Highflying Hen

I’m often asked, How high does a fence have to be to keep my hens in?

As with so many questions about chickens, the answer is, It depends.

Growing pullets are agile and lightweight and are often escape artists. They’ll hop onto a stool or log and launch themselves out of a pen. A six-foot fence might keep the young ones in.

Most laying hens, though, are far from aerodynamic. The heavy breeds, like the Barred Rocks and the Australorps tend to stay put. And they like life on the ground, where the food is. The fence built for the chicks will do for them, but usually a lower fence will as well. There is a four-foot wire fence around the perimeter of my property, and it keeps the chickens from straying up the street.

However, there are always exceptions. In my flock, that exception is Misty. She’s a Blue Andalusian, which is a sleek Mediterranean breed that originated in Spain. She likes to be up high, and she can get there. I often let the Ladies into the goat paddock to forage. They all stay in the pen. Except for Misty. When I ask the Ladies to go back to their coop, they come running. Still, I do a headcount before closing their door. I’m always short a hen. It’s always Misty. She’s the only one to fly over the goat’s 4-foot fence. Misty also has yet to figure out how to fly back to come when called.

The other day, while the hens were free-ranging on the lawn, Misty decided to fly up to the top of the run. I have no idea of why she did that. In ten years of having chickens in that pen, I’ve never had a hen parade around up there.

The goats were as surprised as I was.



Twiggy, the White Leghorn is as svelte and athletic as Misty. However, she wouldn’t think of leaving the good food on the ground if it weren’t for that instigator, Misty. Twiggy followed.



It was precarious on the netting.



It is hawk netting, designed so that birds won’t get tangled in it. Nonetheless, Twiggy quickly decided that it wasn’t for her. Besides, there was nothing to eat up there, and Twiggy is always hungry. Down she came. It took Misty a bit longer to leave her perch. I think that she liked the view.



  1. Too funny. We had a Cuckoo Moran with a love of high places….every evening she’d perch on bicycle handlebars from the bike hanging for storage on our back porch. It had to be atleast 6′ off the ground…never did figure out how she made it up there but she was so happy there.

  2. Even though I’m not a chicken, I like the higher views also. A beautiful chicken after my own heart. Hope the air is fine up there little girl. Nice story, Terry. Makes my day much brighter. Thank you.

  3. Love the tilt of Caper’s head as he watches Misty. Wondering if she’s planning to land on his back, maybe?

  4. One of my RI Red pullets does this all the time.
    I love how Twiggy had to go investigate.

  5. My Appenzeller Spitzhaubens like to fly over my six foot fence when they’re young. Oh, you should HEAR the whole flock squawking when one of them can’t figure out how to get back!
    They can still do it when they’re older, but they lose their sense of adventure as they age. I clip wings until they do.

  6. When I was working horses, nearly all the farms I worked on had free ranging chickens. They could all fly and would get up in the trees if they weren’t called in early enough before dusk. I find it interesting that yours don’t fly much. The ‘animal person’ in me wonders if all the emphasis on egg laying over the decades is responsible for lessening of skill and/or desire to fly.

    And a side story – A man my husband knows lets his chickens free range and they roost in a tree at night. Suddenly he started losing chickens so he stayed up one night to see what was going on. An owl, perhaps? Nope, a raccoon. The raccoon would climb the tree and kill a chicken. Night after night. He decided he must have they dumbest chickens on the planet. They wouldn’t even try to escape or use another tree. I didn’t ‘get it’ either. Chickens will throw a major fit if a fox gets in the coop. Then I read on this site how they can’t see well in the dark and it made sense. They ‘know’ the coop but leaving the tree would put them on the ground who knows where and right in the path of more predators. I passed the info on. And I also sat and wondered how after all the years on farms I never picked this up. *shakes head*

  7. I have 2 Mediterranean breed hens(an Ancona and a Golden Campine) who choose to sleep up in the rafters of the outside enclosure……even through our recent cold snap of below freezing weather. They do not even huddle together up there. Our hens all free-range all day as our property is fenced. I was leery about how this would work with these 2 birds but in the 9 mos. I have had them, they have never eloped. In fact they don`t even fly up into the trees or anything higher then their larger heavier flock-mates do. They seem content to keep their feet on the ground all day despite the freedom to do otherwise. My guess is they just feel safer at night, with the extra ht. between them and everything else. They use the hen house to lay their eggs so it does serve some purpose for them.

  8. Oh yes the flying gene. It’s so true Terry that the Mediterrinean breeds are the most likely and best at flying across the yard for fun or to fly to the top of their run just because it’s there.

    I like it when my hens are let out and my white leghorn decides the peak of their coop is fine place to take a nap or my OEG bantams think the top of the pergola is a great place for an afternoon preening.

    Terry are you Easter Eggers flyers? Mine are but they don’t really fly to the high things they prefer a running start, take off, SQUWAK TO HIGH HEAVEN (so I think a hawk attack is imminent) and fly as far as they can. They are pretty good at it too. Although I do get a big chuckle when one has under estimated their flight capabilities and crashes into a bush or the side of their coop because they over shot the runway. ;-)

  9. This is so funny Terry! Was it last year, when Agatha Agate flew up on top of the fence then followed by Onyx? I recall seeing those pictures. Chickens are so very entertaining. Thank you for sharing! I always enjoy the photos when they are in an awkward position, hilarious!

  10. I have a covered run similar to yours and I had a hen not only jump up there but lay eggs on top of it as well! We also used to have a stump near our 4 ft fenceline which we had to cut away because one of the hens would get on the stump and use it to get over the enclosure. I thought this was cute until one day I went outside and she was on the other end of the yard with a hawk riding her bareback like a horse! luckily she wasnt injured but we decided at that point it was dangerous for her to be away from the group, so chopped up the stump.

  11. My run is similarly set up like yours. One of my speckled sussex, my white crested blue polish and my americuana loved to sit up there and watch the goings on of the Fort Hunter Hens, ,

  12. As SOON as I read the title, I knew it was an Andalusian. I have one too and that bird loves to fly. When I open their gate to let them out, everyone walks except my Andalusian. She has to fly out. At which point I yell, THIS IS A STRICT NO FLY ZONE AND YOU KNOW THAT. I WANT BOTH FEET ON THE GROUND NOW! Last thing I need to do is fetch a wiley hen from the neighbors yard.

  13. LOL- copy-cat hens! Sort of reminds me of that rooster-shaped weather vane.

    After the bantams here went “free range” (at least, back-yard range) my evening task was to go up a ladder and collect them from their roosting tree and put them in the coup. After a while, we stopped even doing that…those hens were lucky, there were no raccoons around here back then.

    • Oh, I forgot, this is about flying! :^) Those bantams could fly pretty well, I’d say at least six feet on a good day. I did clip their wings for a while, but I imagine they need those feathers to keep warm in the winter.

  14. A hen jumping the fence is actually how my boyfriend got his first chook.

    His neighbours had purchased 4 hens – 3 Isa Browns and 1 white Leghorn, the 3 brown girls were picking on the white girl, so she jumped a six-foot fence and landed in my boyfriends backyard.

  15. I love these photos. Especially the way the goats are checking them out. I do have an easter egger that loves to be up high when she can. My 2 belgian duccles are great flyers. They weigh about 22 ounces each. They fly cross my entire 1/2 acre. However they don’t like to stray too far from my maran who is their 7 lb friend, so luckily they have never left the yard. My yard isn’t fenced on 3 sides. The other side the neighbor has a fence but so far no problems. I figured twiggy would fly. Misty is beautiful.

  16. Silly Misty! I have a buff pullet who does the same thing. Such acrobatics!

  17. The 4 beautiful roosters that I just couldn’t get rid of, or subject my hens to, seem to be very happy living next to, and most days share the pen with, my 2 goat brothers. They have never been out since I moved the 4 of them in for good. One day I was watching them, and one of the roosters got over the 5 ft. fence. It surprised me and the roo, it all happened so fast! I didn’t even see it happen, but I know it did, because suddenly 1 roo was on the other side of the fence, and there were no openings! It let me catch it, which I thought was going to be impossible! I put it back in, and they have all stayed in ever since! I imagine the roo jumped straight up and was over! What a mystery!

  18. My coop and run are covered but I let them out in the yard daily for excersize and fun, there is a four ft wood fence surrounding the area, once my plymouth rock miss prissy was on outside of fence, when she saw me she ran to the gate to be let back in. who says chickens arent smart? Sje has only seen me use tje gate, she has never done it again, guess grass wasnt greener on the other side.

  19. What great stories you’ve been sharing! I think the reason that we all like this topic is because not all hens fly the coop. It’s the interesting, quirky, adventurous chicken that launches herself up and out. These stories show just how individualistic our hens (and roosters) are.

  20. My run is topped with a double layer of chicken wire and has a large bush and an apple tree inside. My girls jump to their coop roof and fly into the bush and tree, I know I would lose them if their wasn’t a top on my run. They fly the length of the run and they jump from the ground to my shoulder when I am in with them. They are a mix of pure breeds, hybrid and bantys. They are all excellent at flying and jumping.