Why do chickens have wings? They only fly short distances, so what do they use it for? It makes you wonder, right? These questions have baffled many animal lovers for years. Did you know that their functions underwent a fantastic evolution? Read on to explore how they currently utilize these mysterious appendages.
Do chickens use their wings to fly?
Chickens use their wings to help them glide and jump. But they are not designed for long-distance flights. They can flutter and flap them for reasons other than flying. These birds may not soar like an eagle, but they have other skills up their sleeves (or wings).
Can they fly long distances?
No, chickens can’t fly long distances even if their life depends on it. However, they can glide safely from a high place such as a roof or perch. They can also use their flapping power to escape from nasty enemies.
What prevents chickens from flying?
There are a few reasons why chickens are not very flyers. Their heavy bodies and small wings have made it difficult for them to soar in the sky. Breed selection did not help their case as well.
Humans have selectively bred chickens for many years. This process made these birds’ bodies heavier and their wings smaller. Usually, breeders raise them for meat and eggs rather than their flying abilities. So, while their ancestors could fly better, modern-day poultry is not built for flight.
A chicken has a large, heavy body supported by only two legs. Come to think of it; the proportions are not ideal. Their body structure makes it difficult for them to take off and fly. It takes a lot of energy to lift their body off the ground. Imagine how hard it is for you to jump high if you’re carrying something hefty.
They also have relatively small wings compared to their body size. It means that they can’t generate as much lift as other birds with longer wings. The balance is quite off. It can be a struggle for them to stay in the air for long periods.
Furthermore, chickens have strong breast muscles that they use mainly to walk and run. Flying is absolutely last on their minds. These parts are less developed than those in birds that fly regularly. So, it limits their flying ability.
Fear of Predators
A chicken’s fear of predators is one of the reasons why they shun flying. If they were to take flight, they would leave themselves vulnerable to attacks from hawks or eagles.
These animals opt to escape scary attackers by running and hiding. They’re very good at using their strong legs to move quickly on the ground. They can still fly short distances if push comes to shove. They’d perch on high objects like trees or fences.
Millions of years ago, the modern-day chicken’s ancestors had better flying abilities than they do today. These birds had longer wings and lighter bodies. Their anatomy made it easier for them to fly and escape from predators.
However, chickens started living closer to humans and being domesticated over time. Farmers bred chickens for specific traits -larger body size and better egg-laying abilities. Soon they forgot how it was to be free and soar.
What’s the Purpose of Chicken’s Wings?
Chickens may not be your resident flyers, but their wings have essential purposes. The following reveals how this body part helps chickens live their best life.
For climbing, jumping, and balance
Chickens use their wings for balance and stability when they climb or jump. Then, they’ll use their legs and feet to push themselves off the ground and propel themselves upward.
For example, if a chicken vaults to a perch or roost, it might flap its wings slightly. This action is to balance and steer itself in the right direction. If it needs to adjust its position, it might use its wings to shuffle to a different spot.
For showing who’s the boss
When chickens want to show that they’re the boss, they use their wings to make themselves look bigger and more intimidating. They’d puff out their feathers, including those on their appendages. They might also stretch them to their full span -making them look even more massive and impressive.
By doing this, the dominant chicken sends a message to the other animals in the flock. It’s as if it’s saying, “I am in charge!” The other birds usually back off and give the “king” space.
For running away from predators
When chickens need to run away from a predator, like a fox or a hawk, they use their wings to help them move quickly. They also utilize them to change direction if needed. These birds can’t fly very far. But they can flap their wings to boost themselves and run faster. These skills are handy when they need to get away quickly from their enemies.
They sometimes use their wings to make sudden turns or twists when they run. This clever maneuver throws off the hunter. It kind of reminds you of roadrunner and the coyote. They might also use their appendages to help them balance and stabilize themselves as they run over rough terrain.
What other reasons why chickens have wings?
Aside from the ones mentioned above, a chicken’s wings have other functions. They may be unassuming parts, but they make the chickens’ life better.
For dust baths
When chickens take a dust bath, they use their wings to help them spread the dust all over their feathers. The soil helps clean their body covering by absorbing excess oil and dirt. It also helps eliminate parasites like mites and lice living on their skin. They might even flap their wings a little to create a dust cloud -distributing the sand even more evenly.
For showing off their beauty
Some chicken breeds have colorful or fancy plumage. They use their wings to show off this precious physical asset. They do this by spreading them wide and displaying their feathers in all their glory!
For finding a partner
These confident birds may puff out their chests to make themselves look more impressive. To attract a mate, they’ll stand really tall and spread their appendages. Then, they’ll shake their feathers back and forth in a sort of dance. This “wing dance” is a cute way for them to show off their beauty and, hopefully, find love.
How Do Chickens Use Their Wings for Protection?
Chickens aren’t exactly known for their fighting abilities. However, they have their trusted wings to protect themselves. This body part can also be their haven from harm. The following are other uses for these body parts.
To protect their babies
When chickens have babies, they use their wings to protect and keep them safe. When the chicks are very young, the mother hen will use her wings to keep them warm and cozy. She will gather them underneath her feathers.
If a predator or other danger approaches, the caring mama will use her wings to cover and hide her kids. She might spread her appendages wide and make a protective circle around them. As the babies grow older and venture out on their own, the hen uses her wings to lead them to a safe spot.
Chickens have their own self-defense arsenal- their wings! They use them as a weapon to protect themselves and ward off potential threats.
If a predator approaches, this bird will spread its wings to make itself look bigger and more intimidating. It might even use it to whack his opponents into submission. Never underestimate these innocent-looking appendages- they pack a powerful punch.
Chickens might not be efficient flyers. But their wings still serve noble purposes. Many people wonder, “why do chickens have wings”? There are many good reasons for these mighty appendages. They use it for grooming, protection, and finding their true love.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.