Can Chickens Fly?

You would only have to have seen Chicken Run (2000) to know that the question of flying chickens has been a topic of interest for many years. Of course, chickens are nearly always grouped with birds that cannot fly. But now, there may be evidence to suggest otherwise. 

In this article, I will discuss whether or not chickens can actually fly. So, if you’re interested, read on for more! 

Photo by Todd Trapani

Can chickens fly?

So, what did the movie Chicken Run get wrong? Can chickens actually fly? Well, the answer is yes, but the answer is also no. 

Chickens cannot fly the way we usually think of a bird in flight. You won’t one day look up to see a little chicken soaring amongst the eagles and the harriers. However, for a short period of time, chickens can fly in their own way. That is to say, they can use their wings to get themselves from one place to another, even if that’s just a few yards in front of their starting position. 

To put it simply, many chickens cannot fly, but some can! However, the chickens that can fly have a limited time they can stay in the air, and a limited distance they can travel as a result. So, if there is a predator chasing a chicken and they need to make a quick getaway, it can fly over a fence.

However, you won’t find them straying very far from the chicken coop, not without a plane and some Christmas lights, at any rate. Most chickens will only be able to fly for seconds before they come back down to earth. A very common type of chicken flight is known as burst flight.

This type of flying is performed by Breda and Bantam Fowl Chickens. When they sense danger, such as danger from a predator, then these chickens can burst into the air while standing on the spot, in an attempt to escape. 

This type of tactic is said to be used by prehistoric birds – so even if we cannot applaud these chickens for their flying skills, we can at least applaud them for brushing up on their history. 

Photo by pixabay

Flying chickens: fun facts

  • On average, a chicken can fly around 10-15 ft high. But some breeds have been found to reach the tops of barns or houses, around 30 ft!
  • The world record for a chicken flight distance was set in 2014. The chicken in question flew around 301.5 ft! 
  • The record time for chicken flight is around 13 seconds 
  • Chickens can fly at around 10pmh
  • There is only one type of chicken breed that cannot fly at all: silkies 

Flying chickens: the history

There are chicken bones that can be dated back to at least 7,400 years ago, discovered in China. There are also chicken bones in India that date back to at least 5,000 years ago. During these times, we humans would capture wild jungle chickens and intended to use them for various reasons: food, ceremonies, and cock fighting.

These birds still exist and are known as Junglefow. They look a lot like roosters.

Photo by Rudraksha Chodankar

Even before we fully domesticated chickens, wild jungle fowl could not fly like other birds could fly. They could reach the lowest branches of trees to roost, but that was pretty much it. During this time, wild jungle fowl never really needed to learn how to fly. They could use the dense jungle canopy for shelter from all kinds of predators. 

As time passed, and wild jungle fowl were becoming more and more domesticated, people began to breed them. As a result of this breeding, there was an eclectic mix of chicken breeds! These chicken breeds would live in harmony with people, and as a result, they needed to fly less and less.

The more breeds of chicken that sprang into existence, the more and more chickens lost their ability to fly. What’s more, the more humans began to selectively breed chickens for meat and egg production, their weight-to-wing ratio began to change, which only added to the chicken’s inability to fly. 

In our society today, many chicken breeds can only perform hop flights. However, it is important to note that there are still chickens out there that can indeed fly. This includes heritage chicken breeds such as La Fleche. 

Which breed of chicken flies the best?

If you lined up all of the chicken breeds and instructed them to fly, which would come out on top?Undoubtedly, it would be the chicken breeds that are not selectively bred or are not selectively bred to an extensive degree.

Because of this, they still have the flying abilities that their ancestors once did. Some of the most active chicken breeds come from the Mediterranean. These chickens are slimmer than the chickens we know well, so their weight-to-wing ratio is more balanced and as a result, they can fly. 

Chicken breeds that are the best fliers are: 

  • Leghorn
  • Sicilian Buttercups
  • Andalusian
  • Catalana
  • Ancona 
  • Campine 
Photo by Thaddeus Quintin

Flying chickens: why do they do it?

As previously mentioned, there are a few different reasons why chickens will choose to fly. For one thing, chickens will fly to avoid injury or death. When they see a predator, they will first watch it carefully. If the predator gets too close, then the chicken will lift itself into the air in a performance called burst flight. Alternatively, they will fly over a fence or on top of their chicken coop to escape a predator or threat. 

Some chickens will also fly because they are curious about the world around them. This is particularly true if you are surrounded by neighbors who have yards filled with flowers and greenery. 

Sadly, there are some coops that are extremely overcrowded, which also leads to chicken flight. This is because the chickens are trying to find some more space. 

Final Thoughts 

Contrary to popular belief, there are some chickens out there that do indeed fly! However, they cannot fly long distances or very high, and typically do it to escape predators.

How well a chicken flies depends on the weight-to-wing ratio. So, chickens that are selectively bred have less ability to fly. 


Do chickens glide?

As their flight is so short and their wings so unused to flight, the movement could be called a glide. This is where forward movement in the air is present but without the flapping of the wings. Sounds like a chicken.

Why can’t chickens swim?

Chickens do not have webbed feet needed to move in water. Also, their feathers are not waterproof. So chickens might have a bath but they are not suited to be in any deeper water.

Can roosters fly.

Roosters are, of course, male chickens and are often kept alongside a group of chickens. The same features of chickens are found in roosters, so they can fly but only short distances.

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