If you're anything like me, you'll worry about whether clipping your chickens' wings is a good idea or not.
Does it hurt them? Is it fair? And how do you do it?
I'm here to guide you through the process and reassure you that it's likely to hurt you more than it hurts your chickens!
Before we start: is clipping wings really necessary?
In the wild, chickens will use their wings for flying away from predators and getting into trees to roost.
Flying is critical to survival.
In domestic situations, though, it's a different story. Leaving a the wings intact can mean your girls escaping, angering neighbours, your own flower garden being ruined.
But more importantly, it can mean that they fly into risky situations.
I was always determined not to clip my flock's wings.
I don't like taking body parts away from any living thing, and I love watching the tiny wing feathers grow on the smallest of chicks in the brooder.
And I used to believe that leaving their wings intact would help them fly out of the way of any predators.
What I didn't realise was that not clipping their wings would actually cause them to fly into more harm.
Lulu is one of my Red Star chickens, and she's lucky to be alive. She "flew" over my run's six foot high fence – straight into the mouth of a neighbour's dog.
Of course, the dog shouldn't have been on my land. But it was – and I'd rather have chickens with clipped wings than no chickens.
So my decision has always been that if one of my chickens starts to fly over the fence, clipping that chicken's wings is a necessity.
But chicks develop wing feathers at a very early age and will test out their ability to fly from just three or four days old.
This is one of my Sablepoot chicks at 7 days old. See how well-developed her wing feathers are already? She was using them to fly out of the brooder from this age!
So not every chicken will fly, but many will give it a go.
Which means there is no single answer for every flock. You need to know your chickens, watch whether they are putting themselves in danger by "flying", and assess what is best for them.
Most information advises to clip only one wing. This makes the bird unbalanced and she (or he) won't be able to fly.
But chickens tend to learn to adapt. My Red Stars used their one remaining wing and developed a weird hopping / flapping motion which was enough to get them over a six foot fence from a standing start.
I removed anything that might have been helping them to get over, including a compost heap, a log pile, a fence and gate, and the lower branches of a tree, and they still got over. These are determined chickens!
All my escapees had to have both wings clipped. None has escaped since I did that, and they're none the worse for it.
The fact is that if you clip one wing and they're still flying into danger, you'll need to clip the other wing as well.
No, as long as you do it properly.
It's like cutting your finger or toe nails. The quill you cut through is white, because it has no blood supply and no nerves. There's no feeling in it, just like your nails.
The chicken will not feel a thing.
Once the wing is clipped it doesn't even look any different, since it's folded under the remaining wing feathers. So your chickens won't be in the least bit embarrassed.
When I made my video several years ago, I used kitchen scissors to clip my chickens' wings.
Since then, I've graduated to buying a pair of good quality nail clippers which I keep specifically for the purpose.
It stops family members complaining about kitchen scissors being used for chickens. It also means I'm not scrabbling around trying to find some sharp kitchen scissors when I need them quickly.
These are also particularly sharp and, because they're made for very thick human nails, they cut through wing quills like butter. I also use them if I need to clip my flock's toenails.
Take a deep breath. The calmer you are, the calmer your chicken will be.
You're aiming to cut only the long primary flight feathers on the wing. It's easy to find them: they're longer than any of the other feathers and there are usually ten of them.
Holding your chicken firmly (but kindly!), spread her wing out. Some people suggest using the left wing but it doesn't make any difference.
Just before the ten long feathers you'll see one shorter one. It's at that point you need to start clipping outwards towards the end of the wing – not back towards the body.
You'll see a row of shorter feathers a few inches above the flight feathers. That's the length you need to clip the flight feathers back to. Clip to just below those feathers, don't cut into them.
And that's all there is to it!
Only if you cut 'blood feathers' – feathers which have a blood supply. They're easy to see: they're shorter than the primary flight feathers and the shaft, or quill, is dark rather than white.
If you follow my instructions above, that just won't happen.
If by some chance you do clip the wrong feathers you'll hit a blood supply and the chicken will bleed.
Should that happen it's not difficult to manage. Don't panic because if you do, so will your chicken. Her blood pressure will go up and she'll bleed even more.
Get some cornflour (cornstarch in the US) dip the wing in it and apply a little pressure to the tip. The flour acts as a coagulant and the bleeding will stop.
If you don't have corn starch, a bar of soap will work. Rub the tip of the wing in it, pinch it and again, the soap will act as a coagulant.
There's also an excellent product on the market called "Vetericyn Plus Poultry Care". It's not cheap, but it's amazing for almost miracle healing of any kind of wound in a chicken.
Keep some in stock.
If you decide that clipping your flock's wings isn't right for you, that's fine. Everyone's situation is different and people have differing and sometimes very strong views about it.
The important thing is that you consider all the information and then make whichever decision is the right one for you and for your circumstances.
If you want to know more about why it can be dangerous not to do it, have a look at my article about how well some chickens can fly.
Click on the button to learn more.
A lot of "facts" you'll find on the internet are often people's individual views, based on inaccurate information repeated from poor quality sources.
Whether or not to clip chickens' wings is a subject about which people have very strong views, both for and against.
The information I provide in this article and others is based on both my own experience and on evidenced facts from scientific, peer-reviewed research and books from highly respected and experienced poultry keepers such as Gail Damerow.
Some of those sources I have used in this article are these. I have included both properly researched and peer reviewed information, and views from organisations such as PETA, in order to provide a balanced perspective from which you can make an informed decision.
Damerow, Gail: A Guide to Clipping Chicken Wings. Pub. Backyard Poultry – Feed and Health, 2022.
Garant, Renee, et al: Effects of clipping of flight feathers on resource use in Gallus gallus domesticus. Pub. Royal Society of Open Sciences, 2022.
PETA: Feather Clipping: Unnecessary and Unkind. Pub. PETA (undated). (Please note: this article discusses birds' wings in general, not chickens specifically).