Why Can’t Chickens Fly?

Why Can’t Chickens Fly? Chickens can fly, but for a variety of surprising reasons, they do not. Due to the large bodies and tiny wings of modern domesticated chickens, they cannot fly very high. Smaller chickens are capable of and frequently fly short distances.

The domesticated chicken of the modern era is the product of 10,000 years of selective breeding. The jungle fowl, the chicken’s wild ancestor, is also not a particularly strong flyer. The jungle fowl, native to Asia, roosts in low-lying tree branches and forages for food on the ground. Because their primary mode of transport is foraging and flying from one tree branch to the next — within a densely packed jungle forest — these wild chicken ancestors do not require long flights.

Domestic chickens have a similar build to jungle fowl but with even more exaggerated features. Chickens, particularly meat-producing breeds, have been selectively bred for increasing breast size. These muscle on a chicken weighs it down and makes flying difficult, if not impossible.

A jungle fowl weighing 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) may have a wingspan of 29.5 inches (or 75 centimeters). A broiler chicken of comparable size may have a wingspan of only 45 centimeters. Flying is difficult, if not impossible, due to the smaller wings and greater body mass. Small wings will not produce enough lift to sustain a chicken in the air for an extended period. As a result, flying chickens typically take off and glide to their destination. This makes much sense for an animal adapted to live in a dense jungle where trees are close together.

Can Chickens Fly?

The chickens can’t fly in the same way that pigeons do – but this does not mean they are completely flightless. A healthy chicken can quickly fly over a meter-high fence. With the aid of a chicken coop roof or another elevated object, she can leap over even more significant obstacles.

This was discovered to his detriment by a diligent chicken keeper here in Omlet after placing a point-of-lay Leghorn in a chicken run. She hopped onto the coop and then flew over the two-meter high wire, unhappy with her relocation. After a thirty-minute chase through amused neighbors and excited dogs, the hen was returned to the run, which was now topped with temporary netting. She flapped up, squeezed beneath the netting, and spent another half hour amusing herself in the gardens of her neighbors.

How High Can Chickens Fly?

Chickens are not frequent flyers, but that does not mean they cannot fly. Breeds commonly found in backyards are typically selected for egg production rather than meat production, and as a result, they are frequently more lightweight. These layers have a body type and habits more akin to wild jungle fowl.

The Araucana, Yokohama, Leghorn, and La Fleche breeds are well-known for their ability to fly. Bantams, which are smaller than standard chickens, can also fly quite well.

How Far Can a Chicken Fly?

Chickens fly in bursts. They are not adapted to long-distance migration, as migratory ducks and geese are. A small-breed chicken can reach a maximum height of approximately 10 feet and a maximum distance of about 50 feet. This means that your chickens may be able to fly over your fence and out of your yard in practice. However, do not be alarmed; they are unlikely to make it very far before settling in a tree or bush. A larger breed, such as a Wyandotte or Orpington, may fly only a foot or two above the ground and glide for a few flat feet before landing. Silkies and Polish chickens, on the other hand, almost never fly.

Why do chickens fly in the wild?

It’s a matter of survival. Domesticated birds descended from Asia’s wild jungle fowl. It is entirely natural for them to fly in the wild. Their wings enable them to flee predators and roost in trees at night. Remaining on the ground is far too risky.

If you’ve ever had light-bodied hens that did not make it into the roost in time for the night, you’ll frequently find them happily sitting in a nearby tree. It’s the remnants of an inherited instinct to roost in the highest perches.

Clipping Chicken Wings

Certain hens are more eager to practice their flying abilities than others, and larger breeds struggle to scale fences greater than 1.5 meters in height. You can prevent them from succeeding by enclosing the run and clipping their wings. This completely painless procedure entails clipping the ends of the birds’ flight feathers on one side and is described in detail on this guide’s Wing Clipping page.

Chicken Flying Record

The longest flight a hen can make without encountering cliffs or hills is nearly 92 meters, which takes 13 seconds to complete. On the other hand, Chickens may be able to fly even further with a mountain slope in front of them and a backwind after them.

Thus, it is not entirely accurate to assert that chickens, like penguins and ostriches, are flightless. However, their aerial capabilities are severely limited, and they are not designed for smooth landings. When hens take flight on a hillside, they risk breaking their legs or wings if they crash land.

Can All Chicken Breeds Fly?

Before we discuss chickens that cannot fly, let us discuss this flight. The majority of chicken breeds are capable of flying to some extent. However, none of them are capable of flying very far or very high. How high and how far can chickens fly? Chickens with the most excellent agility can fly up to ten feet in height and fifty feet in distance. That is not a great distance compared to other birds, but it is sufficient for a chicken.

Can Chickens Fly Over Fences? 

The reality is that a fence is powerless against any chicken. The majority of chickens are capable of flying over a standard privacy fence. Additionally, small chain link fences are a breeze for hens that are unable to fly.

Can chickens fly away if they can fly over a fence? When startled, they may not pick up and fly. However, they will use what little flight they have; they will use it to flee. This means that gliding over every street fence is possible.

Breeds Of Chickens That Can’t Fly 

Now, let us discuss some birds that do not fly as well or as high as others. These chickens are exceptional in every way. You’ll have a difficult time deciding on just one.

Buff Orpington

The Orpington is the first chicken that cannot fly. If you want a peaceful chicken and get along with everyone, this is the chicken for you. These chickens are a fantastic bird that avoids conflict and makes an excellent family pet. Additionally, the Orpington is the ideal urban bird because it is a quiet bird that makes little noise.

Additionally, they are winter hardy and lay beautiful eggs. You will receive approximately 200-280 eggs per year, and you will also receive eggs during the winter. Whether you raise hens for eggs or meat, the Buff Orpington is an excellent choice.

Rhode Island Reds

Rhode Island is a generally docile breed that can become quite plump. Due to their size, they do not fly well, but they do require a particular owner. Certain Rhode Island Reds can be a little snarky, and they typically occupy the pecking order’s top position. Therefore, if you have a hardy flock, these are the birds for you.

Additionally, if you’re curious about their egg production, they’re troopers. These winter layers lay up to 300 eggs per year, ensuring that you will never be without eggs. 

Wyandottes

The Wyandotte is a popular choice among children. These docile and friendly chickens are made of fluffy feathers. They will follow anyone around the yard and engage in casual conversation with them. You will adore your Wyandottes, and their long lifespan makes them the ideal pet.

However, they are working pets. Each year, you can obtain up to 200 eggs or four eggs per week. Thus, you can enjoy the company of your hens while also enjoying their eggs.

Barred Rock Plymouth

The Barred Rock is another docile chicken. These chickens are friendly and get along with everyone and everything. These birds are incredibly mellow around other chickens, pets, and people. Even the roosters are cheerful and friendly birds, traits that are uncommon in males.

Additionally, Barred Rocks are popular dual-purpose hens that lay approximately 280 brown eggs per year. Thus, you can enjoy both the company of your hens and their eggs. If you obtain a sufficient number, you may even earn a small profit by selling their eggs.

Brahma

The Brahma hen is one of the largest chickens. These large ladies are renowned for their gentle dispositions. Additionally, they thrive in smaller spaces and lack the drive to escape. As a result, you can keep your Brahmas in the yard or enclosed run without them becoming agitated.

However, what truly distinguishes these chickens is their adorable appearance. These chickens have dense plumage, which makes them excellent winter companions. And they lay eggs only during the winter. Therefore, if you’re looking for guaranteed winter eggs, a Brahama will lay approximately 150 eggs between October and May.

Cochin

If you’re looking for a quiet bird to raise in your backyard, the Cochin is an excellent choice. These hens are among the most docile chicken breeds. Additionally, they are friendly birds that have no qualms about interacting with humans. Cochins are the ideal family hen.

However, these hens are not prolific producers. They lay approximately 150-180 eggs per year. These hens, on the other hand, make excellent mothers. They frequently go broody and are eager to hatch any clutch you provide.

Australorp

The Australorp is one of the most challenging breeds available. These chickens thrive in all climates and are disease-resistant. The Australorp was developed in Australia, which explains their sturdiness. However, did you know they are also endearing birds?

These chickens are not good flyers, but they are prolific layers. The majority of Australorps lay approximately 250 eggs per year. However, the record is 364 eggs laid in a single year. Who wouldn’t desire such a thing? 

Bantam Silkie

Finally, the Silkie is the only genuinely flightless bird. These chickens have the most adorable feathers that fluff out in all directions. And it is due to these feathers that they are unable to catch wind beneath their wings. Your Silkie will make an excellent addition to your yard, as she is friendly and docile.

Silkies are also one of the few chickens that lay very few eggs. They lay approximately 100 eggs per year. However, they compensate for this by being excellent pets and providing you with joy and entertainment. Additionally, they are the tiniest birds on this list, so they are well worth the effort!

Benefits Of Non-Flying Chickens

Apart from keeping the flock in the yard, what other advantages do these breeds offer? The majority of these chickens are among the most docile creatures you’ve ever encountered. They are generally gentle and friendly. As a result, they are ideal backyard chickens for any family.

However, you may have overlooked that these eight breeds of chickens that cannot fly are also enormous. They are plump young ladies who make excellent egg layers and multi-purpose hens. Therefore, if you’re looking for fresh meat, these ladies have you covered.

Downside To Chickens That Can’t Fly

You may believe that conditions are ideal for chickens that cannot fly. However, there are a few factors to consider.

Foot Problems 

Numerous of these large birds sustain bumblefoot and foot injuries regularly. To avoid accidents, you’ll need to keep a good number of roosts close to the ground and conduct daily foot checks. The majority of people discover that they must clean the coop more frequently to avoid infections such as bumblefoot.

Jumping 

While these chickens cannot fly, they can jump relatively high. How high are chickens capable of jumping? Even the largest hens, or non-flying chickens, can leap 4-6 feet. Therefore, if your fences are approximately this height, your chickens will still be able to escape. 

Young Hens

Another reason to consider is that most of these hens will continue to fly during their first year. You won’t have to fear them once they mature and fill out. However, until then, you must keep them locked up in a run. 

Predators

Finally, it would help if you considered predators that prey on flightless chickens. Without a run and protection, a chicken that cannot fly should not be allowed to free-roam. Therefore, even if you wish to keep your hens in the yard, a secure run and coop are required. 

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