Can chickens fly?

You’d be forgiven for thinking they couldn’t…

Anyone who has ever seen a hen frantically take to the air when it is startled could be forgiven for thinking that chickens have lost the power of flight. Indeed, by selectively breeding chickens to produce meat, humans have made it harder for these birds to get off the ground. Yet even the wild jungle fowl from which domesticated chickens are descended can only fly short distances at a time.

Due to their small wings relative to their body size, hens need to put in a real effort and beat their wings rapidly to produce enough lift for take-off. Once they are airborne, however, they don’t have enough energy left to go far and their lack of endurance means that they cannot flap fast enough or for long enough to stay up. Most of the time this doesn’t matter, because as ground feeders hens have evolved to be able to fly up just far enough to reach a low-growing tree branch when threatened. From there they can look down on predators, including hungry humans.


For answers to more of your burning animal questions, make sure to pick up a copy of World of Animals!