Wing Clipping

“Dang, foiled again.” …is probably what my hens are muttering today.  Three of them were letting themselves in and out of the chicken run every day by flying over the gate.  I guess the grass really is greener on the other side.  🙂  I’m not opposed to the idea of free range chickens, but I am opposed to them getting snatched up by coyotes, foxes, or the passing stray dog.  I’m also not a fan of chicken poop on the driveway and deck unless there’s a heavy rain on its way to wash it all away.  So, keeping the chickens penned up is what we opt for most of the time.

To keep the girls from flying out, I have to clip some wing feathers each spring.  That is the only time I clip them because that generally lasts until fall when they molt.  Molting is when they lose a lot of their feathers, which regrow during the fall or winter months.  (Have you ever done a Google Image search for the word molt?  Ew.)  Wing clipping is easy to do, does not hurt the chicken, and should only be done on one wing.  I learned the hard way that if you clip both wings, they can still fly.  If you only clip one, they fly lopsided and can’t get high enough to fly out.

The hardest part of the whole procedure, for me anyway, is catching the hens.  Our hens came from all different places, most of which did not practice handling the hens much, so they don’t like to be picked up.  But once I catch a hen, I hold her snuggly against me — enough to keep her still but not strong enough to be a sleeper hold.  If your hen puts up a real fight, a full nelson may be in order.  (Just kidding, PETA…)  Anyway, spread out the wing and notice the rows of feathers.  The row of longer ones that stick out the farthest are the ones you’ll clip.  You can either take an inch off or cut at the same level as the next row of feathers (see photos below).  Don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt the chicken any more than a haircut hurts you.  Just think of yourself as a hen stylist and run with it.

Wing picWing cut

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