If you are having problems with your hens flying out of their pen then clipping your chicken’s wings may be the best way to keep them safe. Especially if you are keeping chickens in your backyard in town where they could easily get onto the road or have a nasty encounter with a neighbours dog.
The idea behind clipping is that it prevents your chickens from being able to get lift when trying to fly. Granted, a chicken doesn’t fly much anyway because their body mass prevents them (in most cases) from getting far the ground. But lighter breeds can fly over two metres high. And even within the heavier breeds, you can always have a few birds with enough determination and wing strength to get high off the ground.
Clipping does not hurt your chicken, as long as it is done correctly.
Which feathers should you trim? Completely spread out one of your chook’s wings. You want to trim the primary flight feathers. The primary flight feathers are the longest feathers at the front of the wing. You’re aiming to cut only the long primary flight feathers on the wing. It’s easy to find them. They’re longer than any of the other feathers and there are usually ten of them.
Trim only one wing! It’s completely unnecessary to trim both, as clipping one wing places the chicken at a major disadvantage by being unbalanced. In all likelihood, after all this the chicken will be a little flustered, so give her a few seconds to regain her composure before letting her go again to re-join the flock. It is likely that her agitation will spread to your other birds, so if you plan on clipping other chickens give the birds a few minutes to settle down before repeating the process.
Its helpful and safer to have someone hold the chicken while you trim or vice versa as your feathered friend is apt to be wiggly.
How to trim wing feathers
- You will need a large sharp pair of scissors
- Ideally, one person holds the hen while a second holds and trims the wing
- Extend the wing fully
- It’s important to cut the feathers at the right length; too short and you could hurt the bird, too long and the process is pointless. To get this right, it is necessary to inspect your bird’s feathers. When a feather is growing, it will have a blood supply to it and if you look underneath a chicken’s wing you will be able to identify this as dark shading in the shaft of the feathers. You do not want to cut through a feather in this dark area as not only is it painful for the bird, it leaves the area open to future infection. Where the feathers shaft is white you are safe to cut as the level of blood flowing to that area has receded.
- ONLY the primary feathers should be cut. You should expect to cut between 8 and 10 feathers (Normally 10 but some feathering may have been moulted).
- Once the wing is folded back into a natural position against the hen’s body it is not noticeable that the wing has been cut. If you slightly lift the covert feathers as you trim the primary feathers they will disguise the cut edge of the feathering.
Note: Growing feathers will contain blood (the quill will be dark) Do not cut these. Only trim if the quills are white.
Once the wing is clipped it doesn’t look any different, since it’s folded under the remaining wing feathers. So your girls won’t be in the least bit embarrassed.
You will have to repeat these steps every time the bird’s feathers grow back and after moulting.