Instructables

Clipping Chicken Wings

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Chickens can't fly as well as other birds, but they can flap their wings enough to carry them over fences and out of the coop. If you've got backyard free range chickens, clipping their wings is a must so that you chickens don't escape and get lost, or worse, in trouble with an angry dog or some other predator in the area.

Clipping chicken wings is a bit daunting if you've never done it before, but once you've clipped a wing or two, you'll discover that it really isn't as difficult or dangerous as you may have thought.

Materials:
  • Clean pair of sharp scissors
  • Towel (optional)
  • Pliers (optional safety measure)
  • Corn Starch (optional safety measure)
  • Gauze or rag (optional safety measure)
 
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Step 1: Catch a chicken

The hardest part about clipping chicken wings is catching the chicken. Some chickens are docile and like being touched, others fear humans and run away like their lives depended on it (which I guess they do sometimes).

A few things that seem to help is to corner them in a small space so they have less of an area to get away from you. You can also use a towel and throw it over the chicken. That should slow them down enough long enough to grab them.

Once you grab the chicken, you should gently apply pressure to their wings and pick them up, or you can go for the pro maneuver and snatch them up by their ankles. Watch out for their claws and beaks.

The more regularly you handle your chickens, the easier it will be to catch and hold them. So for some chickens, this may be a non issue, but for first timers, it's a little challenging.

Step 2: Invert and calm the chicken

Picture of Invert and calm the chicken
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Once we caught the chicken we spent a minute calming it down. Pet it softly, make cooing noises, and, what seemed to work best - invert it. When the chicken is upside down, it goes into a trance and they become much more docile.
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streetrod54 months ago

If you just cut their heads off, they'll never fly again, and you won't have to be bothered by chickens.

Goodhart5 years ago
If you cut above this point (closer to the chickens body/wing) the chicken will begin to bleed through the cut feather and your chicken will be in danger. If that occurs, apply pressure to the tip of the feather with a rag, and get your chicken to a veterinarian. Corn flour or starch applied to the cut feather cuticle can slow the bleeding and help the chicken clot. Additionally, grabbing the base of the feather with a pair of pliers and removing it completely from the chicken wing can also help the chicken clot. This process will hurt your chicken, but in a pinch, it may save its life.

Our Budgies began to bleed one day after my wife cut their nails a wee bit short, and she told us to try a tiny dab of Super glue (this is what the emergency vet would use to stop it, so she said).
finton Goodhart11 months ago
But make sure the glue is dry before you put them back on the perch ... :]
Goodhart finton11 months ago
Yep, no sense in gluing the poor things to the perch :D
corsair9774 years ago
You guys are making a big deal out of nothing.  Clipping a chicken's wings is not that big of a deal.  First of all all you have to do is clip one wing.  That makes a chicken trying to fly non aerodynamic.  you don't have to "pet or invert" the chicken, you simply hold it down and clip the feathers being careful not to get close to the "wick" of the wing. You have to do this about once every two months.
finton corsair97711 months ago
Only need to clip the wings after every moult, once the old clipped feathers have fallen out and the new ones are fully grown. Now my 8 chooks believe that flying above 1 metre is futile, I don't even bother clipping their wings any more.
There is a reason why this website is called "instructables".

Clipping feathers may not be a big deal if you've done it before but for someone who has never handled a squawking, flapping chicken whilst trying to simultaneously wield a pair of scissors and not damage the bird the process could be seen as daunting.

If for one have never attempted to clip feathers but should I have need to do so in the future this instructable has provided a good reference point, my thanks to NoahW for providing it.
Pwag5 years ago
What's the filing cabinet for? There's away to do this when they are chicks, that keeps the primaries from growing in, it involves removing the tips of their wings entirely. I've never had the guts to do it, as I don't to risk losing a chicken. An easier way (but less amusing to the neighbors) of capturing them, is to do this at dawn (gross) or at dusk (easier) when they are tucked in for the night. Chickens have crazy poor night vision and their usually rather docile. If you hit them with a flashlight (not really hit them, but shine it in their eyes) it's easy to just reach out and pick em up.
Just want to point out that some people consider pinioning to be cruel - along the lines of mulesing sheep or docking dogs' tails, it's something that's done for the convenience of humans. I don't have enough experience with chickens to be convinced either way so I'll reserve judgement.
I agree xenobiologista. "Pinioning" by removing the wingtip is a cruel as any other form of docking: can anyone honestly tell me that docking farm animals is regularly done with anaesthetic? I didn't think so. Dogs are more likely to be tail-docked with anaesthesia. As Pwag says at 3:24 PM, once young chickens have learnt that they "can't" fly with a trimmed wing, they tend not to - similar to why an adult elephant can be held by only a foot-chain and a peg, but can actually drag a huge log: it's all in the mind.
Pwag Pwag5 years ago
Oh heck, I also read that if you trim just one wing, they'll learn not to fly since when they do with one wing trimmed, they wind up doing a barrel roll and crashing. I haven't had luck with this, but it's worth a try and might be funny after a beer or two.
How long do I have to wait till I clip my hens wings again?
Until shortly after the next moult, when the clipped feathers have dropped out and the new ones are grown.
Hi,
I am from India and I have three Aseel hens. I had one for year and recently got two more. The old ones' feathers are clipped. I did it because I was afraid it would fly away and get killed by street dogs or something.
But after laying eggs and chicks a couple of time, she doesn't go anywhere.
Is it possible for her to grow then new feathers so she can at least protect itself from cats and other things if she is in danger? how to make the clipped feathers grow back? I dont think she has molted in a year... Please someone guide me.
ruchirguitar,
You can't make the clipped feathers grow back. Although it is strange that she hasn't moulted in a year (if you are correct), all chickens moult at least once a year. Mine did recently and a couple looked like they'd been semi-plucked! Others in my flock hardly changed appearance. By now your hen may have moulted already and the clipped feathers will have fallen out. If not, be patient and it will happen.
Awesome tattoos.
Bobey1 year ago
Chickens are my favorite animal so I can't bare to see this instructable
syoung262 years ago
Thanks - really clear instructions - like the others, we are off to try it now

Thanks for your help
redgilnc2 years ago
Thank you! A appreciate this post. Very well done with the pictures and explanation.
Beautiful bird - she looks like our Aracona cross, Stripe.
A large salmon net is a good way to catch escaped fowl without excessive chasing. You still need to herd/chase them into a corner but the net works much better than the hands for the inital catch. Then carefully fold their wings up and lift them out by their feet.

I used to keep pet chickens at our old place and looked up one day to see the door of the run open, all 6 birds out, and my 5-yr old chasing them around the fenced main yard in an attempt to recapture them. We got them rounded up before the hawks and neighbor cats came over.

Re: Bloodfeathers - when my cockatiels would break a blood feather by crashing into something, pulling the remains of the feather out with forceps stopped the bleeding more surely than styptic powder. This was done on the advice of an avian vet and hurt about as much as pulling out a hair from one's head.
canida5 years ago
Can you see how far down the feathers the blood vessels extend, or is it a bit of guesswork?
You should be able to see it. I could always tell when one of my birds was growing in a new feather - the quill will look a lot darker or redder than the surrounding feather quills.
I can never see it, personally. Not saying it's impossible though. But you'd have to be cutting ridiculously close to clip a vein.
Sky Graham2 years ago
Hey there, level 800 Master Chicken Catcher, can catch two roosters at the same time - Out here in the sticks, aint got nuthin but chicken coops rain barrels and solar panels. Common sense is a valuable thing, it helps you evaluate whether or not or how you should do something, if you are planning on clipping wings, please allow your brain to supercede anything that you may read here or there, do not be one of the countless people that have cut an animals nails too short or clipped a wing to close to the quill. I see people asking questions like how soon can I cut the wing or how far down should I cut it, this scares me. There is no simple answer, cutting a yung chicks wings is dangerous, and the amount of wing that you clip will be based on the size of the bird, not some arbitrary width that u can set on your protracter, you must use common sense. Also, it is only 1 wing you clip not two; Unless you have coddled your chicken since a baby, the holding it and putting its head under its wing is fear and unconciousness. Chickens have small heads, when u tip them upside down, the blood rushes to their head and causes unconciousness - normally you do this when you are cutting their head off. Holding a bird nicely can be done under your arm, allowing the bird to place its feet on your hand and roost, this puts the bird at ease. And as for the chicken wire escapes, if a bird goes nutso on a piece of chicken wire fence, the fence loses to the chicken, look closely for broken links - they are hard to notice, an undamaged fence will not stop a racoon from reaching in and eating the guts from the other side - A rooster will work as an alarm and will sacrifice himself first.
MoxXieMox5 years ago
Honestly this is something that should be left at the hands of a veterinarian. Mainly due to if the person does this wrong it can truly injure the animal. This is definitely something much easier said than done. Much previous experience is needed with handling live animals and definitely birds. Because birds are very fragile and can be frightened to the point that they go into shock. Thank you for sharing however this should definitely be used with caution.
noahw (author)  MoxXieMox5 years ago
I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I've got to disagree with you there. I'm not a chicken owner, but my friend is, as are many people these days. Clipping chicken wings is a perfectly safe when done properly. Pet owners need to learn how to do all kinds of interesting and delicate procedures on their animals to keep them safe, healthy and happy. I'm not against veterinarians either, I just think that they have a time and place. Many animal owners, farm workers, and people who around more than just cats and dogs in a domestic setting become jacks of all trades when it comes to helping their animals.
jonsnent noahw2 years ago
Hey, thats me. Jackette of all trades please.
perhaps it might be best when doing it for the first time, being overseen by a vet, or chicken expert might be best, no? it seems like workshop/classes in animal care in home farming might start to become very popular. i know when i was beekeeping, taking a class to be overseen by an instructor was an enormous help.
Great instructions, very clear and unambiguous!
For anyone unsure of their abilities, never fear, this is easy! I'd rather clip a feather any day, than give myself a haircut with a mirror.

Clipping a feather at the halfway mark is no more dangerous than trimming your beard halfway. No classes needed, no supervision required.

We come to sites like this one because we are self-sufficient or we are trying to exercise our God given mental powers of observation and deduction. We are not helpless, incompetent, or otherwise lacking in ability to learn. If one can use a computer, post a comment, and pay the bill for the Internet Service... one can certainly use scissors to clip a few feathers. I hope everyone who needs encouragement to "do it yourself" can find the courage to do so after reading this comment.
PS Clip the feathers NOT the wing
Thanks for saying feathers not wings. Get someone on here that don't really understand and wa-la you got a mess on your hands. You can cut parrakets feathers also so they don't fly.
chickens are very calm once you pick them up they aren't going to be traumatized if they struggle just put there head under a wing and they fall right asleep
Honestly, MoxXieMox you must have never kept chickens, chickens are far from fragile.

This Instructable is spot on. And in my view as an owner of chickens ducks etc, is a more humane thing than have them escape and get gored to death by next doors dogs or cats.

Only ever clip one wing, do not be tempted to clip both or the bird will still be able to fly to a certain extent.  I once had a Mallard duck that decided to follow its wild cousins because I had clipped both its  winds.  I found out later from the guy i got the Mallard from that i should only have clipped one wing.
 I would always resort to a veterinarian, but something as simple as this...  The feathers don't supply blood or life-sustaining energy to the body of the birds.  I think this instructable is safe to follow.
we are a long way from the backend of nowhere, vet needed but only us here. thank god i found this site. our hens got out last night, just captured them and clipped all three. sometimes you have to think for yourself & use common sense, - at this rate, noone would dare change a lightbulb.
Hey, this is not an issue to be left to a vet. This is a simple procedure and will not put the chicken into shock. Besides the price for the vet to come and clip is way over the price to replace your neighbors garden bed
Honestly, this is something that chicken owners should learn how to do. I don't know what kind of birds you handle, but chickens can handle this type of thing with no problem.
hello, i have done this to my chickens, it's not fun when a chicken fly away, we just cut the feathers, not the whole wing, there are no nerves in the feather, it's just like cutting hairs.
It's funny how many folks think they always need to find some other person to do things for them. Kudos to you for learning and sharing how to do things. Clipping feathers is like clipping hair. No pain no muss. Clip only one so they are off balance and they'll not be flying off to get themselves in trouble with cars or neighbor's animals. This is about safety for the chicken. If I can keep them in the controlled environment of my yard, I can keep the other stuff out.

One thing you might try, is clipping after they've gone to roost for the night. They are just ready to sleep and don't care what you do! No catching. :)

Happy chicken keeping!
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