Chickens are bird-type animals. Like every bird species, they are equipped with a pair of wings. But if you have ever raised chickens, you will notice that they don’t fly very often and they seemingly don’t need the wings.
So why do chickens have wings? If evolution decided to give chickens pairs of wings, why don’t you see them use the main functions of their wings very often? If the wings are not for flying, what are they for?
Why do chickens have wings?
Chickens use their wings for multiple purposes like balancing, mating, safety, guarding, and taking care of baby chickens. With the way they evolve, they don’t really need to use the wings for flying a lot.
Guarding and safety
If predators attack the chickens, they can escape better by combining running and flying to dodge the predators’ attacks. The wings can also be used to protect the baby chickens by extending and covering the chicks.
While they can crow really loudly to frighten and ward off predators, it is still safer to run and fly away rather than staying and becoming prey. The wings are great tools for that task.
It is also dangerous to rest within the predators’ reach, so the chickens can use their wings to fly up to higher places when they want to take asleep.
The chickens’ ancestors – the Red Jungle fowl – are raised for cockfighting before being. And now some chickens can be raised for the same purpose.
In cockfighting, the chickens use various parts of their body for making a strike or dodging an attack. The wings are crucial for balancing to get to an advantageous attacking angle.
Protecting the chicks and mating
In particular, the hens can extend their wings downward to provide protection for the chicks between their legs. The wings can double as a warming device for the chicks and the eggs as well.
The wings are also parts of the roosters’ mating ritual. This is one of the reasons why their feather is vibrant and eye-catching: to impress the hens.
Why are chickens bad at flying?
If chickens utilize their wings for multiple purposes, one of them is actually flying to get away from predators and reach their higher places, then why are they so bad at flying?
Their body mass
The wing muscles forming their chests are considerably large and powerful. This should make the chickens excellent at flying, but the opposite happened.
While their wing power is excellent, that power is overshadowed by the mass created by those wings themselves along with the rest of their bodies. It is hard for them to fly and maintain height
Humans may be to blame
The Red Jungle fowl was a pretty capable species in the past. But as numerous crossbreeding happening to it by humans go on for years to increase its meat content, humans may have stopped the evolution from occurring.
Humans have done so many things to promote their meat content, including their chest-wing muscles. This results in the chickens being too heavy to fly to the point they won’t bother anymore.
Are some chickens better at flying than others?
Flying is a physical task for chickens since they need to move their wings quickly enough to gain height, and then maintain that height by using their wings to keep their bodies in the air.
Some breeds or chicks are better at flying than others. They have the advantage of having a small body to wings ratio. They can fly much better, faster, and higher than grown chickens with large bodies.
Do hens have wings?
Hens have wings for guiding, protecting, and comforting baby chickens as they explore and go around. They are also used the most to sell chicken meat.
Will backyard chicken fly away?
Although the chickens are not great at flying, they will try to fly above low fences, whether they have chances, they are provoked, neglected, or are curious. If you know their limit, you should opt for fences being higher than that.
Most farmers keep their chickens in the coops with frequent daily free-roaming. But, they won’t have the motivation to fly away if provided with enough space, comfort, food, and water.
Alternatively, you can clip their wings off to prevent them from flying high, which may lead to the chickens having to learn to fly all over again.
Clipping one wing is more effective than clipping both wings since chickens are symmetrical animals, with one wing longer than the other, they will find it more troublesome than having 2 shortened wings but still symmetrical at least.
The pros and cons of clipping chickens’ wings
Clipping the chickens’ wings prevents them from leaping over the fences and running away. This does 2 things:
You won’t lose your pet chicken.
You protect the chicken from outside threats like vehicles when the chicken crosses the road and predators that may have your chicken as a meal.
They will no longer be able to defend themselves against predators approaching them. So you should take some measures to protect your chicken from the threat.
The clipped wings also mess up their balance while trying to adapt. They may hurt themselves trying to get to higher places, so provide the means for them to do so like a ramp or ladder.
Chickens use their wings for multiple purposes, such as fleeing from predators, protecting baby chicks, mating, and getting up to high spots for safety or roosting.
But when it comes to flying, they are bad at it since the strong chest-wing muscle while giving them the strength to flap, increases their body mass and prevents them from flying. The modifications made by humans may also be to blame for this situation.