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Clipping Chicken Wings. Is it Necessary?

I first heard of clipping wings when I had issues with my chickens jumping out of their 5 foot high fenced chicken run. They would literary fly out of their run to freedom. 

They would happily decimate my garden. 

I contemplated clipping their wings. In the beginning, I thought it was a cruel inhumane practice. The reason is that I wrongly assumed that it was a bloody painful exercise. 

I ended up not clipping the wings of my flighty chickens but putting up other measures to keep them in their run. While I am yet to adapt the idea of clipping wings, you might find that it is the only way out to keep your flock from going where they are not wanted. Like to the neighbors and your garden. 

 Is it necessary? 

Does it harm chickens? 

How do you clip chicken wings? 

Let us look through everything you need to know about clipping chicken wings

Is Clipping Wings Necessary?

When they were wild and free, chickens used their wings to fly up trees. This would be the case at night or when fleeing away from dangerous ground predators. Roosters use their wings to steer themselves and balance when fighting against predators. 

Before clipping your chicken’s wings, you need to make sure that they are well secured again predators such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and wild dogs. Clipping chicken wings in the presence of such mortal threats will leave your flock vulnerable. 

When not to clip chicken wings

In the absence of a rooster, hens have only one defense mechanism. Fly away as fast as possible to safety. If you keep your chickens in open pastures or a backyard without a fence, clipping chicken wings weakens them if ever ground or airborne predator strikes. 

When you can clip chicken wings

If your chickens are in a secure place, where they have zero chances of encountering a predator, you can clip their wings, if you deem it necessary. The reasons for clipping wings include:-

  • Chickens flying over the fence into your neighbor’s backyard
  •  Chickens fly into your precious flower or vegetable garden and ruin it.
  • Chicken flying into a dangerous situation. An example would be if you keep dogs and the chickens fly out of their run and they get attacked by the dogs. 

Do all Chickens fly?

Chickens are not created equal. Some are heavy and they do not bother flying. They wings are not strong enough to lift their massive bodies off the ground. However, all birds have the flight instinct. You will notice young chicks of any breed, as young as 4 days old,  flapping their wings, in an attempt to fly. 

Even the heavy breeds, who have given up on the idea of flying due to their heavy bodies will fly if presented with the right motivation. An example is when a predator attacks and the chicken has to do anything to stay alive. 

Heavy breeds will fly a few feet from the ground while lighter chicken breeds will easily clear 6 feet.

Pros and cons of clipping chicken wings

Pros

  • It is a painless and safe way that prevents the chicken from flying to safeguard it.
  • It’s temporary, and the feathers grow back

Cons

  • Reduces the chickens’ flight ability even when they need to escape predators
  • It can result in bleeding if done improperly
  • May results in injuries when the hen tries to get down from high places, due to lack of balance

Is clipping chicken wings cruel?

The argument against clipping chicken wings is that it deprives them of their natural abilities, exposing them to danger. The counter-argument is that in some situations you need to clip chickens’ wings for their own welfare and safety. It would be cruel to let your chickens fly over their run and get killed by dogs. 

The decision to clip or not remains personal and depends on the situation. 

Alternatives to clipping chicken wings

If clipping chicken wings is not your cup of tea, you may want to consider alternatives. For heavier breeds that don’t fly high, you can use a tall fence, and for a small backyard, you can secure the top with a bird net to keep them in.

Another method is brailing, which involves using a strap or soft cord to prevent the wing from opening for flight. It’s used primarily on young chickens that are likely to become heavier as they grow. 

Ensure that the brail is tight enough to prevent the wing from opening but not too tight to prevent blood circulation.

Show you clip one of both wings?

Clipping chicken wings one or both?  

While Most people clip just one wing, others clip both wings. Chicken wings are not just for flying but also help them balance. Clipping one wing only will throw the chicken off balance

What can go wrong while clipping chicken wings?

The only thing that can go wrong when clipping wings is if you cut the feathers with blood veins. 

However, they are easy to spot because they are shorter and seem rather dark. Additionally, the veins go just about an inch, so it should be okay if you don’t go too low. 

If you accidentally hit a blood vein and the chicken starts bleeding a lot, it’s not difficult to manage it. The most important thing is not to panic. Dip the wing in some cornflour and apply pressure on the tip. The bleeding should stop.

How to clip chicken wings to stop them from flying

When it’s necessary to limit their ability to fly, wing clipping skills become essential. Clipping wings may seem daunting, but once you have done one or two, you will realize that it Is not as difficult as you may think. You will need the following materials:

  • A sharp and clean pair of scissors
  • Corn starch
  • Gauze or rag
  1. Catch the Chicken

This is probably the most challenging part about clipping chicken wings. You will find that some chickens are docile and enjoy petting while others fear humans and will run away anytime you try to approach them. You can try cornering your chicken into a small space so that they have little room to run away. You can also throw a towel over to slow them down so that you can grab them.

  1. Invert and make sure the chicken is calm

After catching the chicken, spend a minute or two calming it down. Then pet it and invert it to hold them by the ankles. The chicken goes into a trance when it’s upside down and is much more docile. Watch out for their claws and beaks.

  1. Identify the wing you wish to clip. 

Expose the primarily flight feathers by pulling the chicken wings from the body. The primary feathers are usually are a different color length and are generally about ten feathers found at the tip of the chicken wing.

Use scissors to clip at least 2/3 of the length of about 10 of the primary feathers. The point is to cut as much of the feather as possible without causing the chicken to bleed. Some blood veins extend into the chicken feathers but only an inch.

How to clip chicken wings video.

Conclusion

Clipping chicken wings can help protect by keeping them safely in your backyard and away from predators and getting run over on the roads. It also helps prevent the chicken from getting into your flower or vegetable garden. It’s a painless and safe process that allows backyard chicken farmers to keep their birds safe.

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About James

I grew up on a small farm. My parents used to grow food and keep animals for our sustenance. They would sell the surplus to make an extra coin to supplement the income from their jobs. I am taking the same path. I have over 40 chickens for eggs and meat. I also grow vegetables in my backyard. follow me on Twitter

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