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.
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:
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