Why Are Chickens Terrible at Flying?

Posted by Erin McDade
Can chickens fly? We explore why these birds remain grounded.
YouTube: ChickenRunMovie

What do you call a bird that's afraid to fly? A chicken.

Domesticated chickens are known for their inability to fly. But why? And are there any modern chickens that aren't entirely flightless? How can you protect your chickens from escaping their coop or get away from other predators?

Why Can't Chickens Fly?

In the movie Chicken Run, Mac tells Ginger, "I hate to be the voice of doom, but I've been calculatin' my figures, and...I don't think we're built for flyin'."

And... he's correct! Over the course of domestication, humans used selective breeding to create domestic chickens that have a heavier body mass and white meat (breast and wing). This makes their wing muscles too large for their wing size and making it very difficult for them to take off or fly for more than short distances.

Do Some Chicken Breeds Fly Better Than Others?

While chickens are essentially flightless, many free-range or backyard chicken keepers have been surprised to watch their chickens take off into a burst flight over a fence or up onto a high shelf to roost. Certain breeds fly better than others; for example, bantam breeds are known for their flying ability, as are other lighter breeds such as Araucanas. However, heavy breeds like Wyandottes do not have the correct balance between flight muscles and wing size to fly.

How To Prevent Aerial Escapes From Your Chicken Coop

If you maintain a flock of frequent fliers and want to keep them out of your neighbor's yard, there are a couple of things you can do. First, determine how high your chickens fly, and build a fence for your coop that is high enough to prevent them from flying out. Building a high area for roosting can also help if your chickens want to be higher from the ground.

The second option is wing clipping to prevent flight. Some chicken keepers swear by trimming their chicken's wings, while others don't believe it works. First, clip their flight feathers on one wing only. Wing clipping prevents the chicken from being able to achieve equal balance when attempting to take off. If your chicken can still fly after this, clip the wing feathers of the other wing as well.

Share your flying chicken stories on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

READ MORE: 9 Reasons Your Chicken Should Not Wear a Sweater

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Why Are Chickens Terrible at Flying?