If chickens are so bad at flying, why do they have wings?

There are many fossil evidence supporting the theory that all modern-day birds, including chickens, are descended from dinosaurs, and may even be the closest living relative to the T-rex. Protein resembling that found in chicken has been extracted from a 68-million-year-old T-rex bone, providing further evidence of the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and chickens. The fossils of the Gobi Desert have also provided critical supportive information linking dinosaurs and their direct descendants, the birds.

Over time, these ‘chickenosaurus’ had to adapt to their changing environments and resulted in altered genes, novel traits, and new species — chickens or birds.

In the following video, world renowned palaeontologist Dr. Jack Horner describes how evolution takes place and the Earth’s species change over time. Even human beings are transitional from our ape-like ancestors Australopithecus millions of years ago to modern Homo sapiens, because evolution is continuous.

In the following video, University of Montana biology Professor Ken Dial provides new evidence for how flight might have evolved in a group of feathered theropod dinosaurs through a phenomenon termed co-option (or exaptation), the process in evolution by which a structure with an original function changes to a new function. Imagine this: There was a time before flying birds, a time when reptilian things on two legs screeched and flapped their suddenly useful forelimbs to escape predation, reach safer habitats and rise above the competition to survive and reproduce.

The actual reason for chickens having wings is still a little less clear than their following uses:

  • To escape perceived danger: This is why you will often see chickens flying away if you try to approach them too quickly. These chickens see you as a predator and they need to escape.


  • Roosting: Chickens like most birds like to roost up high because it makes them feel a little safer from ground predators. So they will try to fly onto a barn rafter or tree branch to sleep or rest. And they use their wings to flap back down to the ground to eat and lay eggs.


  • Fighting: Chickens when fighting each other over pecking territory, they will fly up so that they can come down on their opponent. It offers a better chance of getting the advantage. They will also beat at each other with their wings.


  • Courting: When male and female chickens are courting, a rooster will indicate his intent by doing a ‘dropped wing dance’ where he drags the edge of his wing on the ground while circling the hen. If the hen chooses to submit, she will crouch down and hold her wings slightly out so that the rooster can jump on her back. The rooster balances himself by using his feet to hang onto her wings and his beak to hang onto the feathers on the back of her head. He shuffles his body back and the hen holds her tail out of the way so they can copulate.

Further reading:

How Dinosaurs Shrank and Became Birds

Dinosaurs Had Wings Long Before They Could Fly


Watch more videos on the Evolution of Dinosaurs into Birds: