Sounds simple doesn’t it? When I first started out with chickens and had a handful of ladies it was simple. They all knew and trusted me – so I could easily scoop them up and do whatever was needed.
When I was done, I would plop them down and give them a treat so they would always trust me and come to me.
This plan of attack worked well for most of the ladies, but there were always a couple that would give me a run for my money…literally.
Below I’ll share with you four different techniques I’ve learnt over the years. Once you’ve learnt them you’ll make chicken catching look easy!
Method 1: Catching Chickens with a Pole
The average human can run at 8.6 mph – chickens can run at 9 mph, bear this in mind for the next few paragraphs.
This item is a long pole – usually four feet or so in length, with a hook on one end. The theory is that you hook it around the chickens’ foot and catch a hold of her while she is ‘hobbled’.
Have you ever used one? I have and my hat goes off to those who make it look easy.
I must have looked like a complete lunatic running around trying to snag a chicken…fortunately there was no-one around watching at the time!
Of course, once the chickens have seen this item in your hand and have stopped snickering behind their wings, none of them will let you approach within ten yards of them – who said chickens aren’t smart? They remember the previous incident and have learned to avoid that pole at all costs!
Method 2: Catching with a Fishing Net
Ok – this one is on a par with the catching pole. Once the chickens have seen it in use, they will vanish.
If you can ‘corral’ them in the run or other contained area, the net does work quite well.
The captured chicken will let you know her displeasure at being caught in such a device! You can expect a couple of pecks from her, more from terror than anything else I think. Once you have her in the net, an old blanket to cover her will calm her somewhat – but she won’t forget (or forgive) this treachery.
Some breeders apparently use a net to catch the birds that they want from the pens and so it becomes a traumatic experience for the bird – an experience they don’t forget and one that will induce panic in the birds.
Some folks use it to capture those hens that choose to roost in trees at night. The trick is to catch them on the way up the tree rather than climb the tree with net in hand otherwise the end result might take some explain in the local Emergency Room!
Method 3: Trap Nesting
A much easier way to snag a hen! You can set up the nest boxes to spring shut once your hen is inside.
The obvious drawback is will you catch the hen you want? If you are trying to catch them all for dusting or other such chores it’s a pretty good way to catch the younger and spryer birds.
If however, you want one of the older ladies that doesn’t lay frequently (if at all); this method is not going to be helpful to you.
This method should be used relatively infrequently – you don’t want them associating the nest box with unpleasantness – or they will start laying those cackle berries elsewhere.
Method 4: Roosting Bars
This is by far my favorite way of treating or assessing hens. It is a low key, non-traumatic way and you don’t have to be a contortionist or Olympic athlete to get your bird.
You can easily assess or treat several birds each night without causing too much grumbling and discontent in the coop.
Your tool of choice is a small flashlight – one that clips to your cap visor or a headlamp.
Once they are all settled and you know where the ‘chosen hen’ is, re-enter the coop trying to keep the flashlight beam mainly on the ground – you don’t want to wake everybody up!
When you approach the hen, make small, slow, deliberate movements so as not to alert her to your dishonorable intentions. As you are hovering over her, place both hands over her wings so she can’t flap around and gently remove her from the perch.
Once outside the coop you can do whatever is necessary for her and then return her to her spot on the perch. Hopefully she will think it was just a bad dream!
No, I don’t mean with fisticuffs. I mean with a simple cardboard box.
This method works best if you are trying to catch a chicken in a coop that is either too large for you to pick up easily or is too aggressive to handle. I use this when I need to move an aggressive rooster to a new location.
Here’s how it works:
- Find a box large enough to contain the bird you are trying to catch
- Corner the chicken and gently place the box over it
- Carefully flip the box flaps closed underneath the bird so the box is closed and dark (this is a bit awkward to do, but take your time)
- Slowly turn the box over and carry the bird to its new location and release it.
The darkness of the box calms the bird, and the box protects you from spurring or pecking. Because some of us have small hands, it can be nearly impossible to safely handle a large rooster. This method is a safe and gentle way to move your chicken from one location to another.
Catching an Escapee
Every once in a while, there will be a hen that decides to go ‘walkabout’ for the day. This sends their keepers’ into a panicked flurry – especially if they are a rare breed or simply precious to you.
If the bird has been in the housing/coop for a couple of weeks at least, chances are good that she will return by sundown, if she’s a smart hen.
If you have the time and patience and have worked on building a trusting relationship with your birds, you can try sitting in a chair near the coop. Sprinkle some scratch or treats on the ground to entice her, sometimes this will work and sometimes not, but it’s worth a try.
Remember to have a good book with you – hens are never in a hurry!
The next option is a bird trap crate. The crate is simply an open mesh cage with scratch or treats left on the floor. You can fix it so that you are a good way from it, but the minute she goes in, you pull a string which shuts the door on her.
Again, you can also use the fishing net or pole methods mentioned above.
You Need Trust!
If you have a small flock that you have built a trusting relationship with, picking them up individually is by far the best way to go – for the hen and you.
They will come to look on these ‘checks’ as a time to sit in your lap and enjoy some extra attention and perhaps a treat.
If you are going to be doing something that’s a bit unpleasant (worming medicine, dusting etc.), you might choose to do it in a separate room away from the rest of the flock so that the rest of the birds don’t get unsettled.
As you know, there will always be one hen that is convinced you are going to murder her and will run squawking around the barnyard if you come near her! We will deal with her later…
There are several methods we have reviewed here. Some folks swear by the chicken pole, yet others with the net.
I prefer the roosting time because it is less traumatic for them and you. The whole idea of catching the chicken is usually to check on its’ well-being or to do something for their well-being, so stressing it out by chasing it with a net or a pole defeats the object really and can be exhausting for you and the birds.
In general, hens are the happiest when they are in comfortable and predictable circumstances.
Remember though, when they do escape don’t start yelling, running around or making a huge fuss, this only will make the situation worse. The hen will pick up on your anxiety and it will make her unsettled and reluctant to come to you.
Try to remain calm and unhurried she will likely come home soon, especially if there are treats to be had!
Let us know in the comments section below you’re favorite method to catch a hen…