Clipping Feathers

There are many reasons why you may need to clip your chickens’ wings. 

Chickens escaping their run, flying up into feed containers, roosting in trees, and just plain wreaking havoc are a few.

Lately, at our place, my chickens have been wanting to sleep in the trees, instead of their deluxe coop! This was fine with me all summer, but now with cold temperatures depending on us, they need to start going back to the coop! Clipping their wings is the first step of my “coop reset plan!”


Clipping your chickens’ flight feathers is super easy and can be an instant solution to a number of chicken challenges. You can do it alone, but it helps to have a second pair of hands available.


First, you’ll need to catch your chicken. 

Easier said than done, huh? Try waiting until the late evening when it is roosting. After you’ve got a chicken, cradle the bird under your arm against your waist. Grab a wing, and gently pull it away from the chicken’s body, unfolding the feathers.


With a sharp pair of scissors, slowly cut in a diagonal line. You are aiming to clip just the ends off of the longest layer of feathers, the flight feathers. Cut about half the feather off. This is where you need to be careful.

Feathers are “alive” in the sense that they do have feeling and blood flow near the base. Unlike hair, which can be cut to the root, feathers should be cut well past the bloodline. You’ll see the bluish, thick shaft of the feather, but you’ll cut a few inches past it. 


When you cut the first feathers, the chicken may squirm a bit. Don’t worry, you aren’t hurting them, they just are getting used to the sensation. Cut with a gentle, firm hand, all the way down the wing.


After that, you’re done! The great news is you’ll only have to cut one wing! Doing this puts the chicken off balance when they try to fly. If both wings are cut, some smart hens can learn how to compensate for the shorter wings, and still manage to fly. Cutting only one wing has always worked for us! If you have some escape artists in your flock, before spending lots of money on coop revisions, try clipping their feathers instead!