PROPER WING CLIPPING TO AID IN CONTAINMENT WITH PERIMETER FENCING

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,776
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
There is considerable debate on this site concerning the efficacy of wing clipping and how it is to be done. Several links can be found concerning how to clip wings with diagrams given in most. Most show only one wing being clipped. Many people assert that wing clipping is not effective at constraining chicken flight. Many also assert the clipping should be asymmetrical or unilateral where only one wing is clipped. Logic behind that approach is that that balanced wing function is more effective than symmetrical wing feathering regardless as to whether clipping is done or not. Here I report results of a backyard experiment where a group of 29 juveniles approximately 13 weeks old where subjected to one of three clipping treatments while housed in an elevated pen they are imprinted on. I do not employ fencing to contain free-ranging birds so used roosting inclination as a substitute. The pen is adjustable with respect to height birds must jump / fly to access it. Lower setting is 36" and high setting is 48". The control / not-clipped treatment was represented by 16 birds, the unilateral clip treatment was represented by 7 birds and the bilateral clip treatment was represented by 6 birds. Clipping was done in two rounds. Each clipping was done immediately after birds went to roost. The first round involved clipping only the primaries on the the right or both wings depending on treatment. Initially the pen was set at 36". Following the clipping procedure I made two evenings of observation where birds where monitored for their ability to access roost. Then roost was elevated to the 48" height for two more nights of observation. Then clipped birds where all clipped a second time where secondaries were also cut. Two more nights of observations followed.

36" pen height


48" pen height


First round of wing clipping with only primaries clipped.


Second round with both primaries and secondaries clipped. (Not same bird)


At end of each period of observation, a chair was put put to allow birds to access pen regardless of treatment to prevent roosting on ground or moving to another location. Birds became distressed if unable to access pen after a small number of attempts.
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Results of cutting only primaries failed to prevent any birds from reaching pen when set at both 36" and 48". I could still ID during jump / flight up whether a given bird was not clipped, unilaterally clipped or bilaterally clipped. Following the second clipping round with pen still at 48" height, the treatments separated out (see figure below). Trends were consistent for both days (blue is day 1 and red is day 2) following second clipping. Treatments in figure below are Control (no wing clipping), Unilateral (one wing clipped), Bilateral (both wings clipped). Ascend (A) means a bird successfully flew up into pen or better. Descend (D) means a bird flew / jumped down. Failed to Ascend (FA) means a bird attempted and failed to reach coop by some combination of jumping and flying.

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The control birds were most capable of reaching pen at both heights. Unilateral clipping including secondaries did increase frequency of failure on a given night to reach pen on a given attempt but all birds eventually made. Among the bilateral clipped birds with secondaries also cut, only one bird successfully reached pen at 48" height on second night. Thereafter, all bilateral birds required chair to access coop. Clipping both primaries and secondaries on both wings is more effective at reducing the jumping / flying ability of juvenile chickens when compared to unilateral and no clipping treatments.

A lot of work into this effort. Special thanks to several high school students and my kids for aiding in this effort.
 
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centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,776
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
Additional points. Prior to the wing clipping effort above it has been more than 35 years since the last time I did it. I do not clip wings as part of my typical management system mostly because I want birds to roost up more than 4' above the ground making it easier to protect them from nocturnal predators I can readily block from climbing (i.e. Opossums, Raccoons, and weasels). The capacity for wing assisted movement can also help birds evade predators by giving the chickens greater speed buying the chickens time so fewer lost if they have cover to retreat to. Most people do not have proper cover for chickens to retreat to so once a predator is after birds the extra performance does not matter much. The clipping can come into its own where the owner has more effective exclusion and keeping birds in what amounts to an uncovered run / backyard with a fence intended to keep chickens contained on owners property. Most interest in limiting flight / jumping centers on keeping the chickens from clearing a border fence between neighbors.

It is not fair to birds to handle them for an improper wing clipping job that is stressful to all that is also ineffective. It is like going to the Doctor for treatment that hurts but does not good and gives impression doctor or procedure is always a waste of time.
 

beavsmom

Chirping
5 Years
Aug 4, 2014
7
0
50
What about putting up a higher fence, say 6 feet? We have Bantys and only one rooster
has been able to fly to the top. If that fails then a netting will be put up over the outdoor run.
 
Jun 12, 2017
268
408
131
IL
I have 11 br and br crosses, 12 red rangers, and 6 other crosses I'm growing out to butcher and replace some of my other 23 layers. I have a separate pen for them adjacent to my coop for the layers. The run for the new birds does not have a canopy unlike the regular coop, just a 4' fence. I was planning on clipping wings to keep them from flying over it. When I clipped wings before, I just did one wing and only the primaries. So, you're saying to clip both wings cutting both primaries and secondaries?
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,776
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
I have 11 br and br crosses, 12 red rangers, and 6 other crosses I'm growing out to butcher and replace some of my other 23 layers. I have a separate pen for them adjacent to my coop for the layers. The run for the new birds does not have a canopy unlike the regular coop, just a 4' fence. I was planning on clipping wings to keep them from flying over it. When I clipped wings before, I just did one wing and only the primaries. So, you're saying to clip both wings cutting both primaries and secondaries?
If you are trying to prevent birds from topping or clearing a 48" fence, then yes clip primaries and secondaries on both wings. A higher fence is like to require less aggressive clipping. What is omitted in account above is the unilateral clipped birds were no longer attempting to roost on top of pen when required a little under 6' vertical flight. Number attempting was small and not part of original intent to study.

These findings will likely need to be tempered when considering different breeds.
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,776
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
What about putting up a higher fence, say 6 feet? We have Bantys and only one rooster
has been able to fly to the top. If that fails then a netting will be put up over the outdoor run.
You got price it out. Most of my birds would not be contained by a 12' fence so for me a cover netting would be required to contain. My American Dominiques would have considerable difficulty topping a 6' fence even when not clipped, especially the males. The birds can learn to invest more effort.
 

centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
23,776
13,109
696
Holts Summit, Missouri
I currently have four almost 17 week old buff orps, would clipping their wings like you suggest keep them inside a 36” fence? Could you show how to clip both the primaries and secondaries?
My efforts did not over the 36" height very well. In the past when doing bilateral clipping as done above very closely I could keep American Game hens from topping a 24" roost. The game hens can jump much better than Orphs. There are videos that have the technique for generally clipping wings already out there. I will try to do it tonight if you do not find something sooner. The videos likely did not consider bilateral clipping for one reason or another.
 
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