Chickens can’t fly in the way that pigeons can fly - but that doesn’t mean they’re completely flightless. A healthy hen can easily flap over a metre-high fence, and with a chicken coop roof or other elevated object to launch herself from, she can make it over higher obstacles.
A keen chicken keeper here at Omlet found this out to his cost after placing a point-of-lay Leghorn in a chicken run. Unhappy after her relocation, she hopped on to the coop, and then flew over the two-metre high wire. After a thirty minute chase amongst amused neighbours and excited dogs, the hen was returned to the run, which now had temporary netting over the top. She flapped up, squeezed under the netting, and spent another half hour having fun in the neighbours’ gardens.
Can Chickens Fly? Better than pigs...
Clipping Chicken Wings
Some hens are more keen to exercise their flying skills than others, and bulkier breeds struggle to scale a fence higher than 1.5 metres. You can make sure they don’t succeed by having an enclosed run, and/or by clipping their wings. This completely painless process involves removing the ends of the birds’ flight feathers on one side, and is a simple procedure described on the Wing Clipping page of this guide.
Chicken Flying Record
The longest flight for a hen, with no cliffs or hills involved, is almost 92 metres, covered in 13 seconds. With a hill slope in front of them and a backwind behind them, chickens may be able to fly even further, though.
So, it isn’t really true to say that chickens are flightless like penguins or ostriches. But their powers in the air are very limited, and they are not built for smooth landings. Hens taking to the wing on a hillside are in danger of breaking their legs or wings when they crash-land.