CHICKENS have the two main components required for flight – wings and feathers.
But while they are technically capable of flight, different breeds can do it with varying degrees of success.
Can chickens fly?
Yes, contrary to popular belief chickens can fly – just not very far.
They use flight to escape predators and to find food, but how high and far depends on the breed.
The longest distance in flight ever recorded by a chicken is 301.5 feet in 2014.
The highest chickens can fly is about 30ft.
You see good lift and control from lighter breeds such as Ancona and Leghorns, which can easily clear a fence up to 8ft.
Orpington and Wyandotte chickens, on the other hand, are heavy birds which can only fly low and over short distances.
Why are chickens bad at flying?
Even though chickens can fly, the longest ever chicken flight on record is a brief 13 seconds.
Their sketchy flight credentials mainly arise because their wings are not strong or large enough to support their body in flight.
Ridiculous as it sounds, their main difficulty is that their flight muscles are too heavy for their wings.
This is because we have bred chickens to have big, tasty, flight muscles in the breasts.
Silkies and Polish breeds of chicken barely fly at all.
Silkies don’t fly because they can’t trap air under their wings, they are the only chicken that technically cannot fly.
A Silkie’s feathers are downy like those of a chick, unlike feathers of birds that fly well that stick together.
Although large breeds like the Orpington and Wyandotte chickens do fly, it’s more of an untidy hover rather than a graceful glide.
These birds only manage to get about 1ft off the ground, and a 4ft fence will form an effective barrier against other heavy birds like Barred Rocks and Australorps.
What breed of chicken can fly?
Lighter breeds of chickens fly better than heavy ones.
Those like Bantams can get up high, and generally more gamie chickens can fly best, but compared to most birds, they don’t fly far or well.
Bantam hens, being slight and small, display an impressive vertical take-off, and Old English Game Bantams in particular like to roost high up in trees.
This directly upward flight is called a"'burst flight", but even this generally only reaches dizzy heights of about 13ft.
A popular breed to keep as pets in the UK is the Rhode Island Red who have been able to get over 6ft fences if motivated.
The Araucanas breed can also get pretty high, and like to perch amid the branches, and Brabanter and Norwegian Jaerhon are also lightweight flying chickens.
Spitzhaubens and Red Rangers are also breeds which seem to enjoy flying and show aptitude for it.
Still, chickens are only in the air for a matter of seconds, and don’t look as though they have time or energy to plan their landing.
These flying chickens make a trade-off between height and distance, because they can’t manage both, nor can they do either for long.
That said, you can’t fault chickens’ determination to fly, because they strive to escape enclosures to find new spaces and tasty treats.
Chickens can run nearly as fast as they fly, with an on-foot speed record of 9mph compared to a flight record of 10mph.
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