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 · ·
  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.

    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]

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  1. kstande
    yes good info. I think catching them was harder than the clipping :)
  2. Mother2stressed
    Thanks for the info. The pictures were helpful. I knew you could clip their wings but had no clue on how to do it. After re -adjusting the enclosure of the coop my son informed me that cookie had escaped. I know my grand daughter would be heart broken if cookie was to get lost. Great teaching theme for my grand kids about chickens. I try to make their visits not only fun but educational.
  3. SapperSix2019
    We clipped our (30) hens the other day and oh boy it takes a lot of energy! Have to catch them and they hate that, but its simple. And oh boy, do they calm down afterwards! They are all much better behaved now and more docile. Anyone else notice this change?
  4. Chickenchic49
    Would it be bad to clip both wings? Will a veterinarian do that if I'm not comfortable doing it?
  5. Kimchoy19
    Is there a certain age which you would trim the feathers?
    1. BigBlueHen53
      We did ours at about 2.5 months when we had moved them from the brooder to an outside coop and they started flying over a 4' fence. They are 4 months old now and flying again so we will do it again!
  6. kstande
    I just FINALLY finished with my 8 hens. The 2 leghorns were impossible to catch and they were the worst culprits at getting over my fence and into my neighbors yards. This process was made harder trying to dodge a very angry aggressive rooster at the same time. I have been trying to rehome that guy but not having any luck. Anyway got the last two leghorns done and one of them is still able to get over the fence into my backyard but thats better than all of them and I'm thinking maybe as she gains weight that will stop.
      AviatorChicken likes this.
  7. BigBlueHen53
    EDIT: Comment deleted by author.
      bpoage and ChickWin like this.
  8. Bantam Jimmy
      bpoage and SunnyTheFrizzle like this.
  9. The Brick Coop
    1) CLIPPED WINGS = AUTOMATIC DISQUALIFICATION in a show. They do not re-grow until next molt. 2) Chickens cannot escape predators as fast without full primaries. For sustained speed, chickens alternate running and flying. 3) Coyote, fox, and some stray dogs can climb 7 ft fences. It happens more often than you hear. We have 2-4 fox/acre. Our people density is 863/sq mi. Use flight net on a big run/tractor. Keep flock in sight and stay with them or don't turn them out. Teach them to come for treats. Before turning out flock, check the sky and surrounding tall treetops for raptor scouts. If you can, keep an alert-breed cockerel for watches. During their foraging, listen for flock alerts (sharp, loud "CHICK"). If they run for the coop, someone saw a good reason! Make yourself known to the predator and grab the nearest long-handled tool on the way to beat it off. It will return later! When you cannot be with your free-range flock, keep them in a fully-wired enclosure. Bring them piles of fresh non-toxic weeds. IMO, clipping wings is for urban/suburban flocks with no predation or for where people are in the yard within sight the whole time.
  10. ChemicalchiCkns
    I ended up having to clip both wings feathers on some of my Birds, since they could still fly ENOUGH with just one to be hazardous.
  11. Jayne_ofthechickens
    I’m considering clipping since my free range chickens have started flying into the dog yard and being played with to death. My concern is, will they still be able to escape predators with clipped wings? The dog fence is 4 feet high. Will clipping even help?
      highheelcyanide likes this.
  12. Scamp04
  13. Kylo_Hen!
  14. MyCuteCoop
    Nice! Thanks!
  15. 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 :(
    1. KaptainHowdy
      Possibly consider a simple electric fence. I am looking at a solar powered version.
      A deep cycle battery will be the most expensive part of the setup. I choose the Optima deep cycle @ almost 200$
    2. KaptainHowdy
      Amazon shows the components starting @:
      Energizer =30$+
      Solar battery trickle charger = 30$+
      Wire = 20$+ ( also comes with some energizers)
      Small deep cycle batteries 25$+
      A small, light duty solar electric fence is only 150$
      And it's enough to make a cyote think twice about what's on the other side of the fence. Good luck!
  16. DavisNinja
    Thank you, very helpful!
  17. 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!
      joe712748 and ninarod08 like this.
  18. kfitt1776
    Can you clip a duck's wing?
    1. Melbeforeyou
      Yes you can, as a matter of fact a lot of people do to keep them on the property or in an enclosure.
  19. Tami Lyons
    Does it hurt them?
      PASCFLGA Girl likes this.
    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.
    2. Melbeforeyou
      no clipping wings on any bird does not hurt them, feels a lot like when you get your hair cut (nothing at all). .. oops someone already said that haha. As long as you dont clip the blood quills in the feather you are fine.
  20. 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 ❤️
  21. 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.
  22. 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)
  23. 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.
      chrissynemetz likes this.
  24. 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).
  25. 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.
      chickentrunks likes this.
  26. Banana552
    What about birds such as pidgeons do they need extra clipping?
  27. 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.
  28. Amanda16
    would this be the same for turkeys, or is there a different method?
  29. 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. View previous replies...
    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.
      Liddy, MyCuteCoop and rosieredbantam like this.
    4. Manhen
      I have a book from 1919 that shows a pole like a rake with a hooked wire on the end, like a shepard. My G. Uncle showed us one in the day, it works fine.
  30. 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?
      Amanda16 and jc_d1 like this.
  31. 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.
  32. 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!
  33. 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.
  34. 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. sassysarah
      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. ;)
      BroodyHuman likes this.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. Hooligans7
    LDSB, wing clipping is quite quick and easy, but you really need to clip them? Perhaps it will become unnecessary if you can wait awhile longer, unless you have lightweight or small breeds. 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.
  39. LDSB
    I'm kind of scared to clip my chickens wings.
  40. 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.
  41. 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.
  42. 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.
  43. 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. :)
  44. 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
  45. 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...
  46. 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.
  47. Catfish267
    hang them upside down. It makes it so much easier.
  48. eggspert
    thanks.very helpful
  49. 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.
  50. ChickensAreSweet
    Very helpful page!

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