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The Omlet Blog

Everything You Need to Know About Chicken Wings

chickens perching on omlets poletree chicken perch tree

No, not those chicken wings. If you’re looking for a recipe or a greasy takeout, you’re in the wrong place. We’re taking a look at everything you need to know about chicken wings, actual chickens’ wings, and answering some common questions.

Can chickens fly?

Yes, and no. Chicken should technically be able to fly, they have strong wings, large feathers and hollow bones that makes the body lighter. The ancestors of today’s chickens, the red jungle fowl, escaped land based predators by flying up into trees. Having said that, not even they were able to fly longer distances, as they didn’t have the endurance.

When chickens were domesticated, and later on selectively bred to produce more eggs and more meat, their muscles grew, and most backyard chickens today have too big a body for the wings to hold them. So while you might see lighter chicken breeds flapping their wings to get up onto their chicken perch tree, garden chairs and low hanging branches, they would struggle to get very far. 

Do chickens want to fly?

In general, if your chickens have enough enrichment and feel happy with their coop and run, they will have very little interest in flying. Make sure they have opportunities to carry out all their natural behaviours, like perching and pecking, and that they have ample space to move around.

Give your hens a safe environment, for example with a large Eglu Cube Chicken Coop and Walk In Chicken Run, and they won’t be looking for greener grass. If you’re having some trouble with adventurous chickens trying to escape, read our previous post Help, My Chicken Keeps Flying Away! for more tips.

How do chickens use their wings?

While chickens are more or less flightless birds, they still use their wings for other purposes . As we mentioned, the wings help chickens jump, sometimes impressively high, and they are also useful for balance when getting down from an elevated space. 

Chickens also use their wings for mating, to regulate body temperature, and to scare off predators. Mother hens also shelter their young under their wings to keep them warm, and to hide them from external threats. 

Should l clip my chickens’ wings?

This is a commonly discussed topic among chicken keepers. While clipping a chicken’s wings doesn’t cause them any pain (as long as you do it right), some people still think chickens should have the opportunity to fly, however limited. This is as it gives them a possibility to escape potential danger. 

Other chicken keepers argue that clipping the wings and stopping a particularly flighty hen from escaping the enclosure and running into the neighbours’ garden or out onto the road is actually the safer option.

Whether you want to clip your chickens’ wings is up to you, and depends a bit on your circumstances, but if you do decide to, you will need to make sure you do it right.

How do I clip my chickens’ wings?

All you need is a sharp pair of scissors, and ideally an extra set of hands to hold the chicken. 

  • Extend the wing fully
  • Identify where the primary flight feathers meet the covert feathering. This should be a pretty obvious line.
  • Only cut the primary feathers, and be very careful you don’t cut the body of the wing itself. This is normally about 10 feathers.

Never cut growing feathers with a dark quill, these are growing feathers that will bleed if cut. You only need to clip one wing, as this will make the hen unbalanced, and unable to lift very high. 

Watch this video to get a full understanding of how to properly clip your chickens’ wings!

Do the wings grow back?

Yes, when the hens moult they gradually lose their feathers, and grow new ones. These will grow to full length, even if you clipped the old feathers. Backyard hens (and roosters) moult once, or maybe twice, a year, so that is how often you will need to cut the feathers if you want to stop your birds from flapping over the fence. 

What are wing claws?

Wing claws are small curved claws that stick out from the last joint of the wing. This is a trait left over from when the birds needed to climb up trees and then glide down the stems, and were possibly also used in fights. 

As the birds have evolved to no longer need these claws, they have grown much smaller, and on many hens they are not visible. 

This entry was posted in Chickens


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