How High Can A Chicken Fly? All your questions answered

Keeping your flock safely tucked in their run space is a basic element of raising chickens.

But…how high can a chicken fly?

How far can chickens fly?

Wait a moment… can chickens fly at all?

Ensure your chickens can’t plan their escape by air and read on to learn all about flying chickens and what you can do to keep them where they belong!

Can Chickens Fly Over Fences?

A chicken on a fence, getting ready to fly.

Well… it certainly depends on how tall the fence is! But, chickens can fly up to 6 feet!

Chickens are not exactly flying birds, but then again, they aren’t flightless birds, either (1).

Heavy breeds like the Orpington and Plymouth Rock, for example, are poor flyers. Lighter breeds such as the Leghorn, Hamburg, and Redcap (and nearly all bantam chickens) are generally decent flyers.

It’s the chickens’ physique that impedes their ability to fly as well as other birds (2).

It might sound counterintuitive, but the chicken’s large flight muscles impede its flight. In order to fly, birds need appropriate “wing loading” — a ratio of body mass to wing area.

Their wings are too small, and their flight muscles are too big, which makes it difficult for them to get much air.

Their poor flying ability is the gradual outcome of selective breeding, in which humans select traits for food production purposes rather than for enhancing the survivability of the animals.

That’s why chickens now have more of a meaty build and better laying capabilities than they did in the past.

Asian jungle fowls, a close relative of the chicken, are able to fly short distances.

This type of flight sees the birds take-off in an almost vertical, speedy burst known as a burst flight. A burst flight would enable a bird such as a chicken to fly up and over a fence.

However, given the meatier build of domestic chickens, larger breeds, in particular, would find it either difficult or impossible to fly over a fence. Smaller chickens (especially when faced with a shorter fence), may be able to get over.

How High Should A Fence Be For Chickens?

How high can hens fly? Will chickens stay in a 4 foot fence? Can chickens fly over a 6 foot fence?

These are chicken-keeping common questions, and although you may think there is a clear-cut, suit-it-all answer… there isn’t.

For instance, while some light chicken breeds may be able to easily fly over 6 foot fences, others may not. And the same applies to heavyweight breeds when faced with a four foot fence.

Important factors to keep in mind besides breed type, are the amount and quality of pasture these birds have access to, as well as the environment within the chickens’ enclosure.

If your free-range flock has access to small and/ or deteriorated pasture areas, they are more likely to try and fly over the fence.

chickens behind a fence.
“imagine all the flying we could do!”

You can’t blame them, because the grass really is greener on the other side! On the contrary, the odds of your birds flying over the fence will decrease if they have access to large and/ or rich pasture areas.

Stressful environmentswill also encourage members of your flock to fly off.

For example, avoid housing too many roosters or too many overly-dominant hens in the same coop and run, and ensure there are enough nest boxes for all of your hens.

A comfortable and functional shelter paired with a calm ambiance will make them less inclined to flap those wings.

Setting these issues aside for a moment, many backyard chicken keepers decide to build 5 to 6 foot fences (or higher!) with chicken wire to prevent predators from making their way into the hen houses.

How To Keep Chickens From Flying Over The Fence

If you have already provided your chickens with appropriate and suitable amounts of food and water, adequate shelter, and a peaceful environment, but the funky fowls still try to fly away, try putting chicken wire fencing, netting, or mesh on top of the fences.

Other frequently used solutions to this problem include building higher fences, moving your flock into an enclosed yet spacious coop and run area, or clipping their wings.

If you need an enclosed coop, consider building an A-frame coop that gives them plenty of air flow. Budget-friendly chicken coops like this simple DIY coop out of pallets are also a great choice.

Can Chickens Fly Long Distances?

No, chickens cannot fly long distances. They can, however, fly short distances.

If you’ve ever wondered, what is the longest recorded flight of a chicken? The chicken flight record is 13 uninterrupted seconds, whereas the furthest recorded flight covered 301.5 feet (3).

Surprised?

Go ahead and watch the Chicken Channel’s video which shows a chicken lift off the ground and gracefully fly across a field.

How High Can Chickens Jump With Clipped Wings?

If done correctly, most chicken breeds will be able to jump just a few inches off the ground even if you clipped their flight feathers.

Don’t forget that clipping your birds’ wings should be seen as your last resort.

As mentioned earlier, this behavior is often a symptom of something not working well within the coop.

Permaculture has written a step-by-step guide on How to Clip Chicken Wings for Beginners, for those of you who want to know how to clip chickens’ wings to prevent flying.

Final Thoughts

So chickens can fly… at least, sort of! Some better than others and others worse than some. 

What’s important, however, is to find out why your chickens feel the urge to flee and – if possible – to attend to this root issue.

We recommend wing clipping but this should be your last resort for fixing the problem. You can also clip one wing! After all, you probably don’t want to deprive them of what little is left of their flying talents!

You can also add chicken wire to the fences if you want to keep your flock within your backyard area and safe from predators.

Remember to share your thoughts, questions, or ideas in the comment section below… and, of course, to share it with your fowl fan friends!

FAQs

No, clipping the flight feathers will not hurt chickens. It will only interfere with the chicken’s balance, preventing them from flying over the fence. Moreover, clipping one or both wings is not permanent – they will eventually grow back. However, if done incorrectly, you can hurt your chicken. You should leave the clipping to a poultry veterinarian if you don’t have any experience or don’t know how to.

Yes, chickens can fly over a 6-foot fence, especially when they are very motivated. One way to prevent them from going over the fence and foraging on the other side is by adding a wire at the top of the fence. If that doesn’t work, you can consider upgrading or renovating the chicken coop. Backyard chickens usually escape and go to your neighbor if the coop is overcrowded.

Chickens start flying somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks of age. You’ll see young chicks start taking off once they’ve feathered out. This time frame may vary from bird to bird and will also depend on factors such as breed, care, etc. As baby chicks develop their wings, however, they might begin to experiment with flying. Most likely in the chicken coop!

  1. 8 Birds That Can’t Fly. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/list/8-birds-that-cant-fly
  2. Forget About the Road. Why Are Chickens So Bad at Flying. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/57139-why-chickens-cannot-fly.html
  3. What Is The Longest Flight For A Chicken. Retrieved from: https://factualfacts.com/chicken-longest-recorded-flight/

1 thought on “How High Can A Chicken Fly?”

  1. the fools next door have every thing from a horse to chickens,there is very little grass and a never seem them feeding the chickens or ducks,i have a large green back yard trying to put in raised beds garden,can’t keep their chickens/ducks out,they put up a different fence,but i will have to resort to a different measure to keep them out.

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