Chicken wing clipping – 10 steps for beginners

 

Owning chickens is awesome and there a lot of reasons everyone should keep chickens, but they are especially useful to homesteaders and people interested in some level of self-sufficiency.

For example:

 

Eggs

 

They supply you with a daily supply of tasty and nutritious eggs. If you look after and feed the chickens correctly, they will be far superior to anything you have bought from a supermarket.

And if the time comes; you can eat the chicken and again it will probably be the best tasting chicken you have ever had.

 

Pests

 

Chickens are actually omnivores which might surprise some people, who probably think they just eat corn pellets or something like that. Chickens are excellent for keeping slugs, bugs, and snails at bay.

This is especially useful if you are growing your own fruit and vegetables and don’t want to use things like industrial slug pellets.

 

Food waste

 

Surprisingly, chickens are a bit like pigs, they will eat pretty much anything. So, you can feed them your leftovers and scraps. Which cuts down on your household waste. Just check whatever you are giving them isn’t harmful.

 

Fertiliser

 

Chicken poop is a homesteader’s dream, it is high in nitrogen.

So, if you add it to your compost you have an entirely organic and self-sufficient natural fertiliser on hand, without even having to leave your property. Perfect for your fruit, veg, and flowers.

 

Can chickens fly

 

Well, this article is about clipping chicken wings, and the reason you do that is because you do not want them to escape by flying away.

So, chickens must be able to fly if I am writing this article.

Well, no chickens cannot fly.

But they do give it a damn good try.

They in fact do a jumpy fly thing, whilst they won’t be able to fly south for the winter. They will be able to escape from surprisingly high fences, or don’t be surprised to find them on a shed roof, or even on a tree branch.

This is generally quite amusing until you realise you need to get them down.

So, no they don’t fly properly, but you do need to clip their wings so they cannot get over fences or get themselves into trouble.

Really it is for their own safety, and you are actually doing them a nice service. It is not cruel in any way, you are giving them a nice and safe home, protecting them from predators, and giving them regular high-quality food.

For all those people who think it is cruel to keep animals like these in captivity, then release a few into the wild and see how they get on. Spoiler it won’t be very long, and it will not be pretty.

Chickens are pretty useless creatures in the wild, and we have bred them like that. So, it is our responsibility to continue to breed them, look after them, and treat them correctly when they are in our care.

Whatever anyone else thinks if chickens weren’t bred for eggs or meat, then they wouldn’t exist at all nowadays.

 

How to Clip Chicken Wings – a step by step guide for beginners

 

Follow this step-by-step guide to safely clip your chicken’s wings:

 

Step one

 

If you have ever seen the movie Rocky, you will know that catching a chicken isn’t always easy.

The bigger the pen you have your chickens in the harder it will be to catch them.

So, you need a strategy, having multiple people working together will help as you can corner the chicken with teamwork, which will make it easier to catch.

If you are catching the chicken on your own. Then the best advice I can give to make catching the chicken as easy as possible is to offer it a treat.

Make them come to you. Offer them mealworm, grapes, or anything you know they really like. Then you have one chance to catch them, as they will learn want you are up to.

 

Step Two

 

Once you have caught the chicken you need to hold it into place, in a way that allows you to clip them as well.

Have the chicken facing you, with their chest pressed up against your left forearm. Your fingertips should be under and between the chicken’s legs. Finally, your right hand is on top of the bird, holding it down.  

If you are new to this, then it might be best having someone else hold the bird while you are doing the clipping, but with a little practise you will be able to do it by yourself with ease.

 

Step three

 

As you have just caught the bird, it might be a little distressed and flighty. This is normal, let the bird calm down before beginning the clipping. Give them a stroke and make some relaxing cooing noises.

And remember to be calm yourself, the chicken will likely pick up on it if you are nervous and stressed.

 

Step four

 

Now you need to fan one wing out. They have short insulating feathers and longer flight feathers.

You must not cut any of the insulating feathers, this is how they stay warm and control their body temperature. You should only cut the large feathers that are used for flight.

Working from the outside of the wing to the inside, you will need to cut 10 of the flight feathers.

 

Step five

 

Now you need to identify at which point of the feather to cut. Your aim is to cut the feather short enough to stop flight but not hurt the bird.

Look on the underside of the wing.

You need to identify where the blood flow has stopped, if you cut into a section where the blood is still flowing you will cause a bit of pain to the chicken and they may become infected as it is effectively and open wound.

If there is dark shading on the shaft of the chicken’s feather, then there is blood flow present.

What you are looking for is when the shaft turns white. This means this section of the feather is not growing, it is “dead” and you can cut into that point without causing any pain to the chicken with no risk of infection.

Often this place is just below the level of the insulating feathers, but it is not always the case.

 

Step six

 

Once you have identified when it is safe to cut, then you make the cut. When you first do this, do one feather at a time.

To ensure you do not cut too high up, but after a few times when you have had a bit of practise you will be able to cut across them all in one cutting motion.

If you are cutting off more than 6cm then you have left it too long to trim the feathers.

 

Step seven

 

Now hold the chicken as you did at the beginning and do what you did before to calm the bird down. You will have not caused them pain, but they might be a little stressed. Once it is calm, you can let the chicken go.

 

Step eight

 

If you have more chicken wings to clip, then you will likely have to wait for the whole flock to settle down as they too will have become a little stressed when you have been clipping one of their flock.

 

Step nine

 

This is not a one and done task, the feathers will grow back. So, it is a process that you will have to repeat throughout their lives.

Remember if you are cutting off more than 6cm then you have waited too long. It is best to do this task too often, than not often enough.

 

Step ten

 

Now that you have done one wing, it is time for the other… well actually it isn’t. Clipping just one of their wings is enough to stop them flying. Clipping both wings is just for vanity really, there is no useful purpose to it.

All that it does is further the time you have the bird in a stressful position, and the longer you are stressing out the rest of the flock. However, if the bird is still trying to fly with one wing, then yes you should trim them both.

 

Injuries can happen

 

Even with the best laid plans, accidents can happen. At the end of the day, you have a live bird in your hands, with a sharp pair of scissors, secateurs, or nail clippers.

The bird does not understand what you are doing, so it may be wiggling about and trying to escape. So, you may accidently wound the chicken, so be careful.

The most likely injury is that you may cut the flight feather slightly too high meaning the feather will bleed, and the chicken is at risk of infection.

If anything like this happens, it is best to have some first aid with you in the pen, for you and yourself actually!

For the chicken I would recommend Vetericyn Plus Wound and Skin Care. Cheaper options are to use corn-starch or a bar of soap. Dip the bleeding tip into the corn-starch or rub on the soap.

Then pinch the tip of the feather as hard as you can. This will help congeal the blood, close the wound, and stop dirt and grime getting in.

Whatever method you use, make sure you stay calm as you don’t want to freak out the injured chicken or the rest of the flock. Cutting a feather too high will hurt the chicken a bit, but it isn’t a disaster and there is no need to panic.

 

What do you use to clip the chicken feathers

 

Any good quality and reliable pair of scissors or secateurs is all you need, there is not a specific tool you need to buy. Just make sure whatever you use is sharp.

Personally, I prefer using bypass secateurs, over scissors and other secateurs like Anvil and Ratchet secateurs. Bypass secateurs are the ones most like scissors, where the smaller blade crosses over a larger sharp blade.

I keep a secateur specifically for the task of cutting feathers, I do not use it for anything else so that it remains sharp. I also clean it after every use.

I currently use:

 

Darlac Expert Bypass DP1030A

 

This secateur really fits my hand nicely, and makes long, smooth, and consistent cuts. I have used it numerous times, and it still has sharp blades. It has a central safety catch which you can engage with your thumb.

This works well and does come in handy, because it is important not to injure the bird in any way shape or form. It comes with a nice lifetime guarantee too, which is a bonus.  

The only real downsides are that it can be a bit fiddle to maintain and adjust, plus it is probably not suitable for someone with a small hand size.

I have also used the two secateurs below in the past and can recommend them.

 

Felco 8 Bypass Secateurs

 

These were quite expansive in my opinion, but it cannot be denied that they are a well-made and a  robust secateur.

The handle is excellent and designed to be non-slip, it has a thumb safety catch that is easy to engage and is easily reachable. They will actually service your secateur for life too, which is awesome.

Again, this was a great fit for my hands, but someone with smaller hands may struggle because the handle opens quite wide. It is also a pain to adjust, but you can always send it off for a service and get them to do it ha-ha.

 

Spear & Jackson Razorsharp PRO Heavy Duty Bypass Secateur

 

These are designed for cutting through larger stems and are a bit overkill for chicken feathers. They will cut through chicken feathers like butter, but you might find them a bit unwieldly.

They are really well made though, and it is easy to buy replacement blades.

So, these would be good if you just wanted a pair of secateurs to do all your tasks including clipping chicken wings. Rather than having different pairs of secateurs for different tasks like I do.

 

Final thoughts

 

My best advice is to run through everything you will need to do in your head before you go into the pen.

Have a clear strategy, and make sure you follow it. Stay calm and relaxed, as this will help the bird stay calm and relaxed.  

Oh, and have everything you need in an accessible location. There is nothing worse than spending 10 minutes catching a chicken, to find you have left your scissors on the kitchen table.