Any chicken owner has at one time, or another, found themselves chasing their chickens around the yard at the end of the day because, well, we just want to go to bed already.
It’s incredible how pokey chickens are at the end of the day, and if you don’t have the luxury of an automatic coop door, you have to close it every night manually.
If this was you or is you, it won’t take long to realize you are no match for your chickens’ quick little feet and their dodging abilities.
So, first off, stop chasing your chickens! And do this instead:
Train Your Chickens to Return to Their Coop
There are really only three sure-fire ways to get your chickens back into the safety of their coop. And one of them is to let them think it was their idea in the first place.
Chickens are creatures of habit, and once they know where their roost is, they will return to it every night–like clockwork.
Now, I know this may not be the answer you are looking for because sometimes you are in a bit of a hurry, but I promise you it is the least frustrating way to get your chickens to return to their coop every day.
Here’s what to do:
- Keep your chickens in their coop for 1-2 weeks.
- Start letting them out at the same time every morning
- Watch to see when your chooks return to their roost
- Close the coop at the same time every night
Yes, it’s really that simple. Once your chickens get their bearings, they will go back home on their own accord. It doesn’t hurt to feed them, in their coop, at the end of the day (treats or whatnot) to give them an extra incentive.
Ring the Dinner Bell
This, of course, is a metaphor for calling your chickens home for treats and meals. You can use bells, or your own voice to associate with goodies, so your chickens eventually come running 100-miles an hour to see what’s for supper.
This works best if you ALWAYS give feed in the coop because if you just sprinkle it around and try to urge them into the coop, they will see what you are up to and outsmart you.
It doesn’t take long for chickens to learn that the same sound (or command) every day means food. They have much better hearing capabilities than humans. So, if not everyone is tucked in, and you want to get to bed, you can start treat-training your chickens paired with sounds.
So here’s how to do it:
- At the end of the day, when your chickens are heading to the roost, use your command and present feed (or treats) inside their coop.
- Do this every day until all you have to do it sound the alarm (your command) and your chickens run straight into the coop.
If You Need to Catch Your Chicken
If you’ve trained them to come on command with feed and treats, you can use this method to confine your chickens in the coop and catch whichever one you need to. Ideally, this will work at any time of the day.
With that being said, you still have to catch your chicken, even if it is in the coop. So how can you do this safely without injuring your chook–or yourself for that matter.
Here are a few ways:
Using a Poultry Pole
A poultry pole, or simply a pole with a crook on it, can be used to snatch your chickens around their feet. You can find these in most agriculture stores.
A Landing Net
I cringe at the thought of using a landing net because claws, feet, beaks, and wings will all get tangled in a net. So, if you can help it, try not to use a net to catch your chickens.
If you must, however, use a large net (like a fishing net) and be as gentle as possible.
Most chickens “give up” once they are caught and stop struggling, however, this isn’t usually the case if they find themselves caught in a net.
A safe way to catching chickens in a confined area is to grab a large cardboard box and corner your chicken. Quickly, but gently, plop the box over the chook and let them sit inside for a second, so they calm down.
Next, close the lids of the box (yes your chicken will have to sit on the lid) and slowly flip it over while holding the lid closed. You can now move your chicken to where it needs to be and treat them if needed.
Hands only work if you are in a cage with your chicken trying to catch it. Never pull at feathers, tail feathers, or wings if you are using your hands.
Instead, act like a predator or rooster.
Here’s what I mean:
If you’ve ever seen a rooster mount a hen, she initially may fight it, but eventually, she squats down and stays put. Some hens will do this if you approach from the top and push down on her back, gently. Then, you can gather her up, taking care to keep her wings close to her body and carry on with your task.
Free-Range Becomes Too Much Freedom
There may come a time or two when you, gasp, forget to close your chickens up at night, or simply can’t due to unforeseen circumstances–hey, you’re human after all. When this happens, however, your chickens may decide to find a place to roost that they feel more comfortable and safer than the one you have provided in your coop.
This usually isn’t a big deal on the first time this happens, but if it happens often, your chickens will ignore your bedtime efforts and opt to return to their new favorite roost.
And if you have a large flock, that may mean you have chickens all over the place.
When this happens, you have to retrain your chickens to return to their coop every night. Unfortunately, this means you will have to start over with confinement for 1-2 weeks. In time, your chickens will forget about their new favorite roost and remember that home is truly where they feel the most comfortable and safe.