Raising chickens is a relatively low-cost and trouble free way to provide fresh eggs or meat for your family. Right now when everything is fine they not only provide more nutritious and flavorful eggs for my home, but they are cheaper than store bought eggs as well. Should some disaster strike we would be able to rely on them for a source of food that with some attention and care could even be self-sustaining. I would just need to speak to the guy with the Rooster down the road and arrange some form of barter.
The trouble free aspect of this is less of a hard and fast rule and more of a guideline. I say this because on most days you really don’t have to fuss with the chickens at all. We have feeders that hold enough food to last for about three days. I have built an automatic chicken waterer that holds 5 gallons of water for them and this lasts at least a week even in hot weather. We have nine chickens now but only 5 of laying maturity and my normal routine is to simply go out to the coop and gather up fresh eggs.
About the only place we run into any kind of maintenance outside of cleaning the coop once a week and the regular feeding and watering is what I like to call escapee patrol. Our coop is completely contained with a 12 foot run surrounded by chicken wire on all sides. I have a door from the chicken coop to our garden though so when that door is open the chickens also have free range of the garden which is only secured by a four foot high fence. We have one chicken that flies over this four foot fence almost daily. I have taken to calling her Ginger from the lead character in the movie Chicken Run about a hen that tries unceasingly to escape from her own coop.
Ginger isn’t concerned with running away obviously as she never really leaves our yard. She keeps relatively close to her sisters on the other side of the fence, but she can’t stand to be trapped in there apparently. This wouldn’t really be a problem if she would just fly her white butt back into the garden every night but that is one trick she does not seem to want to perform. If I am here, around dark she will start pacing back and forth waiting to get inside the coop again. I walk out there and she runs up to greet me like I am her savior and as I let her back in the coop I imagine the other hens mocking her for trying to escape every day and never going anywhere.
When I haven’t been home, Ginger will some nights choose to escape the ground into a nearby Cherry tree that we have. I have pulled her out of that tree a few times too and I would really rather just not have to deal with her exploits anymore. I know her egg production is off and can’t imagine where she might be laying eggs when she is out all day. It certainly isn’t in our coop.
It was because of Ginger that I started to research how to clip the wings of your chicken for ideas and found that the process is very simple. Clipping the wings on your chicken simply prevents them from flying over the garden fence but they do grow back eventually. We have to do the same for the indoor bird too so it was my turn to experiment with trimming the wings on our chickens.
Step 1 – Get the chicken obviously. I don’t know if I would ever be able to capture Ginger unless I got her into a corner, but she does have a weakness for Mealworms. All I need to do is shake the container of Mealworms and she will come back into the coop as soon as I open the door.
Step 2- Fan out the Wing – You are going to want to cut the 10 primary flight feathers only and at a point below the major coverts that are closest to their body. The video below will show you clearly what to cut. Some people recommend only cutting a third of the primary wings, but this would seem to give you less time on the ground for your hen. I would prefer to cut them as far back as is healthy for the bird but still guarantees they wont be able to fly. Additionally, some people argue for cutting both wings while others maintain that only cutting one is sufficient. I am going to try just one wing to see how that goes.
That’s it! Simple process that should keep Ginger grounded for several months at a minimum and back in the coop laying eggs where she is safer and more productive for us. What chicken stories or advice do you have?