Today I’m going to inch out onto a shaky, slender branch that I am not comfortable with at all. I am going to share a video with you. A video of me and a chicken. To be more precise, of me and a rooster. To be even more specific, of me and an ornery rooster. It doesn’t get much more uncomfortable than that. Me on camera. An unscripted video. An ornery roo. All together. At once.
The things I do for you, my gentle readers.
I’ve been thinking about making a video for months. Months! I blame my own (blasted) shyness for keeping me from delving into the big world of making videos. Also. I’m not 17, like my beautiful daught Amalia. You know what I’m talking about, ladies.
However. You know that there are things that are easier to show than to write about, and one of those things is grounding an errant chicken or two, that is to say, keeping them from flying by clipping their wings.
I have much to say about the process, but I’m going to let my limb-balancing video do the showing, and then I’ll chime in with some extra particulars afterwards. And thank you, by the way, for your patience. This being a movie-star stuff is harder than it looks. 🙁
Here we go!
Thing 1: Not all chickens need their wings clipped.
Please don’t let’s freak out when you spot this post, and assume that all your chooks need to have their wings clipped, because Amy says so. Unless every one of your flock is misbehaving (which, now that I think about it, could be the case) there is no need to clip the flight feathers of all of them. I watch my flock every year and determine, case-by-case, hen-by-hen, roo-by-blessed-roo, which ones might need this “special” (cough) treatment. Not many do. Some years, everything in the chicken yard is going swimmingly and I clip no wings at all! I’ve clipped feathers for the following reasons:
- Safety of my hens: when a persistent predator was hanging around, and I wanted to know for sure that my chooks stayed in their yard when I wanted them to. (My chicken yard is very large, with lots of vegetation and growing things and brush, but it is not impregnable.)
- Behavioral modification: when–no matter what–a few young hens insist on flying into my garden (which has a 4′ fence surrounding it, posted firmly with “chickens not welcome!” signs). I don’t want my hard work of planting (not to mention tending) to be destroyed by a few ornery chooks. Much as I love ’em. (Which is to say, a lot.)
- Young rascal yard-training: Most young chickens are independent and selfish, and they want what they want. Think of them as being toddlers, in feathers. They want to choose where they will hang out, you might say (not unlike your average teenager, either, come to think of it), and who they will hang out with. Also being of a lighter body weight, they can easily fly out of our chicken yard, so if I want to choose where these younger hens are going to hang out (that is to say, in the chicken yard most of the time) I will clip their wings. By the time the wing feathers grow back out, they are usually heavier-bodied (not unlike your average middle-aged lady) and don’t attempt the fly-out. Plus, their blessedly-short memories keep them from trying the stunt.
Thing 2: Clip only the flight feathers on one wing.
Many sources say that you only need to clip one wing. For many chickens, this is true. This is what I usually do. But. But I’ve found a small number of chooks that can easily fly with one wing clipped. Call them mavericks, renegades, particularly independent, Olympic-class flyers, or just ornery and determined (kinda like my children). You have to make this judgment call, of course, about your own birds.
Thing 3: Don’t drop your chook after you clip his wings.
Your clipped-wing chicken will think that he can still fly, but he won’t be able to, or at least not very well. If you drop him, assuming that he’ll catch himself in flight as usual, he may hurt his feet or legs tumbling to the earth. WTTWGR*
Thing 4: Clipping flight feathers won’t hurt your chicken.
It’s like cutting your own hair or fingernails. The quill you cut through is white because it has no blood supply and no nerves. Cool, huh? So there’s no feeling in it. The only thing that will be hurt will be the chicken’s pride, but once you let him down he’ll forget the momentary troubles of the day.
Please note: When you are gathering together your sharp pair of scissors and your helper, also grab a clean rag, some cornstarch, and a pair of pliers. In the off-chance that you nick a blood feather, the chicken could bleed and there could be a lot of blood. It is in your chicken’s best interest if you stop the blood as quickly as possible. Staunch it by dipping the end of the feather in cornstarch, and then applying gentle pressure until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding doesn’t stop immediately, grab your pair of pliers and pull the feather out. The chicken could lose a lot of blood, otherwise. *WTTWGR!
Thing 5: Cut in the direction away from the body.
Obviously, as your Dad probably taught you (as did mine) never cut toward yourself! Cut away from yourself, and away from the chicken, too, just in case your hand slips . . . you don’t want that sharp pair of scissors suddenly impaled in your chicken’s side, or in your hand, for that matter. Or in any other body part, human or chook.
Thing 6: Stay away from the blood feathers.
Only trim the flight feathers, as many other feathers in the chicken’s wing have blood in the shafts. If you do accidentally nick one, there will be blood, gentle reader, lots of blood, which will be upsetting to your chicken and probably to yourself. So let’s just be careful and not do it, okay? Just in case the unforeseen happens, dip the end of the bleeding feather in cornstarch and apply gentle pressure (you may need a helper to accomplish this). It should stem the blood, fairly quickly. Your chicken will be fine. And I promise, I won’t tell anybody.
Thing 7: Once trimmed, those sharp edges can hurt!
I’ve actually been scratched and scraped by the cut edges of the flight feathers, so do use care when you handle a chook with freshly-trimmed feathers! (*Word to the wise gentle reader: WTTWGR)
Thing 8: The flight feathers will grow back.
But it will take several months, and–with any luck!--your chicken will by then forget that he once could sail over your head into your garden, and he’ll not try to fly again. *fingers crossed*
(Keep the sharp pair of scissors someplace handy, just in case.)
The End. We hope.
Thanks for stopping by, gentle reader, for this bit of chicken-keeping instruction. There’s lots more in my blog that can help your journey with chicken-keeping go smoother. Honest! Check out the links below, or click around the chicken posts. It’s fun. It’s free. You’ll learn something.
Enjoy those chickens!
- On Never Looking a Gift Pig in the Mouth: a pig tail, er, tale
- Caring for your Cast Iron Pan: a proverbial piece o’cake