Most people know that when it comes to flying, chickens aren’t built to soar hundreds of feet in the air like an eagle. That being said, they are still flighted birds capable of flapping their wings and gliding short distances. What many chicken owners want to know, though, is if their backyard feathered friends are capable enough to fly away, and if so, how likely are they to do so?
It is uncommon for backyard chickens to fly away because most chicken breeds can’t fly over a foot in the air for more than 40 or 50 feet and chickens are domesticated animals that will stay near their habitat as long as they feel safe and their needs are met.
In this article, we’ll discuss how likely it is for a backyard chicken to become an escape artist and fly away from home. As you read, you’ll also learn various ways to keep your backyard chickens safe and prevent them from exploring beyond the boundaries of their coop and/or your property.
Is It Common For Chickens to Run or Fly Away?
First thing’s first; before we get into all the details of how you can keep your backyard chickens contained and ensure they don’t fly away, let’s discuss the likelihood of this unnerving event happening.
Chickens are notorious for wandering and aren’t considered the most intelligent creatures. However, backyard chickens are a domesticated species that quickly become accustomed to the safety and security of their coop, making them wary of leaving this habitat.
Can chickens run or fly away? Yes. Like any animal, they are perfectly capable of becoming curious and simply wandering off into the horizon.
Despite their very limited flying abilities, the longest recorded flight of a modern chicken lasted 13 seconds over a distance of 300 feet (source), which is certainly long and far enough for them to leave their coop and your property altogether (Remember, this is a record, not average behavior).
But the glaring question we’re answering here is will they run away, and the answer is, not typically.
When you first acquire a backyard chicken, odds are it is going to be too timid and wary to wander more than a few feet from its coop. Over time, as they become more comfortable with their surroundings, it isn’t uncommon for chickens to get a bit more daring with their exploration distance.
However, they usually have a surprisingly good sense of direction and can keep their bearings well enough to instinctively wander back home (That’s how you get free-range chickens).
Here’s a cool video showing a couple clips of chickens flying around a bit:
When Might a Backyard Chicken Fly Away?
There are only a handful of scenarios when your chickens will instinctively opt for flying/running away from their coop and your property, and that is if their basic needs are not met or they believe they are in imminent danger.
The best way to prevent your chickens from flying away is to keep them happy.
If your backyard chicken is given a comfortable coop, places to perch, and regular food and water sources, they will have no desire to leave. It is only when these basic needs are not meant that they might contemplate the great beyond.
Apart from a lack of food and lodging, the remaining (more likely) reason your backyard chicken might attempt to flee the premises is if they feel threatened. Unfortunately for the chicken, it isn’t exactly at the top of the food chain, leaving them with a handful of common predators.
Some of these include:
- Birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls, etc.)
- Wild or large cats
If you live in an area where these predators are common, you’re going to want to have forms of security in place to protect your chickens.
These can include:
- A strong coop made of ¼ inch hardware cloth or another equally-durable material
- Doors and closeable coop windows with locks
- A Rooster
- A guard dog
These basic additions could be the difference between life and death for your backyard chickens, and can even be a deterrent from them wandering or flying too far from your property.
Limiting their free range can also help ensure your chickens don’t accidentally encounter a predator’s habitat or explore locations where they’re likely to hunt (ex. forests, fields).
Can You Train Your Chicken Not to Fly Away?
As we mentioned previously, chickens rarely decide to up and leave their comfy coop, and if they do go out exploring, they usually come home instinctually. While instinct alone can be powerful, we understand your weariness to rely on it and question if training your chicken is an option.
Many chicken owners might be surprised to learn that chickens are trainable! In addition to teaching them you preferred outdoor boundaries, chickens can learn a wide range of skills and talents, such as obstacle courses, playing instruments, brain games, and more.
But we’re talking about keeping our backyard chickens at home. For this particular goal, we recommend teaching your chickens two things: recall and functional training.
Recall, or coming when called, is an infinitely useful skill for your chickens to know. This will allow you to leave your chickens roaming around with the confidence that they will come running back to the coop when on your command. You can train this by choosing a particular word or movement and treating your chickens every time it is voiced or performed.
Functional training are skills you chickens can learn that they’ll use in everyday life, such as:
- Coop training: Returning to the coop at a particular time or when called
- Specified free-range times: The flock learns when they’re allowed to roam the property.
- Nesting training: Hens learn an exact location for laying eggs (ex. nesting boxes).
- Herding: Useful for young pullets and cockerels when they first learn the parameters of free-range
Typically, if you can train a few of your older chickens, the younger ones will follow suit, as chickens prefer to travel in groups.
Anyone concerned that their new backyard chickens might fly away at any moment can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this is uncommon behavior for this domesticated animal. Many chickens are physically capable of flying away, but seldom do as long as they are well cared for and protected.
Still, regular recall and functional training seldom hurts, particularly with a free-range flock, and can give you the confidence to allow your chickens some space to explore, knowing they’ll come home.