Clipping Wings

By Leah
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Whoever said chickens can’t fly didn’t know chickens! True, they cannot lift off and soar through the sky like other birds, but they can fly short distances – over fences, into trees, into the garden. And the only way to stop them is to clip their wings.

Every flock has a few renegades, and mine is no exception. I have a small mixed flock of nine hens and a rooster. All have names and distinct personalities. And all are a joy to have around, even the rebels. Albert, as most of you know, is my Marans Rooster. He’s short, stout, and one of the best roosters I’ve ever owned. He loves his girls and sees to it that they are well fed and protected.

My two oldest girls are Chicken and Buffy. Chicken was one of a set of 4-H chicks and belonged to my granddaughter Kaydence. They let them free range, and all fell prey to hawks and coyotes except for Chicken. She was a real pet and followed Kaydence everywhere, which is what saved her life. For a while, she remained at their house nesting in the barn and spending time with the dogs. Then one day she wandered down to my house and got a look at my rooster, and it was love at first sight. She flew over the fence and has been here ever since.

Buffy is also a survivor. A few years back I got eight Buff Orpington chicks to raise up for layers. When they were old enough, I moved them into the chicken tractor and put them down near the end of the yard. Enter the ‘weasels of the wild wood.’ I didn’t even know we had weasels until my chicks started disappearing through a hole dug under the side of the tractor. Beau managed to kill one, but by that time the chicks were all gone. Then, two days later, I looked out the window and saw a young Buff Orpington wandering about near the now empty tractor. She was easy to catch, and I discovered all of the feathers were gone around her neck, which was raw, but not badly damaged. I brought her inside, nursed her back to health, and named her Buffy.

Since then I have added assorted chicks of all kinds. Fluff is an Americana; Gertrude is a Silver Wyandotte; Rhoda and Mary are Rhode Island Reds; Penny is a Barnevelder; Wild Thing is a Phoenix; and Turk? No one knows exactly what Turk is. Her body is a pretty orange, but she has this long neck with dark feathers that seem to wrap around it making it look even longer. Kaydence once said to me “Mimi, that one looks like a turkey,” so we named her Turk.

Wild Thing started the problem, hence her name. Our back yard is flush up against the woods. One day Wild Thing got bored with the yard and flew over the fence to explore the woods. Soon after, Turk followed. Coyotes and foxes are a constant concern around here – I’ve seen both lurking in our woods, as well as the bobcat I have observed crossing the road at the end of our property.

And then began the damage to the garden. We noticed holes dug in beds which I attributed to DC, until the onion beds were attacked. Then I knew it had to be chickens. DC always gives onions a wide berth. So we began a campaign to stop the wanderers.

We decided to start clipping wings. The only trouble was, when we got into the chicken house, we discovered several chickens missing, including Albert. So I began scouting around after dark to try to find their hiding places. I discovered, to quote a ditty from Sesame Street, There Are Chickens In The Trees.

I am still a fairly good shot with a rock, but some of the culprits were so high up in the branches it took our shepherd staffs to knock them out. When they came gliding down, we found them to be Turk, Wild Thing, Buffy, and Albert. We later located Penny under the back steps in a nest.

Once everyone was secured in the hen house, I went for the light and scissors. We have found that if you want to work with chickens, it is best done at night. The dark seems to calm them into a kind of stupor. If we are introducing new chickens to the flock, we always do it after dark by simply putting the new ones on the roost beside the current residents and the next morning everyone is accepted.

So Greg caught the miscreants and I did the honors with the scissors. Then we left them in the run for two full days. For a while at least, everyone will be in the yard and roosting in the hen house. Until the feathers grow out…