Home Caring for Your Flock 4 (Somewhat) Easy Ways to Catch a Chicken

4 (Somewhat) Easy Ways to Catch a Chicken

by Jamelyn

Have you ever tried to chase a chicken? They are fast and can change directions on a dime, especially when they are young. While you don’t want to chase your chickens for entertainment, there are legitimate reasons when you need to catch your chicken.

Chickens can sprint up to 9 mph and will skip and change directions quickly making them difficult to catch. If you need to catch a chicken, the best method is to wait when they are roosting at night and gently remove them from the roosting bar.

While that is one method for catching chickens, I have found there are a few more that are also helpful in catching these quick birds.

1. Remove Chicken from Roosting Bar at Night

There are several reasons why chickens need to be caught:

  1. you need to inspect a chicken (for example, if the chicken is acting injured or sick)
  2. you need to move the chicken (for example, to a new coop or a crate for traveling to the vet)
  3. you need to remove your chicken from a situation (for example, if the chicken got into a neighbor’s yard and you need to take them back home)

Chickens will have a foraging sprint right before it gets dark outside. As the light dims, chickens will make their way to their coop and hop onto their roosting bars. Chickens will spend the night on these roosting bars and not get off until there is light the following morning.

Chickens have a difficult time seeing at night, so they will be very quiet and still when on their roosting bars. This is an excellent time to reach in and grab the chicken that you need to catch. However, this method can be difficult if you are needing to catch a particular chicken and they are difficult to distinguish in the dark. Bring someone with you to shine a flash light into the coop to help you identify the chicken you need.

The chickens are getting situated on their roosting bars before it gets totally dark outside.

You should be able to gently remove the chicken from the roosting bar at this point. Make sure to never squeeze a chicken because this can suffocate them. Chickens have a respiratory system that contains nine air sacs throughout their body that they use to transport oxygen to and from their lungs. (Check out this post where I provided a brief overview of a chicken’s respiratory system and explained the most important aspect of a chicken coop.)

How To Properly Hold a Chicken
Never grab a chicken by its wings alone to hold them.  This could injure them or cause them to flap and flail, potentially injuring you.  The best way to carry a chicken is to hold their legs and underside of their body with one arm and place your other arm on their back.  If you would like to calm a chicken that you are carrying, try stroking her neck, back, and wattles. 

When I approach the chicken coop, I like to talk softly to my chickens so they know it’s me and so they won’t be startled. Some people might think this sounds a bit woo-woo, but I learned this same thing with my cat when I would give him baths; singing or talking to him gently would calm him down.

2. Entice Chicken with Treats

A second way to catch a chicken is to entice it with the chicken’s favorite treats. Before you can use this method, though, you need to have established a routine for treats. Chickens are creatures of habit and routine, and they will learn quickly when there is a delicious reward waiting for them.

I give my chickens treats (such as scratch or sunflower seeds) from a red solo cup just about every day. When they see the red cup and hear me shake the contents, they know it’s treat time! I shake this bright red cup to signal to my chickens to come to me when they are free ranging in the yard.

If you entice your chickens with a treat, they are more likely to come to you willingly. By chasing chickens, this stresses them out and will cause them to distrust you. Chickens have good memories and can remember individual people, so make sure that your chickens know you as the person who is gentle with them and that they can trust.

When your chickens come to get the treats, you can herd them into a smaller area which will make it easier to reach down and catch them. Typically, when chickens have been handled from a young age, they are more willing to be caught. This is not always the case since chickens are like people and each has their own personality.

Steven and I moved houses last year, which meant I need to move our 10 chickens. Thankfully, it was just a short move in town and I didn’t have to worry about a long drive. I waited until it was in the evening and timed it where I would still have enough daylight to unload the chickens into the new coop before it was dark. I borrowed a pet crate from my Dad and used the scratch to entice the chickens to me. Miss Kay, our super sweet chicken, was easy enough to pick up and put her in the crate. A few other chickens went somewhat willingly into the crate when I tossed the treats inside. However, there were a couple of chickens that would not come near me after they saw the others go in the crate. As the sun went down and the chickens got tired, I was eventually able to catch the last stragglers. A combination of treats, it being late in the day, and sheer stubbornness on my part allowed me to get all 10 chickens in the crate.

I was eventually able to get the other 3 chickens in this crate. You can see the ones on the outside pecking at the scratch I was using as bait. The new house was only a few blocks away so they didn’t stay crammed in this crate for long.

When we got to the coop at the new house, Steven helped me pick the chickens out of the crate one at a time and put them in the coop. They stayed in there for about 3 days before we let them out. By leaving the chickens in the coop for several days, they learned that the coop was their new home.

3. Use Two People to Corner Chicken

Sometimes you will have that one stubborn chicken that won’t be gullible enough to fall for the treats as a trap. When that happens, you might need to get two people to corner the chicken. Working from opposite sides, try to herd the chicken to each other so one of you can catch the chicken. It’s helpful if you can use a fence as a border or herd the chicken into a corner where the only way out is up.

Chickens run fast and when they start hopping and skipping they are almost impossible to catch, especially when they are young and small. When my chickens were about 6 months old, Dora, my exploratory chicken, would jump up to the 7 foot fence and fly into the neighbor’s crepe myrtle tree. I couldn’t let her stay over there because I didn’t want a predator to eat her or her to get into the alley and disappear forever, so I went to their backyard (thankfully, it was a vacant house) to try to catch her. It took me 30 minutes of chasing her through their yard and using the fence as a border to reduce the area of chase. I was finally able to wear her out enough to catch her and bring her home. I locked her in the coop for the next hour so she could recover from the chase and to also teach her that she’s not supposed to leave the backyard. That lesson obviously didn’t work, because a few weeks later I saw her jump onto the fence from the neighbor’s side to come back home!

Unfortunately, Steven was not home when Dora got out. At other times, we have been able to tag team and catch the birds together. Just be careful to not be too physical when catching the chicken because you don’t want to hurt them (or you).

4. Herd the Chicken Into a Confined Area

When all else fails, your best bet might be to herd the chicken to a confined area instead of catching the chicken. If the reason you need to catch your chicken is not critical, then it might be best for your relationship with the chicken to just back off.  Depending on the circumstance, you might be more successful herding the chicken into an enclosure rather than trying to catch the flighty bird.  

It’s fairly easy to herd chickens.  I have heard of some people using a large stick, but for my chickens, they will only respond to herding if I use the short red broom or a water hose spraying water.  I use the broom to funnel them to the area that they need to go.  This method works really well when the chickens are in the yard free ranging and I need them to get back into their run.  I will walk from one side of the yard toward their run while holding the broom and they will all run towards their run. I can do this same method using the water hose spraying water. The chickens don’t want to get wet so they will run ahead of the water that I’m spraying in their direction. I’ll use the water hose in the summers when it’s already hot and won’t take long for the chickens to dry off in case they do get wet.  

I have a chicken that has feather loss from treading and I’ve been watching her to make sure the bald spots are not getting bigger or being picked on by the other chickens.  While I would like to pick up the chicken to get a better look, she absolutely does not want to be caught or held.  In order to check her feather situation, I will entice her to the side of her run with treats and try to get a good view while she’s close.  As soon as I reach down to grab her, she’s hopped off and it takes another minute for her to get close again. With this chicken, I’ve stopped trying to catch her since she get’s stressed.

Chickens are trainable as long as you are consistent with them and give them rewards for good behavior. Try to handle your chickens when they are young so they get accustomed to you and are more willing to be caught.

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