We get questions about the ability of chickens’ to fly from time to time.
So we’re going to address this question today.
To put it simply, the answer is yes!
But, as usual, there’s more to the story, so read on.
The red or grey Jungle Fowl (and dinosaurs!) are magnificent ancestors of our backyard fowl. In the Far East, these birds may still be seen in the wild in nations like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.
Jungle fowl not only perch on trees but also roost in them in the wild. They can fly quite well to get away from predators. They scrape, forage, and lay eggs on the ground, but if disturbed, they will immediately take to the air.
Let’s start with the most prevalent chicken breeds and examine whether ones are capable of flying…
Which Chickens Have the Ability to Fly?
A chicken’s capacity to fly is generally dictated by its breed type.
Hens of heavy breeds, such as Orpingtons and Wyandottes, can ‘fly’ for a short distance approximately a foot off the ground.
Their wings are unable to provide the lift required for the hens’ body size.
If you’ve ever stepped back from your birds and provided goodies, you’ll notice that the heavier breeds cover the ground like a hovercraft, eager to see what you’ve got for them! They sway from side to side, their wings fluttering frantically in an attempt to discover what intriguing tidbits you have!
The ‘Mediterranean’ breeds (Ancona, Leghorns, etc.) are notorious for being flighty.
Araucanas, like other birds, like the challenge of flying and often sleep in the trees at night.
Several people who have Red Rangers in their flocks have reported that they are dedicated escape artists.
Spitzhaubens are originally from Switzerland and they also like flying.
If you have bantam chickens, you already know how well they can fly, reaching great heights! They can fly up into a tree and sleep there for as long as they need to if they are frightened by a predator; in fact, certain bantam breeds can execute a nearly vertical takeoff!
If you really want to keep your bantams contained, a high enclosed run with lots of perches and boxes will keep them extremely happy and secure.
Silkies and Polish breeds are two breeds that seldom appear to consider flying. Neither breed is recognised for its ability to fly; it’s almost as if flapping the wings and becoming airborne is beneath them.
Silkies are unable to fly because of the fact that their feathers prevent them from doing so. The feathers of a Silkie are comparable to the down of a young chick. In fact, unlike standard-feathered hens, their feathers do not cling together. This is what stops them from trapping air underneath their wings and flying.
Why Do Chickens Fly?
Curiosity and determination.
These two factors are the reasons for non-predator-initiated chicken flight.
The grass is usually greener on the other side of the fence — nearly always in the neighbour’s yard! Hens are inquisitive animals that like learning new things, particularly if they are connected to food or pleasure.
If you have neighbours that maintain a well-kept lawn, several gorgeous flower beds, planters, and maybe a vegetable garden, it is almost certain your hens will attempt to visit that yard!
After all, who can say no to all that delicious food and mulch to wallow in?
A pair of out of control chickens can destroy a flower bed in no time, plucking the flowers, scratching up the mulch, pecking at the tomatoes, and having a fantastic dust bath!
The other factor is determination. Your bigger birds, such as Australorps and Barred Rocks, should be able to fly over a four-foot fence between you and your neighbour.
If you have lighter breeds, they should have no trouble going over the top.
An inquisitive hen will fly straight over an eight-foot fence with minimum effort if she is determined enough.
A protected, safe run will make things a bit easier for you.
Of course, their safety is a compelling argument to retain them in your yard. Who knows what will happen after they are out of your sight.
A chicken that flew a long distance because she was scared or pursued may get confused and unable to find her way back home.
Unfortunately, chickens that go missing seldom find their way back to their owners or flockmates.
Try trimming your chickens’ wings if they are prone to flying over the fence and landing in your neighbour’s yard, where they tear up the prize flowers and crap all over the place. The birds will stay at home, and neighbourly relations will remain civil.
Chickens can also fly when they are excited. If you have a close connection with your hens, they may get delighted when they see you first thing in the morning. A joyful chicken that wants treats or to spend time with you will most likely start running toward you, and their sprint will most likely morph into a flapping, awkward flying.
When you open the feed bin at suppertime, a swarm of chickens will run-fly towards you, eager to receive the first bite of grain as it falls to the ground.
How to Trim Chicken’s Feathers
Trimming your chicken’s flight feathers is one approach to attempt to reduce its capacity to fly.
It’s important to note that we said “try” since some tenacious chickens have demonstrated to their owners that they can still fly despite wing cutting!
The objective is to cut one wing’s feathers so that the bird can’t receive an equal amount of lift from both wings, resulting in an unbalanced take-off and flying. Only in the case of repeated ‘offenders’ should both wings be trimmed.
Trimming is a matter of taste. Some people don’t believe it, while others live by it.
The typical trimming only affects the main flying feathers and seems to be effective in deterring most birds.
You may cut the secondary feathers if the hen is more keen to fly and overcomes the initial trimming.
Trimming wings isn’t a long-term answer. When the bird moults each year, the new feathers that come in must be clipped as previously.
When trimming the adult feathers, keep in mind that you’re cutting through hollow quills. You will cause pain and bleeding if you clip developing pin feathers after the moult; it is critical to let the feathers grow out until the blood supply stops, leaving empty quills.
Wing trimming will disqualify your display birds from competing. However, there is a second method for preventing hens from flying, which is known as ‘brailing.’
Brailing is the process of wrapping or tying a soft string around a wing so that it cannot be opened for flight.
The most critical aspects of brailing include making sure the binding isn’t too tight and restricting blood flow, as well as removing the brail from one wing and putting it to the other around once a week.
If done incorrectly, putting a restricting device on the wing might result in damage or impairment.
It is seldom done with chickens, as far as we know, with most people preferring to cut the wings to prevent escape.
Brailing may be the solution if you have show birds that prefer to fly. Of course, if you trim or brail a bird, it’s obvious that you’ll need to keep it safe from predators since it won’t be able to flee.
Interesting Facts About Chickens Flying
- A chicken’s greatest flying time has been recorded at 13 seconds.
- The longest distance ever recorded was 301.5 feet.
- Chickens can run at speeds of up to 9 miles per hour (humans 12-15mph)
- Chicks’ flying feathers develop in between 5 and 10 weeks, as you undoubtedly know.
We all grin as we watch fledgling chicks practise flying with their tiny wings – some flights end in near-disaster, but it’s all part of their life-long learning process.
To roost, most hens can fly short distances. Most roosts are reachable by a well planned hop, but if the roost is too high, considerable flying may be required. Chickens like roosting, and their limited ability to fly makes it easier for them to get to where they need to be for nighttime.
There you have it, yes, hens can fly!
It’s merely a question of how high or far each bird can fly. Fortunately, increasing height to evade capture or predators, or to fly over barriers, is typically their primary goal.
So now you know that chickens may be naughty and selectively deaf when it comes to ‘flying the coop’!
Some will persist no matter how hard you attempt to keep them in check; it’s the wild jungle fowl genes at work.
The only genuinely effective technique to keep them confined is a covered run area or a fence so high that it is hard to go over, Although there will be that one hen…
You are unlikely to have any difficulties with your hens going over to the neighbours if you keep only heavier breeds in a well-secured area.
If you have ‘flighty’ breeds, I’m sure you’ve previously seen them attempting to flee.