Raising backyard chickens is one of the most rewarding relationships, tending to their needs, feeding them, and being able to get fresh, delicious eggs.
Of course, it does come with its challenges, like protecting them from predators, dealing with frantic chooks, or trying to round them up.
Let’s face it, sometimes chickens are just elusive, having to try and round them into a corner just to have them quickly dart away. If your patience is running thin and you need to catch your chicken, don’t try to chase it – it will just make them more anxious and make them even more skittish.
Instead, here’s the best four ways to catch a chicken without all that running around, and tips on how to handle your chickens.
The Best Four Ways To Catch A Chicken
A chicken can run at an average speed of nine miles per hour! Add this to their ability to dart in any direction, and their strong beaks, and you know you’re in for a challenge when a skittish chicken is loose.
Whether you’re trying to move your chickens in from the rain, inspect a chicken for problems, or getting ready to transport your flock, here are the best four ways to catch a chicken who doesn’t want to be caught.
If your chicken is docile, then the easiest way to catch it is to simply slowly walk up to it with light footsteps and carefully grab it.
Take hold of your chicken using two hands, one on each of its sides holding its wings to its bodily firmly. If their wing slips out and starts flapping – don’t panic. You’ll still have a hold of them and you can carefully try to regain hold of their wings.
Obviously, this simple technique won’t work on young and skittish chickens, or if your chicken’s scared of you because it was chased!
Lure Them With Treats
A good way to draw your chicken toward you and catch it is with treats. Try to use treats they are familiar with and can easily recognize.
Once you’ve got their attention and they are next to you, continue to feed them treats for a while. This will completely calm them down and they will feel more comfortable around you.
Once your chicken has calmed down and is close to you, simply grab it from the back with both hands and hold it’s wings against its body with your fingers firmly wrapped under its body.
Wait For Them To Return
If it’s not incredibly urgent that you catch your chicken, then you can simply wait for them to come back to you.
If you’ve had your chickens for a while, then they’ll know the coop is their safe haven. Chickens will usually return to the coop themselves at dusk, as soon as it starts to get dark. It’s very likely your chicken will simply return to the coop or run, where it’s much easier to catch them in the enclosed space.
If it’s nighttime and your chicken is still in the yard, then you should be able to approach them much more easily in the cover of the night. Chickens don’t have the best eyesight at night, and they’ll be much easier to approach and grab.
Use A Poultry Trap
You can make your own trap, but otherwise, try to pick up a netted poultry trap. Netting is always safer to use with almost no risk of causing any harm to your chicken, over plastic, metal, or wood traps.
Simply set your trap out in the open, and place their favorite food right in the middle. Once the chicken is in place, activate the trap (usually by pulling a string, but traps can operate differently).
When you go retrieve your chicken, just be aware that they may be a bit disgruntled, so be careful with them when you take them from the netting.
The downside is, not all traps work effectively, or it may take a while for the bird to walk into the trap.
What If Your Chicken Or Rooster Is Trying To Peck You
If you’ve got an aggressive chicken or rooster that you’re trying to catch then you’ll want to be equipped with protection.
Protective gloves work a charm as you can barely even feel any pecks or scratches from your chickens. This allows you to more confidently reach for and grab your chickens. Try to get poultry gloves instead of other types, as it’s designed to not damage the chicken’s beak too!
Poultry Foot Hook
Poultry hooks come in many shapes and sizes, but it’s typically a long metal stick with a curve at the end. The curve will hook the bird’s foot and keep it still long enough for you to scoop it up.
Using poultry hooks might take a few tries to get right. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll no longer need bait to catch a chicken. Just be careful not to pull too hard and hurt the chicken’s feet.
Other Tips When Trying To Catch A Chicken
Try To Catch Your Rooster Or Lead Hen First
If you’re trying to catch all of your chickens then always start with those at the top of the social hierarchy or ‘pecking order’. This is because other chickens will naturally follow the leader, and often will come back to the coop, or to another side of the yard to make them easier to gather up.
Even if there is one chicken you are trying to catch in particular, by moving the lead chicken or rooster to the run, you can encourage that one to follow too, making it easier to catch!
Don’t Chase Your Chickens
Chasing your chickens never works. Not only will it tire you and your chicken out, but it will cause your chickens to become more scared of you, which can last in the long term, making it harder to get your chicken to like you!
Use Cover Noise
When we say cover noise, we mean making sure that your steps aren’t painstakingly obvious. Try to get the chicken used to the sound of feet moving around the coup first, or turn on a hose or speaker to play constant noise.
Remember the whole point of this is to create consistent background noise. No sudden movements and no piercing sounds.
Bend down and scoop the bird swiftly. It’s important to hold the wings down to keep the bird from flapping around.
The chicken might resist and try to wiggle; keep a firm hold over it. Avoid tugging the feathers, though! It’s painful and will make the bird even more agitated.
The best way to catch a chicken can be different depending on the temperament of your chicken. Across the board though, treats do tend to go well in capturing your chicken’s attention and gaining their trust.
If your chickens are more calm and docile, then simply slowly walking up and grabbing them is the best option. But, if your chickens are more anxious or wild then you may want to look at using a trap or net to catch them more easily.
No matter how you are catching your chickens, always handle them with care, and sure not to chase them, as it will lead to them being scared of you long term!