A week or two ago, when putting our chickens into their new run, I watched in dismay as they quickly figured out how to 'flap the fence'. All it took was one...the new one "Smiley" to propel herself up and over and very quickly the others were following her example. NO! This had not been part of my master plan. I turned online for answers and was so relieved to find bountiful information out there in relation to wing clipping.
No. 1 It does not hurt them if done correctly and is not cruel. In fact, you are doing them a service if you have fences which they can flap over. By clipping their wings you are preventing them from entering dangerous territory where they might be exposed to foxes, wild dogs or traffic..or maybe even a chook poacher!
No. 2 Only one wing need be clipped free of flight feathers, and theoretically, after a few unsuccessful, unbalanced attempts to fly, the chook will (should!), soon give up and forget about her little airborne escapades.
No. 3 It is easy to do by yourself at home (although better if you have a helper standing by). No vet visits necessary (well, fingers crossed).
No. 4 A pair of sturdy scissors are all that are required, unless you want to be extra careful and have cornflour and a set of pliers on hand too...see below.
I clipped our five new girls wings' about a fortnight ago, not bothering with the 'geriatrics', and while I had thought about taking a photo at the time, in reality this just wasn't going to happen. I didn't have a helper on stand by you see, and my hands were full with feathers, scissors and a big case of nerves.
To start with, I herded them into a small pen, within our chook pen. It was easier to grab them this way (by the leg, cornering them slowly or throwing a towel over them). One at a time, they were taken out to where I had a little camping chair set up. I placed the chook in my lap on a towel (which came in handy for covering some nervous heads...worked well!). The wing (either one..I clipped their right side), was stretched out and the flight feathers at the front of the wing exposed. Then it was a case of cutting about 2/3 of the length off, just enough to throw the chook off-balance when trying to fly.
Chicken feathers, if cut too deeply can bleed and be difficult to clot, resulting in a dangerous, maybe life threatening situation for your chook. A sprinkle of cornflour can help clot the cut feather, or if things are really looking bad, the whole feather base can be pulled out with the pliers (!) Of course a vet visit would likely be warranted in this situation.
Thankfully all went well, and 4 out of the 5 girls are now grounded, with "Smiley" being the exception. Don't ask me how, but she has somehow managed to figure out how to fly 'one-winged'. At least she only flies the coop when it's getting close to dinner time and they are all about to be herded back into their night-pen anyway....But Still!!
I found this link SO helpful when finding out how to go about wing clipping.
A friend also loaned me her book, "Backyard Poultry Naturally" by Alanna Moore (you may recognise her from her Earth Garden column), which is a fantastic read for anyone keeping or thinking of keeping a flock of hens/ducks.
It is full of down to earth advice and I'm planning on composing a list of beneficial/medicinal plants to include in their run for them to feed and self-medicate on.