A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Followup: Chickens can so fly!

September 30, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

not to contradict drmat or SDStaff Dex, but, i was visiting my sister who just happens to live on a chicken farm and with my very own eyes saw the chickens in her pine trees, leaving me to draw the conclusion that chickens are either really good tree climbers (doubtful) or though not as graceful as an eagle perhaps, they can fly (more likely). perhaps the sdstaff could conduct one of their entirely scientific experiments this time instead of just taking someones word for it?

SDStaff DrMat replies:

DrMat, brevet member of the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, replies:

So am I to just take your word for it too? The original question was "why can't chickens fly?" and my original answer (minus the witticisms) was "they could if we didn't breed them so that they can't." I once lived on a chicken farm as well, and mine never flew. But as long as we're taking words, we'll leave mine and yours alone and go to a less impeachable source. I'm fresh out of "entirely scientific experiments" to determine flying behavior. Research, however, is a different subject.

Enter one Kathy Rogers, wildlife rehabilitator at Samuell Farm, in Dallas. Ms. Rogers handles all types of birds and maintains a large flock of every kind of chicken, turkey, duck, swan, pheasant, quail, dove and you-name-it you can imagine. According to her, chickens are "spurt flyers," that is, they will flap up to a low tree or fence post to roost for the night or when they feel in danger. The larger the bird, the less likely this is to happen, so it would be bantam chickens and some free-range birds that you would see doing this. The typical laying hen or bird bred for consumption is too ungainly to fly much at all. Chickens of any type would never fly for any distance and as she put it, don't expect to see soaring chickens.

Hope this clears it all up for you.

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