In this post, we will learn how to clip chicken wings so that they won’t be able to escape the fenced area they are in by flying over the fence. We will go over when it’s a good idea to do it and how to get it done. It’s just a simple task that can save you a lot of headaches if you are trying to keep your chickens in one place.
My chickens used to free-range. I liked it a lot and I hated it a lot both at the same time.
On one hand, I loved seeing them roaming around the homestead… It felt great to just know that they are free to go and do whatever they wanted.
I didn’t have to water them since I have a small pond right next to the house where they could drink as much as they wanted, and my feed cost was so low, especially in the summer since there are so many bugs and so many plants they could eat.
And my eggs… They were soooo good! The shell was hard and smooth, the yolk was bright orange… You could tell by the eggs that the chickens were healthy and happy…
That is, if I could find the eggs…
It was literally an Easter egg hunt every day. Half of the time I couldn’t find the eggs at all!
Especially ridiculous since I put so much effort into building them a beautiful chicken coop from pallet wood… nesting boxes, roosting bars, and all!
Then, they would come up on the porch and mess with my aloe vera plant that is in a nice big container, they’d poop everywhere, scratch everywhere, and at some point, they started sneaking into the house to get the cat food (we are in and out constantly so my doors stay wide open most of the time).
Another thing that bothered me is that I couldn’t make my place pretty! I couldn’t plant anything in the yard because they were constantly digging, scratching, and eating everything.
One day I decided enough was enough!
How to Clip Chicken Wings…
They had to be fenced. But I knew from past experience that they’d fly right over it.
I raise mainly Black Australorps, they are a dual-purpose heritage breed that I LOVE.
They are gentle and friendly. The roosters are not aggressive. The hens are amazing because they go broody very easily (which is the main reason I got this breed). And even when they are broody or when they have little chicks they are not aggressive at all.
I decided to go with this breed after I raised Cornish Cross chickens for meat production (you can read about this experience in Raising Meat Chickens – Brooder to Butcher). I wanted a heritage breed that can lay, hatch, and care for their own babies.
And they do! They lay beautiful brown, medium-sized eggs very consistently and they are great mothers.
They are also smart! At least… for chickens…
And they fly over the fence easily even though it’s a seven-foot tall fence.
So this time, before I fenced them, I knew we would have to clip their wings.
You actually just clip one wing and what it does is interferes with the chicken’s balance when it tries to fly. If it can’t find balance, it can’t fly, and if it can’t fly it can’t get out of the fence.
I do have to say that I still have chickens escaping the fenced area even after clipping their wing. I think that the reason is the brooder box I have relatively close to the fence.
I have my chickens divided between two fences. One fence has the laying hens and a couple of roosters and the other fence has all the babies that the hens hatched during the season who are in the process of growing for the freezer.
In the laying hens’ fence, there is a brooder box that I made with an A-shaped roof. If I want chickies, I leave some eggs in the nest and one of the hens will go broody and start sitting on the nest. I’ll then move her and the nest to the brooder so she is protected from the rest of the chickens and the couple of goats I have there.
The brooder is heavy, but really even if I could move it myself there isn’t anywhere to move it to. As long as it’s inside the fence the chickens can climb onto it and jump over the fence. So I need to find a solution to this but I only have a few chickens that figured it out so that’s not too bad.
Catch Your Chickens...
First you have to catch the chickens. This wasn't too hard for us because even though the chickens were free-range they still come to eat twice a day. So I threw their feed on the ground like I always do and we just grabbed them when they were eating.
My kids are already pros when it comes to catching chickens! Once we got one we held it from its legs. This way they calm down quickly and stop moving.
Locate the Flight Feathers...
Once you have your chicken, spread its wing... Do you see the longer feathers at the end of the wing? Those are the flight feathers and those are the ones we want to clip.
They are longer than the other feathers and they are thicker. Usually, there are about ten of them or so...
Clip the Flight Feathers...
Grab your scissors and clip the flight feathers, make sure you don't cut too close to the bone so you don't hurt the chicken.
You can see that I missed one over here...
Again, remember that you only clip one wing. We want to throw the chicken out of balance when it tries to fly, this way we won't have chickens escaping the fence.
Since we fenced the chickens the homestead is looking much better.
I still sometimes have the impulse to open the gate and let them all out but then I remember the mess and the lost eggs and I am happy they are fenced.
I do have to work on my feeding program, though. When they were free-ranged I didn't worry about any of this. They could get all the nutrients they needed and tiny rocks to aid them with digestion from the environment.
Now they depend on me for all of this. It's not enough to just feed them chicken feed from the farm supply store. They need alfalfa, grit, maybe kelp, and diatomaceous earth as a dewormer.
But all in all, they are doing pretty good.
Are your chickens fenced or do they free-range?
Hi! I’m Lady Lee. I help homesteaders simplify their homesteading journey while still producing a ton of food! I am a single mother of four, I was born in Israel and raised in an agricultural commune called a Kibbutz. Now I homestead in central NC.