Michael and I have been discussing clipping the chickens' wings for some time, but both of us have been really kind of scared of the idea of doing it. Contrary to popular belief, chickens can fly. I mean, they can't fly far and I would say that they can't fly too high, but someone told me about coming home to a chicken on their roof once. So they can at least fly up as high as a house. We've been leery of letting the chickens roam the yard for fear of one them flying up over a fence and into danger. We've seen them literally fly out of their coop in the mornings. We needed to clip some wings.
Monday evening, after a day of bike riding, I suggested that we clean out the coop and maybe clip some wings. The weather has been just like everyone else's here in the Midwest, rainy and damp and soggy. We've only been able to do the minimum required maintenance for the chickens. Finally we had a nice warm evening between rain storms to pull everything out and give it all a good scrub. We also decided that this would be a good time to clip wings. First, we watched a YouTube video on how to clip wings. They made it look really simple and not traumatic at all and we looked at each other and said "we can totally do this!" And we did this in four easy steps.
Step 1: Catch the chicken. The chickens do not come when they are called and pretty much turn and run the other way when they see your hand coming into the coop. Michael designed the coop so that the back end opens completely. This allows us easy access for cleaning and the (one day) collection of eggs. This is also a way to let the chickens out to wander and peck around the yard. We used this to our advantage by waiting at the ready for one of the chickens as they tried to hop out the door. Dorothy was the only one who didn't make it all the way out of the coop before being captured. The other three had a grand time being chased around the swamp of our backyard.
Step 2: Hold the chicken. When you first catch the chicken, there is a moment of struggle where the chicken tries to get away. Flapping of wings and squawking sounds. Marguerite, Matilda, and Dorothy calm down relatively quickly once they are held snug against my body. Foghorn wants none of it. She squawked and flapped like she was being caught for dinner. We spent a few extra minutes reassuring her that no one was going to eat her.
Step 3: Cut the wings. More specifically, you cut the flight wings on the left. We used kitchen shears because Michael said "they're made to cut chicken." I held the bird tucked up against me with on hand and covered their eyes with my other hand so they couldn't see what was happening, while Michael very carefully cut the flight feathers. I think it's important to make soothing cooing sounds to your chicken while this happens even though it doesn't hurt them to cut these wings. It's like clipping your toenails.
Step 4: Release the chicken! This really isn't a step. I just thought this whole process needed a bit more dramatic flair. It sounds a lot like "Release the Kraken!" It also sounds like once the chicken is free and no longer has flight wings on her left wing, she might do something silly. Like flap around in half flight in a circle. This does not happen. Once the chicken is placed on the ground, she just goes about her business of pecking around the yard. This is exactly just what we let them do while we cleaned out their coop.
When all of the wings had been clipped, Michael declared that we were farmers, which made me smile. Later on that evening after we'd cleaned ourselves up from chasing chickens in the mud, I sat outside watching them with Josephine. I heard them making real honest to God grown-up chickens sounds with clucks and buk-coks and everything. I imagined that they were talking to each other. I said as much to Michael and he said that they were probably discussing their new haircuts. "Y'all, just what do ya think of my new do?" That would be Matilda. She's bold and Southern and the only chicken that wants to have anything to do with Josephine. "Es tres chic. I would know, since I was ze first to have it." Marguerite, of course, speaks with a French accent. She is still the smallest of the four, but has turned into a very pretty little petite chicken. I suspect that Foghorn is our Rosalind Russell Auntie Mame with her penchant for drama, wile Dorothy is more Charlene Frazier. She's a bit silly. I've seen her bump her head a few times. We have an interesting cast of characters in our backyard.
I long for the days when things dry out enough to have the chickens out more. I'd like to get Josephine used to the idea of sharing the backyard with them without her trying to play with them to death or eat them. I saw the first firefly of the season a few evenings ago and it gave me hope that dryer days are coming. Soon there will be lazy warm Saturday evenings spent lounging in the hammock with a dog under my feet and chickens pecking around the yard.
Happy Love Thursday!