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Trimming Flight Feathers Is A Quick And Easy Skill

Trimming Flight Feathers Is A Quick And Easy SkillThe 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 into the light.  Candi, our Golden Laced Wyandotte had hopped the fence around the goat and chicken yard.  She made her way through the back, up the side yard, and around to the front dining room window.  She stood there with no idea how to get back to her coop in the dark.

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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.  Keeping the flight feathers intact allows your birds to more easily escape potential predators.  However, 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.

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, but I don’t recommend it.  Not only does it take longer, but you are more likely to pull or twist on the feather which is uncomfortable for your bird.

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.  She 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.  Once they fold their wings back up you can’t even tell the flight feathers have been trimmed!

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


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11 thoughts on “Trimming Flight Feathers Is A Quick And Easy Skill”

    • 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.

  1. 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??

    • 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Do NOT trim Both wings!

    The idea is to make it difficult to impossible for your hens to fly.

    One wing trimmed leaves them unbalanced in attempting to fly. So they don’t.

    Trimming both wings rebalances them. Result is they Can fly almost as easily as if you hadn’t bothered.

    The rest of the wing trimming advice is ok, but ONE wing only.

    • Yes, I’ve done it both ways, and for my birds they can’t get enough lift even with both wings cut. I’m sure flightier birds do better with just one wing.


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