This summer, Philip and I are caring for the home of his parents Danny and Joy Murphy. As retirees, they are spending the summer at Kowalski Mountain. They have quite the flock of birds, about 30 chickens, and 8 turkeys of varying ages. A group of the younger turkeys are escape artists and have been jumping the fence daily. We attempted to keep them locked up for a few days to better establish their boundaries. However, as soon as they were let to free-range, they decided the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. It’s time to begin clipping each of the turkey’s wings in hopes I can discourage them from checking out those “greener” and far less safe areas beyond the fence line. I’ll show you how easy it is clipping a turkey’s wing to prevent escape, or at least slow them down.
What does clipping a turkey’s wings mean?
The goal of clipping, cutting or trimming a turkey’s wings is to prevent flight. Clipping the turkey’s wings would be better described as clipping the turkey’s flight feathers. The wings themselves are not cut at all, only the long flight feathers on one of the bird’s wings. It is like getting a haircut, when done properly, it doesn’t hurt the animals and the feathers will eventually grow back.
What are flight feathers?
Since the cat is already out of the bag that I am a “bit“ of a science nerd, I did a little research on flight feathers. Birds have three types of flight feathers. The primary flight feathers are the longest feathers on the outer edge of a bird’s wing. These feathers allow the bird to propel through the air. The secondary flight feathers are near the center of a bird’s wing. These feathers give the bird lift in flight. The final group, tertiary flight feathers, are closest to the bird’s body. They add minimal support to flight. Learn more about Flight feather’s here or here
How does clipping turkey’s wing keep it from flying?
One of the most important things to know about clipping a bird’s wing is that only the flight feathers on ONE of the bird’s wings is cut. Cutting one of the bird’s wings disrupts their balance in flight and prevents them from being able to fly. We cut all the flight feathers on a single wing. The flight feathers are cut just below the covert feathers, which is that row of feathers above the flight feathers. In this video, Philip drew a line on the wings to show the correct cutting line below the covert feathers. The general guideline is a half inch below the covert feathers. Please note, I did cut the flight feathers very short, less than the 1/2″ recommended amount.
What feathers NOT to cut?
There are some feathers that should never be cut,, these are called blood feathers. Blood feathers are new feathers that are not grown out yet that are growing during the molting process. They can be identified because they are typically wrapped in a sheathing called keratin for a portion of the feather. The blood feathers may also be shorter than the others. During the growth process, the feathers have blood inside of them. The birds can bleed when these feathers are cut or broken. More about blood feathers here
Different Methods of Wing Clipping
Through my research about types of feathers, I did learn that in parrots and other small birds such as parakeets or cockatiels, only 4 or 5 of primary flight feathers on both wings are cut. By clipping only the primary flight feathers on both sides, birds can still achieve flight for short distances which could help them if they were in danger and needed to fly a short distance. Our goal is different, we want to prevent flight for our turkeys. Domestic turkeys do not typically fly far anyway and can jump high enough to protect themselves if they are in danger. Smaller birds only defense might be to fly if needed, so their wings are clipped differently to attain a different goal.
Join me as I clip these turkeys’ wings to see how easy it is to do even by yourself.
So far, the young turkeys have not yet escaped the yard since their wings have been cut. Let’s keep it under our wing (pun intended) that it won’t be long and they will be able to jump the fence regardless of their cut wings
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.