How to Clip Chicken’s Wings

Read the title again. Not how to cook chicken wings, how to clip chicken’s wings.

We have a leghorn hen, Gracie, who has been clucky, and therefore demoted to the bottom of the pecking order by the rest of the big chooks.

She is just starting to break out of her broodiness, and has attempted several times to integrate back into the flock. Her integration is causing lots of fights, because Bunty and her groupies won’t have a bar of it.

So to escape the pecking and fights, Gracie has discovered that her flight feathers have grown back, and that she can escape by flying over the 7 foot fence. Late yesterday afternoon she must have escaped for the second time that day, and led me on a merry chase around the yard. Up on top of the Bantams cage, then a quick flap to the top of Cluckingham Palace, which is right on the fence line to our nice neighbours.

It was too close for comfort, so I grabbed a long stick and coaxed her down and managed to corner her and popped her back into the chook house. The others were roosting so there were no fighting issues.

There is only one real solution and that is for the girls to duke it out and re-establish the pecking order. To do that Gracie needs to stop escaping. So we decided to show Megan how to clip her wings, so that she stays put for a while (until the next moult at least).

All you need is a steady pair of hands, some sharp scissors and a willing participant. Well two out of three anyway!

Whilst Megan took the photos, I held out one of Gracie’s wings, whilst Kim cut off about 5 cm (2 inches) of her flight feathers. You only need to cut the tips of one wing to throw her off balance.  There are no nerves or blood vessels in these feathers, so the chicken does not experience pain.  Think of it as a chook haircut.

It was all over in less than a minute. Consider it another valuable skill learned, and the disaster of a lost chicken avoided.

Gracie will integrate back into the flock in the next few days. Some times you have to be cruel to be kind.

Have you ever had to clip your chook’s wings?


  1. says

    Good timing again for me to read this article Gav…we had another dog attack on our chooks last week and unfortunately lost some of our girls. Of the remaining ones, one of them escaped the dog by flying over the fence and appears to have a taste for it. Our neighbour had to bring her back around for us the other day because she had flown over her fence.

    Soooo….tomorrow is wing cutting day. We are not looking forward to it because its our first time. Wish us luck!

  2. says

    Yes, we’ve clipped wing feathers on many a bird over the years – hubby and I can each do it on our own, the girls usually need someone to hold the bird still. I too have ended up clipping both sides on a couple of birds – as Michael suggests, it doesn’t really seem to solve the problem, but I do it anyway (insane, I know). Once the birds are about a year old, and getting heavier, they seem to settle down.

  3. says

    A chickens wings? No. However, Mandy, our eldest duck had escaped several times and had taken to making us chase her around by flying from one side to the other and perching along the top. She got stuck out one night/early morning and was desperate to get back in and she would also parade along the adjoining fence and we were worried she would go a-visiting. I know our neighbour would love it (he loves animals) but his greyhounds might also love her in another way (nom nom) so we made the decision to chop her wings. We did both and she has faceplanded a few times but no more flights. Her younger cohorts are just growing in their wings now so I anticipate more snipping soon. And you’re right, it’s not hard, just having a bird pinner-downer person is necessary.

  4. Anonymous says

    I have a mix of Cochin and isa and isa cross chooks. The cochins are too heavy bodied to fly any where. Sneaky the isa flys up on top of my head when being pursued by a rooster. A couple of isas (now deceased) flew over the 1.9m fence surrounding their run (hence their demise)
    I did attempt to clip wings but was too scared to cut in. Your diagram is the clearest one I have seen so I might try it on sneaky

  5. says

    I clip my new chooks wings as soon as I get them home in exactly the way you’ve shown and only one wing. That way they never get into the habit of flying in their new surroundings.

    It doesn’t seem to bother them too much although I must admit that I have a good laugh when they first attempt to fly and land on their heads. They can’t figure out just what’s going on at first.


    • says

      Hi Mick,

      It does take them a while to figure it out. Kim rang this morning and told me that this chook has superpowers, and has escaped again. Better clip the other wing so she can’t get any lift.


    • says

      It may not work if she’s got a bit of muscle. Cutting the feathers on the other side may just balance it up and make it easier.

      But, as they say, you’ll never, never know…


  6. says

    We really need to do this to a couple of our young girls who have gotten a little adventurous lately. Not much harm can come to them if they escape from the yard they are in, but they like to scratch everything to bits, and make a big mess in the process :)

    Thanks for sharing the diagram of how the clipping is done…looks pretty straight forward.

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