Clipping Wings

One of our turkeys got out, and I caught it all by myself!

It wouldn’t have gotten out in the first place if Charlie wasn’t in the pen trying to catch it, but that’s not the point. I caught it, picked it up, and took it to Charlie!

We were catching them to clip their wings. We have four – two male, to female, we think – and they have been in our smaller coop/run. We’ve known that they needed to be moved to the big yard, but we have also been told that turkeys are excellent at flying and would have no qualms about, literally, flying the coop.

Turkey pen

Charlie has talked to other farmers and watched countless YouTube videos to learn how to clip the wings properly. He felt confident, but I just knew it was going to be a fluttering, biting, scratching, flapping mess. I’m so glad I was wrong.

The most important thing Charlie learned is to hold the turkeys upside down, by their feet. This instantly calms them, and they pretty much don’t move at all. Who knew? I still didn’t quite believe it. (Once you’ve been attacked by a rooster, it’s difficult to ever fully trust poultry again.)


Well, how about that? It really worked! I kept waiting for the birds to lull us into believing they were calm, then springing a surprise attack on us. I was responsible for holding them, and I didn’t want to be the one who hurt them, or freaked out and let them go. Couldn’t have been easier. They just hung around while Charlie clipped their wings. They were so mellow I could even hold one with one hand and take a picture with the other.

First Cut

For those who have never clipped wings, there are actually two sets of feathers: A long set, and a shorter one. Using regular scissors, you clip the longer feathers, following along the tips of the short feathers. A built in guide. Our turkeys are old enough, the long feathers have completely grown in, and the quills are like fingernails. We can cut them right off, and it doesn’t hurt the birds at all.

Did you know you’re only supposed to clip one wing? It’s not the shortness of the feathers that prevent the birds from flying, but the imbalance. If you clip both sides, flying will be harder, but they can still get away. With just one side gone, it’s like paddling with one oar. They won’t get anywhere.

We were able to clip all four turkeys and relocate them into the big yard in about 30 minutes. Now they have room to roam, but won’t escape and become prey to the neighborhood coyotes.

My biggest problem now is these guys are really friendly and have quirky little personalities. They’re also supposed to be Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.