Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clipping Chicken Wings

In the last three days I've lost three layers; two of which were killed by a coyote because they kept flying over the fence into the brush (which you can see in the background of the picture below). Apparently he knows where dinner is and he's sitting and waiting for the girls to fly over the fence. And of course, the other hens tend to follow suit, flying over to join the one, so something had to be done immediately or lose the whole flock. 

Hen Hilton Update: We've dug a trench and will be
adding electricity this weekend if the weather holds out!

I would just raise the height of the fence, but the cost outweighs the benefits when I could clip the wings for free. I have some extra chicken wire, so I plan to reinforce the existing wire fencing material on the backside of the chicken yard as well. And in the meantime, I also sprayed some Repels-All on the grass outside the run on the back side of the fence. It's suppose to repel dogs, so I figure it should help with coyotes, too. After all, this is war and I've got to use everything I have in my arsenal.

To clip the wings, have someone hold the bird while you gently stretch out her wing. The longer primary feathers are the ones we're going to cut which are just below the shorter feathers.



We're not cutting all the way across which would be into the secondary feathers, but rather the first few in the front portion of the wing. Be sure to use sharp scissors or sheers. I clipped one wing on each of six birds and my shears got dull fairly quickly (so don't be using your good quilting scissors or anything!).




Most of the hens behaved very nicely and didn't fidget too much, but there's always one that thinks you're going to hurt it. I only clipped one wing on each because it causes their flight to be uneven and throws them off a bit. When they molt, I'll need to watch to make sure that these shorter cut feathers come out and the new ones grow in. If they start flying again next year, I'll have to repeat the process. 




Backyard Chickens has a graphic and more photos if you'd like some additional help knowing how to do this properly, but as long as you don't cut into the bone on the wing which is higher up and you don't go crazy cutting a lot of feathers, you're going to do fine.  


Can you tell she got a trim in the before and after pictures here? Below is the hen before. Notice the longer lighter colored feathers on her wing? They just happen to be showing in this picture, but usually they're not even visible because the hens keep the primary feathers pulled in and tucked under.



And after? Not a great photo, but you wouldn't know her feathers had been clipped unless you lifted her wing up and out. I was really worried they'd look maimed, but it's not too bad after all.


If you chickens free-range without protection, I wouldn't suggest clipping their wings so that they could fly up into a tree if they need to. But for the hens that are in enclosures, this may be the ticket to keep them at home. Already the worst culprit that was still alive was staying in the yard, so I think we may have found a good solution. No one wants to lose a good chicken to a predator. 

Please share if you've had success with clipping wings to keep chickens from flying out of their enclosures.


46 comments:

  1. Do you have any problems with aerial predators? I live in a rural area and eagles and hawks are always flying overhead looking for a good meal...just like the coyotes (which we also have). Some day I hope to get chickens again, but want a complete enclosure...just so I know they are protected from the sides as well as from above.

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  2. Heard of this but never knew how it was done. Thanks for the lesson.

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  3. I have replace and replenished my flock several times. Finally two years ago we built a new chicken yard with a "ceiling". Out biggest problem is raccoons. The chickens had a big fenced area to roam with trees to roost in and they LOVED the "chicken compound", so named because we used 6 ft high chain link fence. One very bad night the raccoons killed over half of my 40+ chickens. It was such a sweet colorful flock too. So now for their own protection their run is completely enclosed with fencing.

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  4. Thank you so much for this. We're looking at getting chickens, so I'll be back to this tutorial if needs be. That is a mighty fine looking chick - before *and* after!

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  5. My husband likes to clip wings at night, because the hens are in such a dormant stage at that time. No chicken chasing necessary!

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  6. I'm so sorry you lost some of your Girls. I've never gone the clipping route, but have discovered that as long as my fencing does NOT have a top rail, my chickens don't try to go over. Doesn't matter if the fence is 3 ft. tall or 8 ft., they just assume the wire keeps going! You might want to add a foot or two of just wire fencing to the top of your existing fence. Good luck!

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  7. I remember when my Gram used to have to clip her Rhode Island Red's wings. She doesn't have to now because she has a bunch of silly chickens that are... well, chickens!

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  8. Chickens aren't smart, are they?

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  9. Oh Amy, I am so sorry. I know what it is like. I lost soooooo many last winter. It is really sad when we loose something "even" a chicken. I have also clipped wings.

    Just know that today you are in my thoughts and prayers..........you are a good chicken Momma!

    Hugs, Linda

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  10. I've had to clip wings on birds that went too far from the coop. We live by a small stream - actually a brook - the name is Molebrook, anyway, my chickens were wandering down there roosting in the trees. I didn't notice until someone came up to the house and wanted to buy them. As long as you are running electricity, maybe install a motion detector light so when a preditor comes to the fence it will scare them away. Or for a little while keep a radio turned on inside the coop at night, the noise might hinder something coming to close. Just some ideas. Good luck. Blessings from Wisconsin.

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  11. much to learn about the yard birds...I'm sorry you lost 3 of your layers..

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  12. I clipped my hens last year and it was very effective (just one wing, too). This year they no longer go out 'star treking' (going where no hen has gone before) and they stay closer to the hen house so we have had no more problems. Thanks for the good info for us backyarders. :o)

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  13. Coyotes have been busy this year on my farm too. Our pens are a bit more remote as we live in a remote remote area, and the birds free range in about 1 acre of fenced but scrub desert. We lost at least 4, and I hope that 2 are broody, and I just haven't found the nest, as seems like most of the chicks hatched came from under incredibly hidden mesquite nest and not the coops!!

    Good tutorial on the wings. I am so happy for the internet, because the first time we clipped wings I just googled it and was able to understand!

    Have a great day!
    Jennifer

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  14. I'm picturing chickies flying in a circle...round and around. LOL! Hubby has clipped some of our hens before but I never watched and never knew it was just one wing. I think I'll be giggling to myself all day thinking about lopsided chickens. (I know they don't look obviously lopsided, but in my silly little mind...) ; )

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  15. We had to do the same thing with our chickens. We had problems with them flying over the fence to get to the neighbors garden. It was funny because my garden was inside the chicken fence but had a two feet fence around it and they were flying over the four foot fence to eat the neighbors stuff. So I clipped the feathers on one wing and we haven't had any problems since.

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  16. I also gave the kids haircuts and hung onion bags with hair in around the fence to help deter predators. The birds like it for their nests too!
    I wanted to mention too that we only had to clip our first set of chickens as we added new chickens to the flock we haven't had any problems with the flying over the fence.

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  17. We've had to clip our chicken's wings many times to keep them inside their yard. I've got one hen that has developed some great leg muscles now though! She manages to jump all the way over the fence even with clipped wings! She is a neighbourhood dog's meal waiting to happen!

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  18. We start clipping at 10 weeks.It makes catching them and moving them around soooo much easier.It also get them use to us holding them.After the trim, I hold them and talk to them and check them out.then I gently put them down and try to pet them one more time.Hopefully all this handling and cooing will gentel them up for their adult years..lol One can dream.
    Now that coyote have a taste..they will be hard core to get to them.We have had to trap them before...or maybe there is someone in your community who could do it.There are bounties for them here in Texas.Good luck.

    Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

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  19. Ah, yes. I just mentioned this issue today. We're not worried about ours getting over fences for fear of predators, but for fear that they'll get into our garden. Last year (or maybe the year before), Jamey clipped their wings (just one like you did) and they kept flying over. So, he clipped both. They still fly over. So, this year, he clipped more aggressively and we strung some barbed wire over the top of our garden fence and this combo has helped. (He just extended the height of the fence posts with pieces of scrap wood about a foot or so high and attached the barbed wire to those). We've found that the Ameracaunas are the ones that don't seem to be as affected by wing clipping as much as the others. Their eggs are gorgeous, but they sure are persistent in wanting over the fences. I wish you the best of luck- keep an eye on them, they may need both wings clipped.

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  20. We've had to install a netting over our hens run in order to keep out the owls that like to eat their heads off. Really. There's nothing like your 12 and 10 year olds (who've gone down to the field before breakfast to gather eggs) finding a headless chicken carcass.

    We've also lost one or two over the years to raccoons. Such pests out here in the woods!

    I should post about this someday...

    Thanks for sharing. :)

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  21. is that an ancona in your last two photos?

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  22. We too clip ours, and it kept them in the fence all last year. Of course soon we will need to do it again since they've all had a molt and as the snow melts they will spend more time outdoors. We tried free range and chicken tracktors, but ended up loosing them to dogs and I think a fox once. Do you have predators that try to tunnel under the fence to the chickens? We have had that in the past and ran a hotwire around the bottom about a foot off the ground, and that solved the problem.

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  23. We always clip our chickens wings and that keeps them in their run. :)

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  24. Thanks for all the tips ladies! You've given me some more great ideas. I love having this on-line community to help us all revive skills that have been lost to many (although thankfully not by all).

    We do have hawks and owls, but there is a huge oak tree over the coop and yard that deters the hawks for some reason. As far as owls, we lock the hens in the coop at night and this has always protected them well from night predators. Over the years, all my hens that I've lost to predators has happened in broad daylight: bobcats, coyotes, dogs, and rattlesnakes. When I add the extra chicken wire across the back, I intend to bury it several inches in the ground.

    Thy Hand - my Ameracaunas are definitely the flyers as well. I had two, but one was lost yesterday and a Golden Sexlink the day before.

    Megan, The black hen in the photo is a French Cuckoo Maran.

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  25. So sorry to hear about the loss of your girls- It's so hard losing them :( After we lost Marge I found that it caused my rooster to "grow up" and mature very fast into a chivalrous, protective, gentlemanly rooster who is very good to his ladies and respectful of me. Before the incident he was kind of a bully.

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  26. We are urban homesteaders...so predators hasn't been an issue. I still lock the girls up at night...in case of oppossum or raccoons. But so far so good. We did just recently build them a large run...preventing them from free ranging all over our yard. Their new fence is about 5.5 feet high. So far they've stayed in...but if they figure out to fly over it, I'm clipping their wings too. Can't let them ruin all this hard work we're doing in the yard!

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  27. Two years ago we lost several hens to something. We would come home to find feathers everywhere. So, needless to say we clipped wings. We have two fruit trees in the chicken run to help with keeping the hawks from having a landing strip and the hens are locked in their coop every night. Thanks for a great post.

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  28. Amy~
    We have to clip wings, too! I have lost so many critters to coyotes ~ That is why the rifle is always at the ready! You would think after many years of 'culling' those varmints, they would dissappear, but each spring they show up as strong in number as ever! Lost my only Cuckoo Maran earlier this spring.:~{ Now they are hard to find and so popular their price has gone way up! Will have to 're-flock' with more common breads.
    Sorry you have been losing some of your girls. Hope clipping is the solution for you!
    Blessings!

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  29. At 10:00 this a.m. the neighbors dog must have had a run in with a coyote pack - you could hear the coyote pups going wild barking up a frenzy. Very near my coop. Fortunately I left the girls in the coop today because I was a bit concerned they'd be back. I'm hoping the dog has put them on notice!

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  30. Your story reminded me of our neighbors a couple years ago. They wanted some chickens and built a little coop with a run and came down and picked out some chickens from our flock. A couple weeks later they stopped by and said they love the chickens but they keep flying over the fence. So we told them to clip their wings so they can't fly up over the fence. A week later, they stopped by again and we asked if the clipped wings helped. They said after all that work of clipping the wings they were still flying over the fence. Hubby asked how short they clipped and they said about 2 inches...on each side! :) They went back home that night and caught them all again to just clip one wing!

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  31. I had to do this years ago, my chickens would fly out of their yard, a couple were drug off into the woods-possibly a coyote or something else, also my lab/shepherd who was a puppy at the time would not stop chasing them when they would get out. I clipped their wings just like you showed, and it worked wonders, no more escape artists. The next year, their wings grew back, but they were older, and bigger, and I guess lost interest in flying out.

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  32. Thanks for the lesson on clipping wings! We haven't had to do it yet, but I know we run a risk with the foxes and coyotes in this area. They just don't seem to be coming too close since we live on a ridge. It's hard to know what to do. If I clip them, I'd probably have to keep them inside the fence all the time. However, they just LOVE running all around (outside the fence, of course), and nibbling all the new green grass that is FINALLY coming up!

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  33. Hi Amy
    I love your hen hilton - looks wonderful!
    We are blessed here that we can completely free range the hens - except at night & then the 'chook nook' which they are locked into has a very large fully enclosed run so they can't fly out of there & nothing can get in -means if we go away for a couple of days they can stay in there & still get some good free ranging on the grasses in the run!
    Very interesting to see how you clipped the wings - any hints on killing young roosters - we have a few who are getting closer to execution day!
    Have a great day
    Renata:)

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  34. I've only slaughtered once and I did it with a friend who has experience - always a good thing! You might google some You Tube videos for some good demonstrations. Also, use a cone even if you have to make one. It's so much easier on you and the bird!

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  35. We clip our hens' wings as soon as they are testing out their flying abilities and repeat the process as necessary. Too often they leave the security of home and wind up dinner for a foe- clipping helps with this situation as well as keeping them from nesting in trees (unpleasant!). You did a great job on this post- well done!

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  36. When we were in CA, we had coyote problems with our chickens in broad daylight as well. The coyote will keep coming back around the same time every day as he thinks there is dinner there unless he is met with a huge obstacle. Dog....gun.....people present, will deter the coyotes. If the coyote can get in the pen, he will but escape is easier outside the pen.

    Now our chickens free range and sleep in the trees. We've not had a predator problem as the dogs keep them all at bay. The dogs are v.e.r.y. effective ; )

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  37. I hope this solves the problem for you! I've been told they can still jump over 4 ft. with their wings clipped. Maybe yours won't though, sounds like it's working :) I wish we could have done that with ours, but like some of your other commenters, our problem is hawks. We've had to enclose our girls completely. But they have a huge run still, so they don't mind! Good luck with everything!!

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  38. Boy, great blog. You really get a lot of comments. We are on our third set of chickens but I think we got it right this time. We have a maximum security facility now. They have a small 8 by 15 feet area to roam that is totaly enclosed. A few weeks ago, I saw a hawk dive bombing the chicken wire, and I had this big smile on my face, like I finally did it right. After all the eggs are layed, I will let the birds out to free range when I will be working in nearby for the day. I close the door to their coop after they have roosted. If we dont wait for everyone to lay first the you know you get a free easter egg hunt.

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  39. Geoffry, thanks for the encouragement AND the laugh - your maximum security facility! I can picture it now...

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  40. Ok, pride always comes before a fall, right? I commented earlier (#20) about the netting we've installed to keep the owls out of our hens' yard. Well, this morning my ten year old came running up from our field exclaiming the bad news that we'd lost a hen to a raccoon last night -- feathers everywhere. :( Our poultry version of Fort Knox was obviously compromised. My 12 year old son is currently playing detective to see if he can determine how the culprit got in. It is alway difficult to imagine the horror our "girls" must experience when their yard is invaded. Time to beef up security. So sad.

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  41. DVG - I'm So SORRY to hear that you lost a layer! I just ordered some Nite Guard lights to keep animals away from my bee hive I'm installing this weekend (Bees coming Tuesday) and I'm hoping that the night "eyes" this mimics will also help keep animals away from the chickens. I've not tried it, so I can't recommend it other than to say you might look into it.

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  42. We have to clip our birds' wings too. We haven't had to much trouble with predators lately - at least not since the dog catchers came and caught most of the neighborhood strays.

    As for overhead predators - we have hawks in the area but they pretty much only go after our smaller birds or the babies. We stated keeping the babies penned up until they get bigger and that took care of it.

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  43. Amy, Thanks for the idea about the Nite Guard lights. My husband's going to look into it as an option for us. He's out today working to secure our hens' yard. Thankfully, we didn't lose any birds last night (closed the door to their hen house which we normally don't do...).

    On another note, I just wanted to add here that I love your blog and find much inspiration here from both your posts and the comments others leave. Thanks!!

    ~Lisa :)

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  44. I have cockatiels (want to have chickens one day!) and also sometimes cut their feathers to keep them from flying. You have to be careful cutting from top - there's a second row of little feathers and if cut it's like cutting to the quick and they can bleed. If that happens have some flour ready (or stiptic pen) to stop the bleeding (apply as a clogging agent to cut feather tip).

    This site (below, link) has a great picture of where to stop cutting. It would help if you could turn your bird on its back (not sure if that works with chickens?) or upside down (someone helping you) and you could make a clean cut along the entire wing. If you do one side only they'll be off balance and may get hurt, because they can get some lift with one wing cut. But if you do both, they can't get much lift, and flutter back evenly to the ground.

    http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Practical/Pets/PetCare/Parrots/General/Basic%20Care/Clipping%20Cockatiel%20Wings,%20Nails%20and%20Beaks.htm

    Lisa
    @lisaakari
    lisaakari.wordpress.com

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  45. We clip our chickens' wings. You'd have to really go wild with cutting to hurt them; it's more like a haircut. We live in a suburb, so we don't really have too many predators around. Some of our birds will jump up onto the roof of their chicken coop, and then fly from there to the the fence, and jump over. Clipping wings helps with that. The trouble is, once they get out they can't get back in. So then they sometimes go exploring and it is a pain to try to retrieve them. A couple of our birds are escape artists, but they stay nearby (and let me catch them), so we don't really worry about them being out. Everybody gets clipped wings, though, and that is enough to keep the ones that are hard to catch in their area.

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  46. Hi,
    I am from India and I have three Aseel hens. I had one for year and recently got two more. The old ones' feathers are clipped. I did it because I was afraid it would fly away and get killed by street dogs or something.
    But after laying eggs and chicks a couple of time, she doesn't go anywhere.
    Is it possible for her to grow then new feathers so she can at least protect itself from cats and other things if she is in danger? how to make the clipped feathers grow back? I dont think she has molted in a year... Please someone guide me.

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