Clipping Chicken Wings
Is it really necessary and does it make a difference?
Cutting the tips of the wings of Garden Hens to (apparently) stop them flying over a fence is a subject which comes up on the Down the Lane Forum quite often and there is a split view on the subject every time, so this is my opinion of the matter.
Chickens don't fly in the proper sense of the word, it is more of a frantic jump with their wings flapping at almighty noisy speed. You will soon see their capabilities first thing in the morning when you go out to feed them. If they're at the other side of their run, they will scamper toward you very quickly kind of taking off in a long jump fashion.
Most will probably only reach about four feet upwards without assistance of a 'stepping stone' or something to assist clinging onto the fence such as plantation etc.
In almost all cases they won't actually clear a fence no matter what height it is, they will jump onto the fence top, then jump down.
With this in mind it is a good idea not to put anything near the fence which they can jump onto, then up and over the fence.
The most important things to bear in mind about escaping chickens are
1. If a chicken is able to fly or jump a fence to get out, a Fox is absolutely certainly going to be able to get in by the opposite direction.
2. If you should let your chickens roam around the garden and you're not there to keep an eye on them (not recommended), should a Fox get in, the chicken without their wings clipped has at least a slightly better chance of jumping up into a tree for protection.
Remember, Foxes don't just visit at night! ( Foxes and Chickens )
3. If a chicken does jump the fence to get out, it's a rare event it seems to get back in. Should you find one outside the Run, try going into the run to feed the others - I doubt if the escapee will jump back in.
What you will often find is that it's just the one and same chicken which finds it's way out.
I have a very large run and once in a while I find a chicken out in the garden in the morning. I've walked the perimeter, looked for holes, looked for jumping possibilities and only found out how it's doing it by getting up at sunrise and watching!
Personally, in my early chicken keeping days, I used to clip their wings, but after asking myself if I wanted to interfere with a 'natural state' and noticing the same chicken still got over the fence thus clipping seemed to make very little or no difference at all, I decided it better to go down the 'prevention is better than cure' route of a higher fence.
I have rather ugly corrugated sheets as a fencing and along the top I've put some chicken wire, the total height is now about 5'6" high and I've only had one or two escapees, all of which have been because I've left something such as a wheelbarrow in the run thus making the jump height more achievable.
I'm lucky I have space for a large run. What I will say is that should you be building an extension to an existing set up, cover the run on the top, then any height won't make a difference.
There's an expression I use for Predators,
'Think Fox - over, under and through'.
If you apply this to the chickens themselves, they are the three ways of escape.
It's a daily exercise to walk round and inspect, but after going around the houses a bit in this article, do I think that clipping wings does the trick, in my case it hasn't made much difference!
Should you clip wings, you only clip one wing. If you cut both, it does not serve any purpose at all.