Why Can’t Chickens Fly?

why cant chickens fly featured image
Like most other birds, chickens can fly, though not so well. Your average chicken can fly at a height of up to 10 ft. and for a distance of 50 ft. However, different breeds of chicken have different flight capabilities. Lighter breeds are more capable of flying over the fence than heavier breeds.

Chickens have feathers that enable them to fly, but who would want to see their backyard chickens fly away? Chickens can actually fly, but not so well and this article explains why.

Chickens Can Only Fly Short Distances

Fortunately, most domesticated chickens cannot fly high and far. Your backyard chickens can give it a shot, but they definitely won’t fly too high as the infamous kookaburra or the magpie would!

Some breeds of chicken are said to be flighty, which means they have the strength and power to flap over the average fence – something that can be annoying for both chicken keepers and their neighbors.

a chicken flying

As a precautionary measure, many chicken keepers opt to clip their chickens’ wings to inhibit their flying ability and make it very difficult for their birds to fly. Clipping a chicken’s wings does not hurt at all, and many chicken owners opt to do it themselves.

The Modern Domesticated Chicken

The modern domesticated chicken is a result of selective breeding done over tens of thousands of years. The jungle fowl – the wild chicken ancestor – is not good at flying either. 

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The jungle fowl forages on the ground and perches in short tree branches to rest. Since the jungle fowl’s lifestyle comprises foraging and hovering from one tree to another in a jungle forest, these birds don’t typically fly over long distances.

The modern domesticated chicken has the same build but has more exaggerated features. Due to selective breeding, domestic chickens have bigger breasts. The added amount of muscle mass on a domestic chicken impedes its flying ability.

How Far and High Can Chickens Fly?

Well, this will depend on the chicken breed in question. However, breeds that fly well can fly for a distance of about 50 ft. and reach up to 10 ft. high.

The longest duration for a chicken flight is 13 continuous seconds, but the total distance covered during that time was 301.5 feet.

Can Roosters Fly?

Like hens, chickens can fly, but over short distances only. They might fly just to get over a fence, but their weight does not allow them to fly a long distance. 

A rooster will usually run fast on the surface and then flap its wings to propel itself off the ground.  This allows it to scale short fences, but it doesn’t fly too high. Roosters do not fly from a static position; they have to run fast and use their wings to get airborne.

Chicken Breeds That Can Actually Fly Well

The wild ancestors of chickens roost and perch in trees and forage on the ground. They also fly to avoid predators. Similarly, chickens fly, but their flying ability will vary depending on the breed type.

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Some chicken breeds have slimmer bodies, which allows them to fly further and for longer. Here are a few of the chickens that fly well:

  • Araucana
  • Ancona
  • Andalusian
  • Campine
  • Catalana
  • Leghorn
  • Mediterranean

Although it’s nice to watch chickens flying, it can be difficult to take care of flighty birds because they could be escape artists. However, even flighty chickens might not feel the urge to fly too far.

The only chickens that are known not to fly at all are Silkies. While Araucanas, Leghorns, and the Mediterranean breed are flighty chickens, Australorps, Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks, and Orpingtons are heavy, and therefore, cannot fly long distances.

Why Do Chickens Fly?

Chickens fly for three main reasons:

  1. To escape from predators: Chickens fly to avoid predators. If they sense danger, they might get airborne. Some chicken breeds will take off immediately whiles others will first run on the ground before flying.  
  2. Due to curiosity: free range chickens might try to escape due to curiosity. They might not get far or escape, but they can fly to cross a fence or any other object to explore the other side.  
  3. For fun: chickens might fly to rest on a perch. They might also fly to entertain themselves if they don’t find enough interesting things in the coop.

Many chicken keepers say wing clipping works for them, but we also recommend constructing a tall fence to keep your chickens happy and safe from predators within your yard area.

The most important thing is to determine the reason why your backyard chickens feel inclined to get airborne – and try to address the root cause. 

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Why Don’t Most Chickens Fly Well?

Most chickens have small wings and heavy feet. Younger chickens might be more capable of flying. This is particularly the case for adult chickens that are poor flyers.  

Chickens, quails and pheasants are known as game birds. These have strong muscles and large bodies, so they can’t fly long distances.  They can take off to avoid predators, but they easily get tired.

Can Chickens Fly Over Fences?

This will definitely depend on the height of the fence, but most chicken flights can reach up to 6 ft.

chicken flying over fence next to a woman
Chickens can definitely fly over fences

The Orpington, Plymouth Rock and other heavy breeds are poor at flying, while te leghorn, redcap, Hamburg and other lighter chicken breeds are good at getting over fencing.

The meatier physique of domestic chickens makes it difficult or even impossible for them to fly over fences. Smaller chickens might be able to fly over shorter fences.

Patrick Anampiu

Patrick is an avid pet lover and passionate writer who enjoys crafting stories and feels most alive when telling stories about people whose lives have been enriched by their pets. He enjoys adding more chickens to his flock and loves sharing insights on how to take better care of pets and other animals in our lives. When not writing and raising chickens, Patrick enjoys traveling and exploring nature in all its beauty.

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