5 Top Tips On How To Clip Chickens' Wings

by Kassandra Smith July 15, 2014

diagram showing the correct way of clipping a chicken's wings

Got a flighty chook? Are you worried that your sweet feathered friends will take flight and flee in search of greener pastures? No worries. A simple fix and your chook will be grounded.

Many backyard chicken keepers clip their chooks’ wings in order to prevent them from flying away, and to keep harmony within the group. We’ve all seen that one particular chook take flight and go, go, go, happily squawking all the way sounding more like a migrating goose than our beloved chook.

Though it may sound a bit daunting to think about actually doing the clipping, let me “take you under my wing” and offer these terrific tips that will ease you and your chook through the process.

  • Don’t worry that you're hurting your precious flock - the chicken will not feel any pain! It’s just like cutting our own nails.
  • Ask for assistance! It is egg-stremely helpful and safer to have someone hold the chicken while you trim or vice versa as your feathered friend is apt to be wiggly.
  • 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. Chickens typically have ten of them and they are often a different color. See the image below - a great guide as to where to clip!
  • 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.
  • Realize that clipping your chickens’ wings is only a temporary solution. When the next moulting season rolls around, your feathered friend will grow a whole new set of flight feathers! Don’t worry though, because by next year you are sure to be a pro.

With these tips in mind, using a regular but sharp pair of scissors, it’s time to clip! Having already identified the correct feathers to trim, you want to trim each of the ten feathers approximately 2  1/2 cm below where the covert feathers (the shorter feathers at the base of the wing) end. And again, clipping a chicken’s wing causes them no pain.

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