How and When to Cut your Chicken Flight Feathers

For those of you with an open top run, the problem of maintaining flightless birds may suddenly rear it’s head when you find yourself confronted with an escaped chicken. Chickens do not fly very high, but with flight feathers they can get over a decent sized fence and leave themselves open to predators.

To remedy this you need to reduce tier flight capability by cutting their primary feathers on ONE wing.

Check your chicken’s wings, if it looks like the diagram below it’s time to cut the feathers.


flight feathers










  1. Before you start cutting, check the feathers to make sure they are not still growing. There will be blood in the feathers if this is the case. Do NOT cut growing feathers.
  2. DO NOT pull out the feathers – the chicken will naturally grow new ones. Cutting the feathers allow them to stay flightless for longer and not cause any harm to the chicken.
  3. Extend the chicken wing outwards to view the primary flight feathers (the first ten feathers from the end of the wing as shown to be cut in the diagram above).
  4. Cut around 50% of the feather length off with scissors or nail clippers on ONE wing only. Cutting both wings will defeat the purpose of this. The idea is to unbalance the bird to prevent flight.
  5. If you find this doesn’t solve the problem (your bird is particularly adept at flight) cut the feather back more so that the cut is closer to the feathers above.
  6. The feathers will be replaced after a malt which is typically once a year so you will need to redo this every so often.
  7. Cutting flight feathers prevents the chickens from not only escaping but also from getting into trouble with a predator.