On Facebook, I see people asking why chickens can’t fly, so I thought it would be a good topic for an article.
Can chickens fly? While it seems like chickens can’t fly, our feathered friends DO have the CAPABILITY to get some airlift – they’re just not that good at it. In fact, the longest recorded flight lasted 13 seconds, while the furthest distance recorded was 301.5 ft.
So, it’s not that chickens can’t fly…..they just suck at it. Here’s a deeper explanation.
Why Chickens Can’t Fly Very Well
Can chickens fly? While some chickens fly better than others, as a whole, chickens are not good at flying because of ancestry and selective breeding by humans.
Modern chickens are the noble descendants of the grey or red jungle fowl found in the wild in around Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos. Their ancestors did a pretty good job of flying, particularly if there was a predator involved.
However, since modern chickens have become a companion to humans, the need to fly for survival has been largely bred out – mostly for food purposes – and their wings have become vestigial.
The reasons why chickens can’t fly is because chickens adapted to spend time on the ground since their food is located on the ground (doesn’t do them much good to stick to the air if they’ll never catch a meal, right?). Their feet too are adapted for walking as opposed to perching.
Certain species also have been bred to be poor fliers (think Silkies or Frizzles) largely because they’re ornamental breeds – so things like wingspan or other factors that allow a bird to fly were less important breed features than, say, unique feathering.
Silkies have fluffy feathers similar to down, for example, which makes it nearly impossible for them to fly. Read more about the best types of chickens that make great pets.
So, how high can chickens fly? Well, with enough determination, some chickens can fly over an 8 foot fence, although not all will be successful.
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Can Any Chickens Fly? Here’s the Chicken Breeds That Can Fly
Now, there are certain chicken breeds that can fly better than others, such as Wyandottes and Orpingtons. They’re good for at least one foot off the ground for a short while, particularly if the neighbor’s dog has decided to visit. Read more about raising chickens with neighbors.
However, because they’re heavy and not really built to fly, they’ll get some lift off, but their wings cannot give them the lift power needed for them to fly for very long.
Heavier breeds survive a dog attack because they’re fast runners (chickens can run faster than people – about 14 miles per hour. That’s why when we want to catch them, we don’t have a prayer in hell until nightfall). If you’re a beginner at chicken raising, check out this post for the best chicken breeds for beginners.
Lighter breeds such as Leghorns, Ancona, and Araucanas to some extent, are better fliers – you might notice that they’ll roost up in the trees during the night, while heavier breeds struggle to roost even a few feet up.
If they’re safe from predators, you might wonder why chickens fly at all – it’s not needed for survival, and they’ll find all the treats they need on the ground. Read more about how to keep your chickens safe from predators.
Well, as you know, chickens are full of curiosity, and they’ll fly largely to explore their surroundings and to interact with their flock mates. Who doesn’t have a hen loves to discover new things, especially if it’s food related? Ours go nuts when their chicken tractor is moved to new grass!
Can Roosters Fly?
Like hens, it’s not that these chickens can’t fly – in fact, roosters are marginally better at it than hens. However, the need has been largely bred out of them, and roosters no longer need the ability to fly in order to stay safe from predators.
I hope this answered your questions about why chickens can’t fly!
So can chickens fly? Yes and no. I hope this information helped explain why most chickens can’t fly. Feel free to ask me more questions about why chickens can’t fly or any other information you need about raising chickens!
More Chicken Raising Resources:
- What You Need to Know about Abnormal Chicken Eggs
- How to Make a Dust Bath for Your Chickens
- Organic Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
- Best Chickens as Pets
- Can Chickens Lay Eggs without a Rooster?
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Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.