Trimming Flight Feathers on Your Chickens

Trimming Flight Feathers @ Farming My Backyard

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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?


Be prepared for your first flock


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