Yesterday when I let my Corgi girls out for their evening FRAP (Frantically Running Around Playing), my hens were fortunate enough that I noticed they 'flew the coop'! It took a few minutes to quickly grab them and stick them back within the Chicken Compound, but I collected them before the Corgis were aware that BIG FUN might be on the horizon!
Time to do some trimming of flight feathers, and so, after dinner, and after a couple of TV shows that he just HAD to view, I conned Mr. Wonderful into holding hens so I could get the job done faster and more easily.
Evening is the best time to catch the hens - when they are on their roosts, nice and peaceful. I could either pick them up, or carefully nab a leg. Once they calmed down with some petting and cooing, I handed them over for Mr. Wonderful to hold, so I could trim those pesky flight feathers. He finally figured out that he must hold those wings securely, so they would quit thunking him on the head! (He is not a 'natural' when it comes to holding critters for nail trims or wing trimmings - some things I have to teach him!)I like the natural look of the wings and so I only trim the first 10 feathers, as shown above. 3 or 4 inches is as far as I trim back, just below the next row of feathers on the wing. Care must be taken not to cut into the 'blood feathers', and on young birds who have immature growth it is best to wait until the bird is near 7 months of age before you trim the flight feathers. If you have netting over your hen enclosure, you don't need to trim the feathers at all. I don't have netting at this point in time, and want to keep my girls near their coop, as Michigan winters can be very harsh if one should strike out on her own for a day.
Some folks trim only the feathers on one wing, to throw the bird off balance a bit. It doesn't take long to trim both wings, so why scare a bird like that and risk injury if it whacks into the side of its coop or something? That is my thinking. If the bird is carefully held upside down, it will go into a trance, and is easier to gently extend the wing you want to work on. I use this time to examine my birds - toenails that need trimming, beaks that need attention, and a general go-over for injuries, possible parasites, and to be sure they are maintaining their weight.
We were able to do 5 hens last night - the 6th bird, Cleopatra, FLEW THE COOP - and could not be found! We looked high and low, no Cleo! But this morning, Mr. Wonderful woke me from a sound sleep to report he had captured the escapee and turned her loose with the other inmates! My HERO! He is getting braver the more he sees me handle different animals...Hurray! I went out in my PJ's and quickly trimmed some feathers before she escaped again. We have a few egg customers now, and I need to keep these working girls safe! At some point in time, I should consider getting a helper like Squeaky the Pig - see video below. Squeaky can herd and pen cattle - maybe she could do the same with chickens!