One of the funniest things I have experienced was seeing my son trying to catch a chicken. Chickens are fast and are very elusive if they detect a threat.
Building trust is going to be your best approach for catching your own chickens. When it comes to catching chickens that are cautious of your presence, it’s going to take a different approach.
Did you know chickens can outrun a human? Yep. I’m out of breath just thinking about the last time I had to chase down an escaped hen. If a chicken doesn’t want to get caught, it will do it’s best to evade capture. But after years of dealing with this problem with my wife, I have learned a few great techniques that will help speed up the capture process.
Building Trust with Your Chickens
Building up with trust with your flock is excellent for many reasons, and being able to catch and pickup is one of them.
The best way to build up trust with your chickens is to offer them treats and food directly from your hand. Slowly over time, start reaching down to pet them easily; you may notice that your hens will lay down in submission, thinking you are a roo trying to mate.
After you have established trust with them, start picking them up, holding them for a brief moment, and then letting them back down. Over time they will realize that everything is okay and that it’s safe for you to pick them up.
Building rapport with your flock will go a long way. Rapport and trust will make it easier when it comes to being able to catch your hens.
Tame Your Chickens
Much like building trust with your chickens taming your chickens is going to take time and effort. Albeit, taming your chickens is one of the best ways to catch a chicken, this method takes the most amount of work and doesn’t just happen overnight.
I will say that my wife has much more rapport with our chickens than I do. When our chickens see her, they become excited and start running to the end of the run, flapping and excited to receive their treats of the day.
My wife will reach down and grab a hen or two and inspect them, give them a good petting and gently place them back into their run. They then go about their business and are as happy as can be.
Getting to this point is what you want. You want your chickens to be bonded with you. You want your chickens to come up to you and trust you.
Trust is the best way to catch a chicken.
Treat and Grab
A very effective method at catching chickens is what my wife and I call the treat and grab.
Chickens love treats, and if you treat your chickens often enough without grabbing them, they will not be thinking you are about to pull off the old snatch and grab while they are happily scratching and pecking at the delicious treats you have just given them.
In case you need it broken down to steps.
- Place treats down that makes the chicken you are going after within easy grabbing distance.
- Let the chicken start eating its treats
- Grab the chicken easily. Don’t hurt the girl.
This method is a go-to for my wife and me on newer additions to the flock that hasn’t been tamed or are still a bit wary of us. It works for the most part, sometimes it takes multiple attempts, but we usually end up grabbing them.
Catch Them in the Coop
Chickens feel safest in their coops. Try to lure them into their coop, or wait until they are safely inside.
Once your hen is inside, carefully approach the coop, gently and quietly. You do not want to upset the birds inside their homes.
Carefully and swiftly grab your hen with both hands to avoid flapping.
Night Time Capture
One of the best ways to catch a chicken is to capture it at night. Chickens roost at night and are less likely to run from you from the lack of vision and even confusion.
The best way to capture a chicken at night is to do the following:
Grab a flashlight and a friend if you have one nearby. Approach the coop quietly, try not to make to much noise to stir the flock.
When entering the coop, try not to shine the flashlight into your hen’s eyes. You don’t want to stir them and wake them, this will make catching your target more complicated.
With low light, try to identify which bird you need to capture, once identified, prepare yourself and easily grab them.
Note: Chickens have poor eyesight at night, this is one reason why it’s essential to have a protective covering for them, so they aren’t easily picked off by a predator.
Corner and Grab
My wife is the mother of chickens, she sure does know how to handle them. She has no worries or issues with picking her target and grabbing them swiftly and effectively.
Indeed, sometimes she does have a bit of a challenge when the hens or roosters are on to her, but cornering them and then grabbing is an extremely effective method.
You might get pecked the first couple of times you do this if you have an untamed chicken, but over time this will slow down as they understand you are in control and are at the top of the pecking order.
Box Capture Method
Round 1, fight! Well, not really. Instead, grab yourself an actual cardboard box and prepare yourself.
- Grab a cardboard box big enough for your bird to safely fit inside.
- If you can, corner your chicken, or try your best to get the box over them.
- Once the chicken calms down, flip the box over and close the flaps.
- Wait for the chicken to calm down again.
The box capture method is pretty simple but takes some aim if you have a wild running chicken, but hey you can turn that into a game of some kind.
This method is great if you are worried about being pecked, or have an oversize bird that is hard to handle.
The box capture method is safe and an easy way to transport your chickens.
The darkness created by the closed boxes will actually calm down the chicken for easier transport.
Fishing Net Method
A rather simple method, although not a method I recommend using often, as it seems to be traumatic for the chicken being caught, is the fishing net method.
Although apparently this seems to be the most common method used, it’s not for me, unless I’m desperate to capture the chicken.
A quick note, once you have used this method your chickens will run and hide if they see you pull out the net again. Who says chickens aren’t smart?
The best time to use this method is if you have a chicken stuck in a tree that refuses to get down, or in a space that is other wise inaccessible to you.
The choice is yours whether or not to use the fishing net method to catch your chickens it’s very effective, but also traumatic for your chickens.
You can expect a peck or two after you bring them out of the net and into your arms.
Use a Poultry Hook
The hook method is a very effective way to catch chickens. Albeit it’s my least favorite method of capturing a chicken, in fact, it’s something I’m against, but I know it works. My only worry against this method is hurting my birds.
Chickens have hollow bones, so you have to use caution if you use this method.
If your chicken is over-enthused (e.g., Start to freak out) about being captured and flaps and wales around, it has a good chance of being injured.
This method is best to use when your chickens are calm and not actively trying to escape from you.
The best way to catch chickens using the hook method is to go for them when they are calm, eating, scratching, or pecking up their dinner. The quieter they are at the time, the lower the chance they will have of becoming hurt.
If you do use the hook method, make sure your hens are okay and aren’t showing signs of limping.
How to Properly Hold a Chicken
Regardless of how you catch your chicken, you must practice proper handling techniques.
There is an easy way to hold your chicken that is comfortable for them and will allow you to look at the bird from all different angles.
When picking up your chicken, make sure you are holding both sides of the bird holding their wing feathers down, this will prevent excess flapping and will help avoid possible injury and escape.
With your index finger, go from the head and down the breast to in between the legs.
Put your thumb around the thigh and the rest of your fingers around the other side. This will make the hen feel safe and secure. Tuck her head towards your armpit and her tail outward.
The key to holding your birds is to make them feel safe; if they feel safe, you can be in control without worry about them trying to escape.
The best way to catch a chicken is to build up trust with them. This takes time but is by far the best method to ensure their capture. Start creating trust by feeding them directly out of your hand and picking them up when you can and setting them back down.
Another great alternative to help with their capture is to treat and grab. Treating our chickens then holding them is mine and my wife’s most successful method. We use this when we are trying to catch our less tame chickens, and we highly recommend it.
Regardless of how you are to go about catching your chicken, do it with care, try to avoid hurting the bird.
Practice proper handling techniques for transporting and more easy examination.
Don’t overdo it, try to only handle your chickens when needed. Undue holding, or being frightened when picked up can lead to stressed chickens, and stressed chickens can stop laying eggs, something you want to avoid!
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