgarth05
    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.
  43. mfulmer
    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.
  44. Ilovefriendly12
    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!
  45. clbz
    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 ;)
  46. ashefarm
    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.
  47. BullardBarnyard
    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,
    BullardBarnyard.
  48. battagliac
    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.
  49. Luvmykiddos
    Thank you for posting that article, Clbz. :)
  50. clbz
    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: http://www.chickenkeepingsecrets.com/keeping-chickens/clipping-chicken-wings-why-when-how/

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