Sunday, April 17, 2011

YOU ARE GROUNDED - About clipping chicken wings

While, it is somewhat contraversial to clip chicken's wings, a lot of people do it to prevent their feathered friends from flying out of their enclosure and straight into a coyote's or fox's mouth. Meals on feathers, so to speak.

Why is it controversial? It is NOT because it may hurt them. This actually (if done correctly) should not be painful to the birds at all and may be comparable to a mani/pedi. However, it is controversial because holding a bird still and manipulating it may stress her out and therefore negatively impact egg production. Also, the clipped feathers may not fall out during mold by itself and may require your assistance. Pulling feathers out of a living hen? Yep, not a fun idea. Use of pliers is suggested. And of course flying may be your chicken's last resort when getting away from a predator.

While I won't clip our babies quite yet - unless of course their flying adventures get too wild, I volunteered to clip the two chickens from Aurelia's school. These two girls have been clipped annually for several years but the 'clipper' is no longer with the school.

Do it after each molt when the new feathers are complete but it can be done at any time when flying becomes an issue.

However, after each molt you will have to redo it because all feathers (including the flying feathers) grow back after each molt. Don't clip chick's; wait until they are fully grown and flying truely is an issue, because it may be that your chickens have no intention of flying anywhere.

By clipping the wings, we are referring to removing the tips of the flight feathers from only one of the chicken’s wings. Yes, weired, huh?! This is done to throw the potential flyer off balance. They may still try to fly but they won't get anywhere anymore. Some people cut both wings, which seems a tad more humane to me since the bird won't be so off center. 

Use sturdy, sharp scissors with rounded ends to prevent accidentally stabbing the birdie. They can get pretty freaked out if they are not used to being held.  A helper may be a good idea. One holds the feathered girlie, the other spreads out the wing and snips away. A word about holding the chicken: If the chicken is not used to being held, hold it at the feet and gently wrap an old towel around her. If you are dealing with a docile hen, just hold her gently.

I have read somewhere that when you clip them in the evening, you can simply just pick your bird from the roost.

Before - Note the long flying
feathers in the front
Spread out completely the chicken’s wing. Look for the so called flight-feathers.

They are typically tucked under the other feathers, right at the front underneath the wing.

With some breeds they are easily spotted due to them being longer and of different color than the other feathers.

Be careful not to cut any new growth feathers, those are the ones with blood in the shaft.

Hold the wing into the sun: If they look pinkish, stay away! If you accidentally cut these feathers, you are majorly injuring your chicken and will cause severe blood loss.

Should however it happen, pull the feather (pliers), apply corn starch and apply pressure with a clean towel to stop the bleeding. If it doesn't stop within a few minutes, race to the Vet!

 Back to the cutting the flying feathers part: Cut 5-6 feathers about a third of the way down.

   Remove more length from the longer feathers at the tip of the wing and leave more where the wing attaches to the body. 

Clip feathers to just under the next layer of feathers on the wing to prevent that the cut edges irritate the bird’s skin and she may try to pick them out. To see this better, it may be easier to snip from underneath the wing.

As I said, you only need to clip one of the wings but clipping both seems more humane.

You are done? Great! Move the scissors somewhere safe before you let the bird go. Since the chicken will be racing to get away from you, make sure she cannot hurt herself on her flight.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis


  1. So...the age old question. Do u now know which came 1st, the chicken or the egg?!!!

  2. I do not know and I think the answer would be depending upon what you believe in.

    A creationist might tell you the chicken came first, which was created by God ;-)