Chickens do not have the ability to fly in the manner of wild birds, but certain breeds and individuals have a propensity to propel themselves over fences, walls, or even onto tree branches to perch.
While free range chicken keepers will be happy to let their flock roam within a specific area, ‘frivolous’ birds will at best present a nuisance and at worst put themselves in traffic danger, predators and angry neighbors.
A common solution to this problem is to cut up one of the chicken wings; a relatively simple and painless task that impedes the bird’s ability to “fly” due to the imbalance resulting from having one wing shorter than the other.
Although this is a safe, tried and tested technique, many new chicken farmers who can see the benefits of such a practice are reluctant to do the trimming themselves, believing they will do the wrong thing, thus causing the animal unnecessary pain and distress. .
However, this does not have to be the case, and by following the step-by-step guide below, any careful chicken owner will be able to clip their bird’s wings quickly, easily, and painlessly.
The first thing you need to do is catch your bird; something that can be the most challenging element of the process.
The easiest method is to entice the bird with a few mealworms or grapes and then gently hold it in the normal way; chicken in front of you, resting its chest on your forearm, feet between your fingers. You then have a free hand to hold the top of the bird and make the actual wing cutout.
Note: If this is your first time clipping the wings, it may be helpful to have another person hold the bird while you inspect and then clip the wings.
Let the bird settle and then slowly fan one of the hens wings.
You will need to trim the first ten large primary flight feathers from the wing (highlighted below) leaving the other smaller feathers intact to ensure the bird can remain properly insulated.
Next, it’s time for the actual cut.
It is important to cut the feathers to the proper length; too short and you could hurt the bird, too long and the process is pointless. To get it right, you need to inspect your bird’s feathers.
When a feather is growing it will have a blood supply and if you look under the wing of a chicken you will be able to identify this as a dark shading on the shaft of the feathers.
You don’t want to cut a feather in this dark area, as it is not only painful for the bird, but it leaves the area open to future infection.
Where the shaft of the feathers is white, it is safe to cut it off as the level of blood flowing to that area has decreased.
Once you’ve identified where it’s safe to cut each feather, get a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears and cut all ten primary feathers. If you can, try to cut just below the smaller feathers that overlap the primary feathers (see picture) and remove no more than 6cm.
To remember; You only need to trim one of the chicken wings, doing both won’t do any good.
In all likelihood, after all this, the hen will be a little nervous, so give her a few seconds to regain her composure before letting her go again to rejoin the flock.
Their agitation is likely to spread to the other birds, so if you plan to cut other hens, give the birds a few minutes to calm down before repeating the process.
You’ll need to repeat these steps each time the bird’s feathers grow back, but hopefully this guide has shown you that the process of clipping a chicken’s wings is relatively straightforward and one that you can easily tackle yourself.
There is no need to get discouraged by the task and remember; By clipping the wings first, you may be saving the chicken from potential future harm.