How to Clip Chicken Wings

When setting up your chicken operation there a few things to consider. If you are going to have an open chicken run, with free-range birds clipping chicken wings is necessary to, make them completely flightless. This keeps them from flying over fences!

Clipping chicken wings is an important part of raising chickens. Chickens naturally molt their wings, however, they do not always fall out, so you must clip their flight wings. You do this by catching them, calming them, exposing the flight wings and clipping/cutting them back. Then you release them back into the chicken run.

Chickens do not have complete flight capabilities, but if their wings are not clipped back, they can fly high enough to get over fences and escape from the yard.

Some people have free-range chickens, which means they have an uncovered chicken run and coop where they have access to run around. If your chicken run or coop is not covered, you will need to clip their wings.

Covered chicken runs and coops keep the chickens from escaping and helps to secure them from above from predators. A lot of people have free-range chickens and do not cover their runs or coops.

This is why clipping chicken wings is so important. It does not seem to hurt the birds at all, it’s more like getting a haircut for them! They do have to be caught and calmed down before clipping though.


Clipping Chicken Wings Tools

The process for clipping chicken wings is pretty straight forward. You will need a few basic tools and a little bit of patience.

List of tools needed:

  • Clean pair of scissors
  • Corn starch
  • Towel
  • Gauze

You may use a pair of sharp scissors or large nail clippers, both work fine. We suggest using a large sharp pair of scissors but others have said that nail clippers clip the hard wing line much easier.

The next three things are optional and are for an emergency only. You must clip the wings in the right area without going too far down where the blood veins go into the feathers.

The towel, gauze, and cornstarch are to slow the bleeding if this happens and help promote a blood clot to form.

If done right, there will be no bleeding and nothing to worry about. If you do by chance cut them too far down and cause bleeding you will need to take the bird to a veterinarian.


Clipping Chicken Wings How-To

We’ve put together an easy to follow 5-step how-to guide for clipping chicken wings. There are many different ways to clip their wings. Some people prefer to use nail clippers, which work great for clipping the hard line of the feathers.

However, we suggest using a large pair of sharp scissors as it cuts a more even line all the way across, it can be harder to get a good cut through the hard-line but with some practice, it will get much easier.

You can clip both wings, but we suggest clipping just one side. The reason we do this is that it makes the wings uneven, making it more difficult for them to fly since they are not the same length. If you clip both sides they may eventually figure out how to fly with some practice.

5 Steps for Cutting Chicken Wings

If you follow these five easy directions you should have done a successful chicken wing clipping job. Don’t stress over it, it gets easier with practice.

  1. Catch the bird
  2. Calm the bird using multiple methods
  3. Expose the flight wings
  4. Clip the flight wings back
  5. Release the bird back into the chicken run

Step 1

First, you must catch the bird. If you have never done this before it can be a task, however, once you catch a few birds it becomes easier to do.

Step 2

After you catch the bird you will need to calm them down. There are several methods for doing this. You can start making cooing noises or pet them. One method is to hold them upside down, this puts them in a bit of a trance and makes them much easier to work with.

Step 3

Once the bird has calmed, you will want it to remain upside down, now you can pull the wing back and identify the flight feathers. We suggest cutting the right-side wing.

Sometimes you will need to cut multiple birds wings, and once they grow back longer you must cut them again. Cutting the same sides helps keep continuity, making it easier to remember which wings to cut.

Flight feathers are usually a different color. They are easy to spot since they are longer than the other feathers, there are usually 10 or more flight feathers, closest to the tip of the wing. They are most likely a darker color.

Step 4

Now that you have the wing pulled back and know which feathers to cut, you will want to cut 1/3 of the wings length. Cut them in a straight line. The best guide is to cut them down to where the secondary flight wings reach.

You will know it safe to cut if their hard-line of the inside wing is white, this means there is no blood. If it is black then it has blood going to it. The trick is not to cut too close to the bird’s body where the blood is still going to the hard-line.

Step 5

Once you have cut them, hold the bird for a few moments longer letting them calm down again, as the bird will be a little bit distraught. Once the hen is calm release her back into the run!


What To Do If You Cut Too Much

This is where the optional items in the tools list come in. If you accidentally cut into the hardline of the wing where the blood flows, and cause the bird’s feathers to bleed you may try to stop the bleeding.

You will want to use the towel to wipe away any blood. Once you see where the blood is coming from you can use the corn starch, by dabbing it on with the wet towel. This can help the blood clot.

At this point, you can add gauze to further help stop the bleeding. However, if they do bleed you will need to take them to a veterinarian. It is hard to get the blood to clot on chicken feathers. These are just a few methods to help stop the flow of blood, the veterinarian will take it from there.

If you follow our steps and only cut where the hard-line of the feathers are white and not dark/black you should have no bleeding.

Is Clipping Chicken Wings Cruel?

There are many parts to raising livestock and chickens in general that may seem cruel to some. This is not the case with clipping chicken wings, however. When it comes down to it, in some cases, it must be done.

Animals are beautiful creatures, and so is the process of raising them. When it comes to raising livestock and feeding your family, the entire process is the very essence of how nature works.

Clipping chicken wings does not hurt the bird. It helps them from escaping the yard and chicken run, where they would be more vulnerable to predators that will kill and eat them outside of the fence.

Keeping chickens safe from predators is a very important part of raising them. They have very little defense mechanisms outside of the yard, so you must secure them in every way possible.

They do not have full flight, so even if you did not clip their wings, in the wild they cannot fly high enough to escape from most predators.

Last Minute Tips

  • You can hold the bird right side up but we suggest holding her upside down, this helps to calm them and makes finding the primary flight feathers easier.
  • After clipping the wings the bird may be uneasy, this can cause the other birds to be uneasy as well, give her time to calm down before letting her go back with the flock.

Related Questions

Do you have to clip the wings? You do not have to clip them, but if your coop or chicken run is not covered they may be able to fly just high enough to get over the fence. If you have ever had to chase down a chicken that has its wings unclipped you will know that it’s not easy!

How old should they be before you clip their wings? Chickens do not get their adult plumage/flight wings until they reach the ages of 5 weeks old. You should wait until their primary wings are fully developed before you consider clipping them. You will notice they have them when they start learning how to fly.

Chad Kilpatrick

Chad Kilpatrick is a writer that is passionate about farming and livestock. He has experience in raising goats as well as cows, pigs, and chickens.

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