The Omlet Blog

How to Catch a Chicken

Photo by Jim Tegman on Unsplash

Only very tame pet hens enjoy being picked up. Most chickens find the whole procedure stressful, so you should only catch or handle them if you have to.

There are a few reasons why you might need to know how to catch a chicken. Your hens might be in danger, might require a clean-up after coming into contact with something oily or sticky, or you might need to carry out a chicken health check.

There are various ways to catch a chicken. If the hen is in danger as a result of escaping onto a road or into a garden with a dog in it, you can usually manage things by ‘herding’ the chicken rather than trying to lift it. If a dog is the problem, controlling or confining the dog is the first thing to sort out. If the hen has escaped and you need to catch her, guiding her back to safety by standing with your arms stretched out to the sides and encouraging her to return to the chicken coop is the best option. In these situations, the chicken will desperately want to find her fellow hens, so ‘steer’ her towards the hole in the fence or the open gate, or whichever escape route she took.

If the hen has flapped over a wall, however, you may have to resort to old fashioned hunting techniques for catching chickens.

How Do You Catch a Stray Chicken?

If your hens are very tame, you can simply offer some treats, bend down and pick them up. If only it were that easy with every chicken! Some are about as easy to catch as a fast-moving bar of wet soap – they can sprint at speeds of around 9 miles (14.5 km) per hour – and you will usually have to corner them first if you want to catch them.

If a hen has escaped or you spot her running away, or simply hidden somewhere in a large garden or meadow where you can find to trace of her, the best approach is to be patient and rely on the chicken’s homing instinct. As dusk begins to fall, the hen will instinctively head back to the coop. This is one of the handy things about keeping poultry!

The Best Way to Catch a Chicken

Do chickens like being picked up? In general, the answer is no. But if you’re trying to catch a chicken for whatever reason there are various ways of doing so. Not all of them can be recommended for the non-expert chicken keeper.

  • Using a pole with a hook or noose for catching a chicken. Let’s get the dangerous one out of the way first. A pole, hook or noose should only be used by experts when trying to catch a chicken. This is a dangerous tool, and in the wrong hands the poultry hook or noose can break a chicken’s leg or neck as you try to grab it, so our advice is to avoid it.
  • Using a net to catch chickens. Nets can be dangerous tools, as a chicken’s claws can snag in the netting, causing injury. If you opt for this method, the chickens should be netted as quickly as possible to minimise stress – although forever afterwards the sight of that net will send the poor hen into a panic! You should always use as large a net as possible for catching your chickens. A blanket may offer a safer way to catch them.
  • Using crate traps for catching chickens. Putting irresistible treats into a crate, and then slyly closing the door with a pole or long stick is an effective method. The main drawback is that all the other chickens will be tempted to take a look inside too!
  • Boxes for catching chickens. A large box can be placed over a cornered bird in the coop or run, and the flaps can be tucked in to secure the chicken. This technique can be useful if you need to capture chickens in daylight (although it works at night, too) and if they tend to be aggressive.
  • Torchlight makes chickens easier to catch. This is the simplest and most effective method when you need to trap a roosting chicken. When chickens are with the rest of the flock in the coop or run on their roosting bars or perches or in their nesting boxes at night, they instinctively stay put. If you open the top of the coop and shine a torch in (head-mounted ones are perfect), you’ll be able to pinpoint the hen you need to examine, and grab her up with minimal fuss.

Picking Up the Chicken

When picking up the hen, try to be firm but not rough. Getting a good grip and preventing the wings from flapping is the key. The correct method is to hold the chicken by placing your hand over its back, confining the wings, and then bring it close to your body. If the bird is very nervous, you may have to cover her with a towel to calm her down.

A tame hen is the easiest type of chicken to capture. Simply lure the hen in with a few treats, and grab her, stroking her back to reassure her. Once the cleaning or the examination is over, put the chicken on the ground and step back. She will do the rest, scuttling back to the safety of the flock.

So, there are several ways to catch a chicken, but you should only put them into operation when you definitely need to catch one. Try to avoid the poultry hook or net if you can, and use the method that suits both the chicken and the circumstances.

This entry was posted in Chickens