Trimming Flight Feathers on Your Chickens

Trimming Flight Feathers @ Farming My Backyard

The other night the kids and I were sitting at the table having a bedtime snack when all of the sudden there was a loud thumping right outside the window.   It only took a few seconds after my initial scare to realize it was one of the hens, frantically trying to get in where it was light.  Candi, our Golden Laced Wyandotte had hopped the fence around the goat and chicken yard, made her way through the back, up the side yard, and around to the front dining room window and had no idea how to get back to her coop in the dark.

I brought her into the house and before taking her back out to the coop I made sure I trimmed her flight feathers to make sure she didn’t show up at our window again tomorrow night.  If we lived in a more rural environment I would most likely NOT trim flight feathers because it allows your birds to more easily escape potential predators, but in our small urban yard the risk of hopping the fence and getting hit by a car is more likely than being chased by a fox or a dog.

How to trim chicken flight feathers @ Farming My Backyard

Trimming flight feathers is very easy.  The hardest part of learning how is keeping the chicken still long enough to see what you’re doing the first few times.  If your birds are skittish it might be helpful to have someone else hold the chicken for you.  This hen was docile enough that I could take pictures with one hand while holding with the other.


How To Trim Your Hen’s Feathers

First gently extend one wing until you can see the flight feathers.  They will be tucked underneath the outer feathers, you can tell the difference because flight feathers will be darker and stronger.   Second, trim them with very sharp scissors to the same length as the outer feathers.  I’ve used dull kid scissors when I couldn’t find mine and not only does it take longer, but you are more likely to pull or twist on the feather which would be uncomfortable for your bird.

Trimmed Flight Feathers @ Farming My Backyard

Here is a picture of the trimmed flight feathers.  If you want you can do just one side.  I almost always trim both sides though, because the first time I just did one wing my hen tried to fly, started spinning in a circle and smacked into the side of the house.  I felt really bad, so now I always do both wings unless the bird is overly stressed.  I have an Andalusian that panics, so she only gets one wing.

If you have a hard time catching your hens try trimming flight feathers just after the birds roost for the night.  They should be calmer and more docile.

Hen with Trimmed Flight Feathers @ Farming My Backyard

Here’s Candi with both wings trimmed.   Once she folds her wings back up you can’t even tell!

Do you trim flight feathers?  One wing or both wings?  Any tips I forgot to mention?


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Posted in Backyard Chickens and Poultry
9 comments on “Trimming Flight Feathers on Your Chickens
  1. Andrea says:

    Thanks for posting! Saving this for when I get my chickens someday!

  2. I haven’t had to do this b/c my chickies don’t seem to like to fly much anyway. I did have one spook one day and fly into the neighbors yard though. But, just the one time.

    • Kathryn says:

      Oh that’s really nice, my hens are ALWAYS hopping fences. I have a very active bird that seems to give them all the idea. It gets really old after a while.

  3. Heidi Evans says:

    Very good explanation! 🙂 I would normally never consider clipping the wings as we live in the country and there are lots of predators, but I’m considering it for the buff orpingtons, and possibly one Easter Egger to see if it helps. They are currently 1-week old and already trying to jump out of their brooder and fly around the room. I had put logs and small branches into the brooder (an old stock tank in the milk house) and they are climbing onto the logs, attempting flight, and landing on their noses after a short time.

    How quickly do the clipped feathers grow back??

    • Kathryn says:

      You can always give it a try and see if it helps. I usually put a lid on my brooder when they start hopping out.

      It lasts until they molt. Older birds that’s about once a year, but I’m not sure how long it would last on a 1 week old bird!

  4. Carley says:

    Do you mail order your chickens or have a local place? I would love recommendations for mail order if you have some. If we end up moving, that is the first thing I want to get.

  5. Corina says:

    Yes, we trim the flight feathers on our girls. We only do one side, so they can still get away if need be, but can’t fly over a fence.
    Unfortunately, all of our chickens got eaten by a very determined bobcat one night. Grrrr!

6 Pings/Trackbacks for "Trimming Flight Feathers on Your Chickens"
  1. […] in her flower beds. Trimming the flight feathers is much easier that you might expect. Here’s how you clip a chicken’s wings to help keep them in their own yard. Be aware that even in the city, there are hungry predators […]

  2. […] in her flower beds. Trimming the flight feathers is much easier that you might expect. Here’s how you clip a chicken’s wings to help keep them in their own yard. Be aware that even in the city, there are hungry predators […]

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Welcome! I’m Kathryn and I'm creating a tiny urban homestead in Portland, Oregon. Our 1/10th acre lot includes gardens, chickens, ducks, and rabbits. If you want to create an urban homestead please subscribe for email updates and let us help inspire you with baby steps to farming your backyard.
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