How to Clip Wings on Chickens and Ducks

How to Clip Wings on Chickens and Ducks


You never know when you would want to clip the wings of some of the birds on your homestead.  Some may be too aggressive whereas others keep flying off.  No matter the reason, clipping wings is not that difficult, and you can learn to do it yourself with just a little bit of practice.  Below is a quick summary of the process involved.  Hopefully it will help you to overcome your inhibitions, so that you develop and use this skill if you ever have to take matters in your own hands.

Wing Clipping vs Nail Clipping

A lot of people wonder whether wing clipping hurts the bird.  The reality is that they won’t feel anything as long as you do it properly.  The same could be said of clipping the nails of your cat or dog.  If you do it right, then they generally don’t fuss too much.  On the other hand, one small mistake can send them yelping in pain.  The same happens with birds, so learning where to clip is very important.

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Sharp scissors or cutting shears




Rag or gauze pads

Getting Started


The first step is to catch the chicken.  Then, have someone help you to hold the bird steady while you position it in place.  Next, turn the chicken on its back and try to keep it calm.  Working with a bird that’s more relaxed is a lot easier, and the chances of making a mistake are minimized.   The next step is to gently but firmly extend one of the wings. 


You want the wing to unfold so that all of its feathers are exposed.  Were aiming to clip the primary feathers.  These are the ones that are sticking out from around the rear of the wingtip.  You don’t want to clip the front or rear feathers.  The good news is that each of these sections are pretty distinctive, so identifying them shouldn’t be a problem.   


Once you’ve located the primary feathers, take your shears or scissors and cut a line across as many of them as possible.  Make the cut about 2/3 the way up from where the feathers taper into the point where they anchor into the wing.  The secondary feathers, which are along the inside of the back of the wing, are right next to the primaries.  They are also shorter, and you can use that as a guide to get you started as well.  The aim is to remove as much of the primary feathers without damaging the thicker sections of vein near the base. 


For cutting duck feathers, you will aim for the primaries in the same general area as well.  However, it’s important to lift the layer above the primaries in order to cut them back deep enough.  You don’t want to accidentally cut this layer, called the primary coverts, otherwise you can permanently damage the wings. 

If you accidentally cut too low and the chicken begins to bleed, then you will need to apply pressure to the area with your rag.  You can then sprinkle some of the cornstarch over the affected area in order to help promote clotting.  Cover the wound and get the bird to a vet as quickly as possible in order to minimize the development of an infection. 

Finally, there is considerable debate as to the pros and cons of cutting one or both wings.  Some people maintain that cutting one wing is just enough to throw the bird off balance.  However, others believe that it’s easier on the bird to have both wings snipped.  No matter what you decide, this simple process can help you to manage your flocks more effectively and prevent them from wandering too far off.

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