It’s a common question among chicken owners: can my chickens fly over the fence? Chickens are actually quite good at flying, and they use their wings to help them maneuver around obstacles and catch insects. However, they don’t typically fly very high or for very long distances. This is because their wings are relatively short and their bodies are not built for sustained flight
The answer is that it largely depends on the fence height. Some chicken breeds are better flyers than others, and even individual chickens can have different flying abilities. In general, though, most chickens can clear a fence that is about 3 feet tall. This means that if you have a standard 6-foot privacy fence, it is highly unlikely your chickens can fly over it.
Read on to learn more about chicken flying abilities, including how to keep them from escaping your yard.
Can chickens fly over a fence?
According to myth, chickens cannot fly because they are too heavy. The truth, however, is that chickens are actually quite good at flying – they just don’t do it very often.
Chickens have a pair of flight feathers on each wing, and they are capable of flapping their wings fast enough to generate lift. However, they generally only use this ability to escape danger or to roost in trees at night. When it comes to everyday life, chickens much prefer to walk.
In fact, they usually only take to the air when they are terrified or when there is no other option. So, if you’re wondering whether your chicken can clear a fence, the answer is probably yes – but it depends on the height and if they are trying to escape something.
Can chickens fly over a 3-foot fence?
Most chickens can clear a fence that is about 3 feet tall.
Can chickens fly over a 4-foot fence?
Most chickens can fly over a 4-foot fence except for very heavy breeds such as Orpingtons and Brahmas.
Can chickens fly over a 5-foot fence?
Only the very lightest of chicken breeds such as Bantams and Anconas will be able to clear a 5-foot fence.
Can chickens fly over a 6-foot fence?
While not impossible it is very unlikely any chicken can clear a 6-foot fence.
Can Chickens Fly?
The ostrich, emu, and kiwi are flightless birds, but chickens are not that much better – the longest recorded flight of a chicken is only thirteen seconds. However, as with all birds, flying is a protective action, and as they have wings, chickens will use them to the best of their ability to escape a dangerous situation.
How Far And How High Can A Chicken Fly?
There is no recorded evidence to confirm how high a chicken can fly, but the longest distance on record is 301.5 feet. That’s a world record, but the average backyard chicken will not fly more than a few feet at a time, so there’s little danger of losing them.
As far as height goes, there is a lot of opinion on the subject, but the answer depends on the breed of chicken. Most chickens can fly over a 3- or 4-foot fence but are too heavy to fly more than five or six feet into the air. The domestic hen we are most concerned about here has been bred to produce more eggs and develop more muscle, making them a juicy meal but reducing their ability to fly.
Which Breeds Are The Best Flyers
The smaller breeds, like bantams, can fly longer and higher. They can quickly achieve heights of ten to fifteen feet, while some slimmer Mediterranean species such as Catalanas and Anconas, which have been bred for their beauty rather than their meat, can fly up more than thirty feet to perch on barn roofs. Other breeds known as good flyers include Leghorns, Jaerhon, Lakenvelder, and Ameraucana.
Some Chickens Are Not Designed For Flight
Some breeds are simply unable to fly, such as the Silkie, whose feathers are not suitable for flight, as well as Polish, Australorps, Brahma, and Orpington, which are just too heavy to get off the ground.
Reasons Chickens Fly Over A Fence
Hens can start to fly small distances once their flying feathers become more developed, that’s why we’d always advise you to plan out where you want your coop and run and if possible try and integrate a roofed run for your hens, this will not only keep them from flying but also protect them from potential predators such as foxes.
Chickens will attempt to fly over the fence if there is sufficient motivation for them to do so. They are naturally curious, so they will explore if the grass looks greener on the other side. There are other reasons, too:
If predators like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, or even the family dog get into their run, chickens are naturally wired to take flight to escape the danger as quickly as possible rather than fight. If you want a more detailed guide on this subject check out one of our other articles on; how to protect my hens from foxes.
Bullying of an individual chicken or even a sub-group by others in the group will lead to an escape over the fence by the victims.
Not Enough Space
If the space is small enough to create a pecking order problem over food, water, and nesting space, there will be motivation for some of the birds to move out, and they will take off over the fence if they can.
We had a pair of crazy Calder Rangers that loved to escape the coop, they would flap around frantically trying to escape out of the run every other day, we tried everything to make them stop from giving them extra treats to perches, logs and much more to play with, they weren’t having any of it. If you do end up in a situation like this when the hens think they can fly then it’s advisable to clip their wings. We’ll talk more about how to do that later in this article.
In our situation the run had a partial roof that covered about half of it, even though the height was well over 7 feet these two crazy birds still managed to end up in the garden numerous times, luckily for us, there weren’t really interested in going over into the neighbor’s house however there’s still was a possibility. Here’s an image of when our run was getting built, as you can see it’s pretty much the same size as the fence, really showing how high those two crazy birds flew.
How to Keep Chickens From Flying Over The Fence
We know that most chickens can fly, even for a short distance and not very high. So, keeping your chickens from flying over the fence involves two solutions – firstly, make life so good they don’t have the motivation to fly, and secondly, make it impossible for even the most determined escapee to get over the fence.
Eliminate the Motivation To Fly Over The Fence
- If possible, increase the size of the enclosure so there’s no overcrowding and enough space for those lower down the pecking order to get away from the bullies.
- Chickens love to keep busy, and as a result, they get bored quickly. A few chicken-style toys, such as hanging cabbage-heads or lettuce-heads (which also provide nutrition), balls, hollow tree stumps they can crawl through, and lots of fresh straw to scratch through will keep your chickens happily at home.
- Fresh food and water are essential to keep your birds happy, as well as treats like squash or pumpkin seeds, watermelon in summer, and dried mealworms. A well-fed bird is a happy bird!
- Keep the run clean – chickens tend to poop as they go, so it’s a regular task to go in and clean the run, but it does need to be done to stop the chickens from looking for cleaner pastures.
- Create a dust bath by filling a shallow tub with dust – chickens use dust baths to eliminate parasites and cool off in summer.
- If possible, let the chickens out of the coop to allow them to scratch for worms, eat bugs and explore the wider spaces in your garden. Give them a half-hour free-range time in the morning and evening, and you’ll be rewarded with happy chickens and tastier eggs!
- Keep the run a safe and secure home for your chickens by burying the fence at least six inches to stop predators from digging under it to gain access. Also, bear in mind a six-foot barrier will keep most predators from jumping over it.
Make It Physically Impossible To Fly Over The Fence
The obvious solution to the problem of chickens flying over the fence is to make the fence higher. A six-foot fence will keep all but the most determined chicken from escaping the coop.
· To ensure that the chicken stays on the right side of the fence, erect a few wire strands above the wire mesh, but keep them slightly loose. This way, there is no firm footing for the bird to climb onto before hopping down and out into the garden.
· Chickens can be attacked by aerial predators, such as hawks or eagles. Covering the enclosure with hawk-netting will protect them but will also prevent the chickens from climbing up and escaping through the roof.
· Ensure that there is nothing near the fence that the chicken to climb up and on to assist it in flying over the fence.
· Electric poultry fencing is designed to discourage chickens from climbing up and perching. It also has proved very effective in preventing predators from getting into the run.
· Clipping your chicken’s wings is probably the most effective way to keep your chickens in the run. Only the flight feathers need to be clipped, and it is also easier to just trim one wing – the lack of balance is enough to discourage the bird from attempting to fly. This might sound a bit drastic, but no cruelty or pain is involved (unless you get your thumb caught in the clipper).
How to clip your hen’s wings to stop them flying over the fence
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to carry out the process safely and effectively.
Step 1: You’ll need to get a sharp pair of scissors and someone to help you, we find this makes the process easier however you can do it alone as well.
Step 2: Lift up the hen and wait for her to get comfortable, if she flaps her wings be firm but gentle and hold her until she stops.
Step 3: Once your hen is securely held, spread out one of its wings. You should be able to see the primary flying feathers at this stage, they’re the longest and toughest feathers at the end of the wing. These are what you’ll be trimming.
Step 4: Using a sharp pair of scissors cut at the halfway point of the long flying feathers, you’ll only need to cut around 7-10 feathers altogether.
Step 5: Cut in a straight line up to the secondary feathers, these should be visible when you spread out the chicken’s wing don’t be overly cautious when doing this as the feathers can somethings be difficult to cut through.
Step 6: You’ll only need to clip one wing, but doing both is perfectly fine as well. When one sides primary feathers are cut the hen will not be able to balance once in the air. Problem solved!
If your still unsure here’s a video we found to be helpful in demonstrating the process clearly:
Keeping chickens in your backyard can be truly rewarding because they will supply you with fresh eggs (and meat if you don’t get too attached to your flock), and they are characterful, colorful, and engaging. We hope we’ve helped you to keep them at home.
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.