Can Chickens Fly?

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 04 June 2020

can chickens fly?

Question: Can chickens fly?

Answer: Yes! Chickens can fly, albeit not well. The average chicken can manage flights of 10 feet high or 3 meters for a distance of 50 feet or 15 meters. Different breeds have different aptitudes for flying. Although some heavier breeds won’t make it over your average fence, a lighter breed might.

 So, let me break it down and explain further! Chickens are, does that mean they can fly like most bird breeds?

Thankfully, most domesticated breeds of chicken (i.e. the ones most popularly kept as urban backyard chickens) are not capable of flying high, or far. They might give it a good flap, but they certainly won’t soar in the sky like your average magpie or kookaburra!

Some chicken breeds are described as ‘flighty’, which generally means they can muster up enough strength to flap over a fence - an annoyance for both you and your neighbours.


Wing clipping

Many people, as a precaution, clip their own chickens wings which impedes their flying ability, and makes it extremely difficult for them to get airborne. Clipping a chickens wings is not in any way painful, and you can do it yourself.

Here’s a quick guide to clipping your chickens wings - for a more comprehensive guide, check out our 5 Top Tips On How To Clip Chickens Wings article.

“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!

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.”


Do all chicken breeds fly well?

Different chicken breeds have different aptitudes for flying - most heavily weighted, domesticated chickens struggle to get over the fence - these include Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Australorps.

Other light weighted breeds such as Araucanas, English Games and Leghorns may be able to make it over a small fence, so if you have some of these chickens in your backyard flock, you should take some precautions. Increasing the height of the fences or clipping your chickens wings should keep your flock happily roaming around the backyard without any unexpected escapees!

Another alternative to keep flighty chickens safe and sound in your backyard is to house them in a chicken coop with a run attached. The run area means your chickens can get access to fresh grass, but are safe and sound inside the run enclosure - so they definitely won’t be able to jump into the neighbours yard!

Do your chickens fly-the-coop? Do you have one particular breed that likes to take flight more than others? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Was it Olivia the Orpington, Anastasia the Araucana, or Henrietta the Hamburg, let us know! 

Sources and further reading