The clipping of chicken wings is common practice for many owners. It is usually done to stop birds from flying away over fences or roosting in trees at night. In this article, we will be looking at how to clip a chicken’s wings safely and efficiently.
What You'll Learn Today
Should I Clip My Chickens Wings?
If, for some reason, you need to limit your bird’s ability to fly, then clipping their wings may be necessary.
It could be you let them free-range in your backyard, but they keep flying over to your neighbors.
The problems associated with wing clipping are preventing your birds from their ability to evade predators by flying away and causing them damage through clipping the wings badly.
Many chicken breeds are almost unable to fly anyway, so clipping their wings would be completely unnecessary.
When Should I Clip My Chickens Wings?
You’ll need to clip your chicken’s wings when they start to fly. But this can’t happen until after they have stopped growing as their feathers still contain blood.
Once your chickens become adults, at around 22 to 28 weeks, you can check to make sure their wings are safe to cut by looking at the color of the quill. If it is clear or white then it has finished growing and is safe to cut.
If you see the quill is still a dark color then there is still blood nourishing it and you will need to wait a little longer.
Quill color is much harder to see in birds with black feathers, so you may need to wait a little longer to be sure.
The same thing can occur after your chickens have molted. Be sure that the feathers have grown back fully before clipping.
How to Cut Chicken Wings so They Can’t Fly
To clip your chickens’ wings, you’ll first need to get hold of a bird. When picking them up, try to keep their wings folded against their sides to prevent them from flapping in your face or getting damaged.
You can just pop the bird under your arm for calm and easy transportation.
When you’re going to clip your chicken’s wings, it’s a good idea to give them the once over to check for any other problems such as signs of lice or mites.
It may be easier to get someone to help you when it comes to wing clipping. This is how to do it in two easy steps:
- Spread one wing out fully so you can clearly see the feathers. The really long, wide ones at the end of the wing are the primary flight feathers. These are the ones you’re going to cut.
- Take a sharp pair of scissors and follow the line of the primary flight feathers around in an arch an inch or so short of the next set of feathers growing above. You only need to cut the first 9 or 10 feathers, not the ones closer to the bird’s body.
To help you identify the right feathers to cut, watch this handy video and see how to clip your chicken’s wings simply and painlessly.
The clipped feathers will grow back when the bird goes through its annual molt, so usually, wing clipping only needs doing once or twice a year.
Do You Clip Both Wings on a Chicken?
It isn’t usually necessary to clip both of your chicken’s wings, as doing just one will generally be reasonably sufficient to stop them from flying.
However, you’re not going to damage your bird by clipping both wings, and sometimes it may be a wise precaution for more flighty individuals.
Clipping one wing helps unbalance the bird while clipping both should prevent it from being able to fly at all.
How Often Should You Clip Chicken Wings?
Your chickens’ feathers won’t grow back until they molt. This usually happens once a year during fall.
You’ll know when they start to molt as they get bald patches where the feathers begin to fall out. This starts with the ones on their head and neck and gradually works down the back, across the breast, and down their thighs. Finally, they lose their tail feathers.
Molting takes a lot of energy from your hens and they require a high protein feed to help them regrow a healthy covering ready for winter.
New feather growth appears like specks on the bald skin and quickly grows in the same pattern as the ones that were lost.
It takes between 3 to 16 weeks for everything to fully grow back, and it is better not to handle the birds too much during this time.
Roosters, as well as hens, go through an annual molt.
Is Clipping Chicken Wings Cruel?
Birds, in general, were designed to fly, however, many breeds of chicken are almost flightless anyway, so they don’t fly in the true sense but may use their limited abilities to evade predators or to reach a roost.
If your chickens are kept securely where predators are unlikely to attack them, but you need to stop them flying into a neighbor’s yard, then clipping their wings might be necessary. This is especially true if your neighbor has a dog that could harm or even kill your hens.
Feathers are made primarily from a substance called keratin. This is the same stuff that your own hair and fingernails are made from.
Clipping the wings isn’t painful for the bird. They have no nerves or blood vessels in the feathers you’ll be trimming, and it is really no worse than getting a haircut.
Some people believe chickens may get confused when they try to fly after having their wings clipped and that this can cause them to end up with injuries from trying to fly. However, it’s important to think about which is the greater risk, your chicken escaping or having some feathers trimmed.
How High Can Chickens Jump with Clipped Wings?
This varies depending on how active your chickens are. Heavier breeds find it hard to get off the ground even with unclipped wings and sometimes even struggle to hop up onto a relatively low roost.
By estimating that the maximum height any chicken with clipped wings could jump to be around three feet, you should be pretty safe. If you have any fences lower than this, it might be necessary to make them higher.
Be sure that your chicken roosts are low enough so that birds with clipped wings can still reach them easily. Using a ladder configuration can be helpful for this as they can then hop from one level up to the next.
I hope this article has helped you, and if you need to clip your chicken’s wing feathers to stop them from flying you feel confident enough to give it a go.
When done correctly, it is quite safe and entirely painless for both your chicken and you!
If you have a particularly flighty bird, you may choose to clip both wings rather than just one.
For anyone living in a residential area with free-range hens then wing clipping is a safe way of helping to prevent them from flying into your neighbor’s yard.