Are chickens flightless birds?

Chickens are curious and fun to observe. If you go to your backyard where they are kept, you will find that their activities include wandering around, looking for food by digging the dirt, and more.

But during their daily activities, you will notice that even though chickens are animals from the bird family group, they don’t fly too often, or at least don’t fly while you are watching them. So are chickens flightless birds?

Are chickens flightless birds?

Technically speaking, chickens are not flightless birds, since they do occasionally fly. Chickens are bad at flying though, they can only fly at a certain height for a short time because of their body property.

What are flightless birds?

Flightless birds are birds that lost the ability to fly throughout evolution, or in simple terms, flightless birds can’t fly at all. Flightless birds still have wings, they are just used for different purposes.

Until now, there are more than 60 extant species, many of which are ratites like cassowaries, emus, ostriches, kiwis, rheas, etc., and penguins.

The Inaccessible Island rail is known to be the smallest flightless bird. It has an average weight of about 34.7 g and an average length of about 12.5 cm.

The ostrich earns a lot of tile besides the largest flightless bird. It is also the heaviest and the largest living bird, with an average length of 2.7 m and an average weight of 156 kg.

Ostriches are livestock animals kept for decorative feathers, meat, and skins for making leather.

There are also animals that lost the ability to fly for a long amount of time, such as many poultry animals like domesticated chickens or domesticated ducks.

The chickens’ ancestor – the Red Jungle Fowl – and the ducks’ ancestor – the mallards – are able to fly for a long time. Some bred birds like the Broad Breasted White turkey, due to selective breeding, are totally flightless too.

So why are many poultry animals like chickens bad at flying?

Chickens are not flightless birds
Chickens are not flightless birds (Image credit by Stewart Mellentine)

Can chickens fly?

Chickens are bad at flying

Chickens can fly, they are just not good at it. They can only fly to a certain height, and for a short time. Specifically, the height is about 10 feet and the farthest distance is about 40 or 50 feet, depending on the breed.

While the numbers are not impressive, those are all it takes for the chickens to escape from your coop and expose themselves to multiple dangers outside, such as predators, the roads, your neighbors, and more.

What should you do when you see your chickens fly?

Don’t worry

Chickens will naturally return to the coop at dusk. They don’t want to expose themselves to the night since they can’t see very well in the dark.

If they remain in the safe zone, it’s okay for them to roost in tree branches or structures in the daytime.

Give them enough food and water

One of the reasons chickens leap over fences is to search for food. So provide them with enough food and water in feeders and drinkers.

Also, let the chickens easily access those feeders and drinkers. That way, they won’t have the motivation to fly over fences as much.

Higher perches

When the roosts are low to the ground, chickens tend to look for higher perches to roost overnight, which makes them exposed to nocturnal predators.

So, you will want to adjust your chickens’ roosting habit by providing higher perches inside the coop and refrain them from free-ranging for a certain amount of time.

Clip their wings

Clipping the chickens’ wings will make it difficult for them to fly for a long distance. Clipping their wings won’t be painful for them. You can clip their wings by trimming a few inches of the tips of the wings’ primary feathers.

However, clipping the chickens’ wings will make them more vulnerable to predators since they use their wings to quickly run away or defend themselves from dangers.

So you should only clip the chickens’ wings when it is for their safety from outside threats, like when there are predators appearing regularly outside of your backyard.

Moreover, chickens will adapt to their newly clipped wings rather quickly and they can regrow their feathers. You can try clipping one of their wings at a time to throw them off for longer instead of clipping both of their wings at once.

How high can chickens fly with clipped wings
How high can chickens fly with clipped wings

Which bird can fly backward?

Hummingbirds are the only known birds to fly both forward, hover, and backward. They are obviously incredible flyers compared to chickens. The ruby-throated hummingbirds flap their wings 80 times per second.

When flying, hummingbirds breathe relatively heavily both forward and backward. Oddly, flying in either direction is more energy-efficient than hovering in the air.

But even though they are not too efficient at staying still in the air, they are good at darting and dodging, which makes hummingbirds nectar-gathering pros.

What is the only mammal that can fly?

There are some animals that can seemingly fly, like squirrels that glide in the air for a short distance, but bats are the only mammals that can truly fly.

The bats’ wings look somewhat similar to the humans’ hands. The difference is the skins between the fingers are larger and thinner.

These skins’ membranes spread to near the tips of the fingers, and they spread across long finger bones and many joints, which make the bats very agile flyers.

Final thoughts

So, are chickens flightless birds? Chickens are technically not flightless birds. You won’t see your chickens fly too much, but they do occasionally fly. Chickens are just not good at flying.

Flightless birds are birds that can no longer fly throughout evolution, even though they still possess wings. The ostriches are the largest and heaviest flightless birds, and also the largest birds in general that are currently extant.