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How High Can Chickens Fly?

Unless you’re very familiar with chickens, it may come as a surprise that most breeds of chickens are capable of achieving short ranged flight. Though it’s short-range, how high can chickens fly?

The maximum height recorded of a chicken in flight is about 10 feet. There are a variety of breeds of chicken, and some can fly higher than others, but none of them can sustain flight for long. The furthest chicken flight on record is about 300 feet, but they typically average about 50 feet.

It isn’t common to catch a chicken taking to the air. Casual onlookers or passersby might see a group of chickens pecking at the ground looking for bugs or eating feed, which they spend a lot of their time doing.

But most owners can testify that they can and sometimes do, take to the air. Fortunately for those who try to take care of the birds and keep them safe, they don’t try to fly often, nor do they get very far.

Some owners try to curb any chances of escaping a yard or otherwise a “chicken-safe” zone on a property by installing fencing around the coupes. Do fences work?

Let’s find out.

Can Chickens Fly Over Fences?

a chicken flying high on sky blue background

Chickens can fly over most styles of fencing. This would depend on the breed, what kind of fence is being used, and how tall that fencing is.

For those interested in the types that are less likely to become a problem in the backyard, here are two candidates of chickens that are less likely to go fence-hopping:

1. Buff Orpington

Buff Orpington chicken on the ground

The Buff Orpington is widely regarded as the #1 choice for a backyard chicken for various reasons, including being family-friendly. These birds can fly over fencing at around 4 feet, but owners may catch the Orpington on the other side of the fence once or twice in the bird’s lifetime.

Some owners report that they’ve never seen their Orpington take flight at all. With all they need within the fence’s boundaries, they’re generally not curious enough to check beyond its boundaries.

2. Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red chicken on the ground

Rhode Island Reds are an extremely popular breed of poultry regarded for their hearty nature. Their bodies are large in relation to their wings, which isn’t a good mix for any real kind of flight.

A fence about 4 feet tall usually does the trick with this breed. However, with enough room, they can gather the oomph to get themselves up and over a 4-foot fence if they want to, but they generally won’t bother.

Pick Your Chicken

There are over 100 breeds of chicken worldwide, and each has its own set of pros and cons. If you’re looking to add chickens to your backyard, do your due diligence on a type’s capabilities (particularly their flight height, distance, and willingness to hurdle fencing).

How to Keep Chickens from Flying Over a Fence

chickens inside a fence

Initially, one may think that the answer might be, well, get yourself a taller fence. But that isn’t always necessary and might not be too practical depending on the circumstances.

A Chicken Run

A chicken run is a great long-term solution to prevent chickens from going outside their designated area. It is also an excellent choice for un-fenced yards. They are typically an enclosure that extends out from the coupe.

Extend Existing Fencing

Chicken wire is a relatively easy and cheap way to extend the height of your existing fence if you find it too short all by itself. If done carefully, you could safely gain a foot or two atop the fence.

Overhead Netting

This solution only makes sense if the designated area isn’t too large. Overhead netting is an idea that will prevent them from taking to the air at all, keeping them safely within the confines of the fence.

The side benefit of the netting is its ability to keep the flock safe from any predatory birds. The downside is that it may be challenging for you to maneuver underneath the net if you have it set too low, and debris from any overhead trees will have to be removed regularly to prevent breaks or sagging.

How High Can Chickens Fly with Clipped Wings

a chicken at a farm

It might be time to clip their wings if all else fails and your chickens continue to soar over your fence. But even with their wings clipped, they can still produce enough enthusiasm to get themselves off the ground.

But with their wings clipped, they’ll be shy a couple of feet compared to how high they can take off without clipping. But they can still fly.

So, clipping is not necessarily going to help you get away with a three-foot-tall fence if they were a type that could fly up to eight feet with unclipped wings. Also, both wings should be clipped for the best result- not just one.

Reasons Why Chickens Fly

senior woman with her flying chicken

There are a few reasons why chickens would be willing to make the effort of flying up and over a fence. All of these reasons assume that the chicken is treated and fed correctly.

1. Danger

A feeling of danger is one main reason a chicken might launch itself over a fence. Outside of captivity, a chicken would use its limited flight as a tactic to flee from a predator- to get some ground between them or to land itself on a branch out of reach.

2. Curiosity

Sometimes a chicken might have more ambition than it’s given credit for and wants to see what it’s like on the other side of the fence.

3. Food

Even a well-fed chicken will continue the food search. The yard on the other side of the fence looks unspoiled and grounds for the picking compared to the picked-out area inside its regular feeding zone.

Final Thoughts

flying white chicken

As is true with cats, dogs, exotic pets, or other animals taken in by owners, chickens have specific skill sets that need to be anticipated to have a safe and relatively trouble-free existence.

As touched on above, there are a variety of chickens, each with its capabilities of flight height and distance.

With some research and preemptive maneuvering concerning secure or modified fencing, you can make sure your chicken will always be where you want them to be, rather than tearing up your neighbor’s flowerbeds.

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