Despite being birds, chickens are not known for their flying. Instead, these birds are predominantly ground bound. Unless you have seen the film ‘Chicken Run’, of course. But in reality, how limited are they? What about jumping? Specifically, how capable are they of getting up and off the ground and what kind of heights can you expect them to reach? With these questions in mind, I spent some time researching to find out for good.
So, how high can chickens jump? Chickens can typically jump between 4-6 feet, on average. Although, it does depend on the breed, their size, weight and whether or not they have had their wings clipped.
When planning your property for chickens, its essential to ensure they remain safe and contained. This could not be more true if you are looking to let them free range.
Fencing, regardless of option you choose, is without doubt one of the best solutions.
But it needs to be properly thought out. It must be of a sufficient height, it must provide your chickens with a boundary, and perhaps even more importantly, it must keep the predators out!
Generally speaking, the larger the chicken, the lower the height that they can jump. Usually, their preference for jumping is also much less altogether.
But this does not mean as keepers we do not make suitable arrangements.
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So, let us now take a closer look into the jumping abilities of chickens, and the process of wing clipping and how this approach is one to consider.
Jumping Abilities Of Chickens
How high a chicken can jump, is predominantly determined by their size and age. This is largely determined by the breed.
There are generally considered to be three different size categories when it comes to chicken breeds; small, medium and large.
In the small category, you’ll find the likes of Silkies, White Leghorns and Banthams.
In the larger category you are looking at breeds such as Buff Orpingtons, Brahmas, Australorp’s and Cochins.
As you can imagine, the larger breeds have more body mass that they need to move – so it is generally harder for them to jump.
They can only generally reach the height of 2-4 feet, on average.
That being said, there are always birds with enough determination and/or wing strength to overcome the challenges and exceed their expectations.
While most heavy breeds will prefer to stay on the ground, some have been known to clear a 4 foot fence.
Lighter breeds are however much more capable, often being able to clear 6 feet fences if the opportunity was to present itself.
So, it all ultimately depends on the breed you are looking to keep.
What About Wing Clipping?
The process of wing clipping is about limiting a chickens jumping and flying ability. It essentially limits the power that a bird can generate to get any lift and remain airborne.
How High Can Clipped Chickens Jump?
A chicken with clipped wings will not generally be able to jump higher than 2-3 feet. As such, and especially for the lighter breeds, it reduces their ability to jump fairly significantly.
Do You Need To Clip Your Chickens’ Wings?
Not every chicken needs their wings clipped. In fact, depending on how you are looking to keep your chickens can have quite an impact.
Generally speaking, chickens kept predominantly in a roofed run, or the heavier breeds should not need their wings clipped.
There are also instances where clipping free ranged birds is not advised either. Such as if they are likely to come into contact with a predator.
Chickens evade predators by ‘flying’ away, so clipping the wings is making them much more vulnerable to an attack.
Consider that a predator can be a cat, a fox or even a dog.
So, when can wing clipping be effective or advised?
Its a good idea to clip your chickens wings if you have a low fence, or if they are (have been getting over fences or into restricted areas (such as a neighbors property).
You may even find them roosting in trees.
Or where, they would be generally be safer having this ability taken away from them.
Is It Cruel To Clip Chickens Wings?
It is not considered cruel to clip a chickens wings if you are doing so to protect them. Consider that it does not hurt the chicken if done properly.
Typically, only one wing is clipped with large, sharp scissors. This will unbalance the bird and prevent them from being able to take off.
How High Should A Fence Be For Chickens?
A 6-8 foot fence is generally considered to the minimum to keep your birds from jumping over.
Even if you were to clip the wings of your chickens, you need to ensure that predators cannot easily gain access to your property.
It is therefore not only the height of your fence that you need to consider, but the material and how it is constructed.
It needs to be sufficiently durable, robust, and make it a challenge for any predator that takes it on.
This is why galvanized mesh or electric fencing are some of the most popular options.
How Do I Stop My Chickens From Jumping Over The Fence?
Stopping your chickens from jumping the fence is a multifactorial approach. It generally involves making the feat more challenging for your birds, or taking away the opportunity altogether.
Let us now take a closer look at each one:
Clipping your chickens wings is one potential solution, although may not be suitable for all keepers.
For instance, you’ll need to ensure that your birds are of sufficient age, at least 5 weeks, when they develop their adult plumage. Otherwise wings will contain blood and should therefore not be cut.
Assuming they have, to clip your chickens feathers you will want to:
- Keep the chicken well contained, either recruit the support of a helper or wrap your bird in a towel,
- Spread one of the wings, and look for ten long, pointed ‘flight feathers’. These should extend from the elbow of the wing to the tip and are usually the longest and of different colors,
- Trim those 10 flight feathers, leaving the other smaller feathers intact to ensure that the bird can retain heat and stay warm,
- If you do cut into the blood supply, the bird will bleed a lot. This needs to be contained and you will need to seek immediate veterinary attention.
Otherwise, if you do not feel comfortable, you can always get a vet to do this on your behalf.
Review Your Fencing
If you have the money, it may be time to invest in a new fence. Better yet would be to install one designed for keeping livestock and keeping predators out, such as hardware cloth or a chain link fence.
Otherwise, you can always look to upgrade your existing fence.
Placing some wire or mesh on the top of your existing fences can make all the different and stop them from being able to get over
Electric fencing is also an option to consider. Chickens are intelligent and will remember if they are gently shocked in any previous escape attempt!
Chicken Run Enclosure
It also can help keep them safe from predators.
If you are yet to purchase your chickens or due an upgrade, you can always look for a coop that has an integrated run, or one that has an external but joined run.
Otherwise, you can look to get a standalone run when you want to let your chickens out of the coop.
Chickens can certainly jump, with the smaller and more capable breeds even being able to clear your average 6 foot fence!
Even the larger and heavier breeds have been known to get up quite high off the ground, even if this is the exception rather than the norm.
Thankfully, there are many things we can do to keep our birds safe and confined to land on our property.
Whether it is is through fencing, wing clipping or through the use of a run.
Either way, its important to be proactive and plan ahead.
Don’t leave it to chance, and do all you can to keep your flock safe.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.