Some chickens are master escapists and can escape through fences into your garden or other places they shouldn’t be, making life harder on themselves and you. Clipping their wings may prevent this and keep them where they belong.
Wing clipping for chickens should be fairly painless and straightforward. To effectively clip their wings, just be mindful to identify and clip only their primary flight feathers (ten in total) while taking care not to clip any new pin feathers (those newly grown with blood in their shaft) or come too close to any covert feathers.
How to Clip
Clipping your chicken’s wings doesn’t need to be stressful or frightening if done properly and according to instructions.
First, catch and hold your chicken with one arm to prevent her from flapping her wings to escape. If necessary, have another person help to make the process much smoother; someone could hold onto her while you clip. This makes the process quicker and simpler for both of you.
Hold the wing with one hand and gently, like you were cutting your fingernails, spread out its first ten primary flight feathers using the other. These longest outermost feathers make up your wings capability of flight; therefore they should be slightly longer than any overlapping covert feathers.
Only clip wings before they have fully developed – usually six weeks old – as this could impede flight and cause stress, which in turn reduces egg production.
Be wary not to clip pin feathers which are newly emerging feathers attached to blood vessels that should not be clipped; these feathers have darker shafts (quill) than primary flight feathers as well as having an unpleasant scent.
It is best to only trim one wing as doing both would unbalance the bird making flying more difficult for her.
Before beginning clipping, it is essential that you first locate and spread out one of your chicken’s wings. Only trim the primary flight feathers located at the front of each wing (there should be 10 long feathers that differ in color from their surroundings), making flying easier for them.
Care must also be taken not to cut into covert feathers that overlap these primaries; doing so would disrupt balance and hinder flying ability.
Inspection of wings should also include inspecting for newly growing feathers which have not fully developed yet, known as pin feathers and supported by blood vessels extending into them for nourishment of development.
Care must be taken not to clip these pin feathers as cutting them could result in heavy blood loss and cause significant bleeding.
Once you’ve inspected her wings, the next step should be securing her so as to prevent her from wriggling free and running off with scissors in hand. For optimal results, this process should enlist help from another individual; while one holds on firmly but gently while trimming feathers.
For optimal results, begin with long primary flight feathers before proceeding onto covert feathers.
Many people worry that when clipping their chicken’s wings they will cause pain to them. However, in reality they do not experience any sensation when being cut if you use sharp kitchen scissors and follow these guidelines; your birds won’t even experience discomfort!
Make sure that only primary flight feathers are cut, which can be identified by being longer than other feathers on the wing and being nearer the tip. Be wary when trimming pin feathers.
These newly emerging or recently shed ones contain blood vessels which nourish their development, and cutting these can cause bleeding – these feathers can be identified by spreading your wings apart and searching for soft pinkish shafts with soft tips that have yet to come into full maturity.
If an accidental cut causes blood to begin flowing from your chicken’s pin feather and it starts bleed, apply some styptic powder or corn starch directly on it to help the blood clot and prevent further injury to their bird. Be cautious and try working together with another person if possible for best results.
As long as the chicken’s wings aren’t cut too deeply into, there should be no discomfort or bleeding during this quick and painless procedure – similar to clipping nails or trimming hair.
Before beginning to clip your chicken’s wings, it is best to first secure them and catch them. Holding their legs firmly while wrapping them in an old towel should help to keep them still.
Once calmed, gently pull one wing out to inspect. Be sure that only primary flight feathers, which are the longest and thickest ones on their wings are being clipped – do not clip emerging or recently-molted feathers as these have blood vessels that feed development; doing so may result in bleeding.
To ensure you only trim primary flight feathers, spread out their wings and look for the line where covert feathers end and long flight feathers begin.
When you have located this wing, use kitchen scissors to trim long flight feathers – being careful not to cut too close to the tip! If an accidental cut does occur too close, cornflour (cornstarch in US) dipped onto its tip may help stop bleeding immediately – or apply pressure and dip it again later for extra safety.
In conclusion, knowing how to clip the wings of a chicken is a valuable skill for any poultry keeper, offering benefits for both the birds and their caretakers. This simple procedure, when done correctly and with care, helps prevent issues related to flight, escapes, and potential injuries.
As responsible stewards of our feathered friends, understanding the proper techniques and taking the time to perform wing clipping thoughtfully contributes to a harmonious coexistence between humans and chickens.
Remember, a stress-free and humane approach ensures the well-being of your flock, fostering a happy and healthy environment on your poultry farm or homestead. So, embrace the knowledge, practice the skill, and enjoy a secure and thriving relationship with your chickens.