Raising chickens in your backyard is a smart way to have a constant supply of eggs, provide manure, and derive entertainment. Sometimes, however, chickens get out, and you’d have to catch them despite their size.
Traditionally, catching your chicken involves chasing them around. If you’re like me who has given up on running, you might want to consider other ways. I’m going to show you how to catch a chicken without running and gasping for breath.
I’ve used these techniques for years to successfully catch my chickens and keep them from running away from the yard.
Catching a Chicken
Catching a chicken at night when it’s roosting can be pretty straightforward. When you have to do that during the day, you’d have to employ creative methods. Chickens will do everything possible to avoid you catching them because it’s in their nature to do so – the fear and flight response.
Interestingly, the chicken’s average speed of 9mph is just slightly lower than the average human speed of 9.8 MPH. What this means is that chasing chickens around the yard will always be a close call, and it can be frustrating. When you think the chicken is almost in your grip, it slips away again.
So, if you have a chicken that doesn’t like getting caught, consider the following methods:
Method 1: Capture the Chicken at Night
Occasionally, it’s easier to catch a chicken when they roost at night. While roosting, they are immobile and less conscious of their surroundings. For example, if you need to catch a chicken to check for a parasite, nighttime is the perfect time to do so. You’ll need to heed the following instructions when trying out a night catch:
- Locate where the chicken is roosting in the coop, or anywhere else the chicken might have escaped to.
- Gently approach the chicken, and be as quiet as possible.
- Avoid pointing your flashlight directing at the chicken as that might startle them; instead, focus the light on the ground.
- When you’re close to the chicken, calmly grab it and hold it firmly to your body.
This method is particularly useful when the chicken has no chance to escape to an unknown location, and there’s no urgent need to catch the chicken. Chickens are likely to return to the coop at night to sleep because they are creatures of habit that hardly meander when night falls. They can decide to roost somewhere else, and it can become difficult for you to find them. The best way to avoid this is to teach them always to return home.
Method 2: Bait and Grab the Chicken
When you need to catch a chicken in daylight, baiting is the most common method you’d find. Chickens will typically flock over their feed, allowing you to approach them from behind for a catch. However, you have to be extremely quiet as the chicken will run away if it senses movement.
To Bait a Chicken:
- Throw some portion of the chicken feed to an open space where the chickens are.
- Use bread crumbles if the chickens don’t gather around the feed.
- Once the chickens begin to forage, hover over the particular chicken you want to catch.
- Grab the chicken in its crouched position by scooping it up gently. Avoid grabbing a chicken by the neck or wings.
Baiting a chicken is easier when you train chickens to always run to you for treats. If you regularly feed call and feed them, they’ll learn to run to you whenever you stand with some treats in your hands.
Method 3: Use a Chicken Trap
If you have a chicken that always escapes catching, you might want to try out setting a live chicken trap. All you need do is place a live trap in the yard or where the chicken roosts. Then put some baits around it. The chicken is likely to fall into the trap soonest.
When you’re using a chicken trap, you have to be patient – take your time. What I usually do is sit and watch the chicken from a distance. Chickens aren’t the smartest of birds; they are naturally nervous and typically run for protection. So, I avoid coming close to them so as not to cause any disturbance that might scare them.
You can get live traps from stores or make one yourself. Professionally designed chicken traps are made with galvanized steel wire mesh, with a trap door that allows chickens to enter but stops them from leaving. They are usually collapsible, built to catch several chickens at the same time.
Method 4: Use a Poultry Hook
I have used a poultry hook to catch an escapee chicken more times than I can count. It’s always fun to watch the chicken trying to get free from the hook. What’s more fun, though, is your kids watching you running around the yard trying to snag a chicken.
How to use a poultry hook:
- Observe the chicken as it moves about the yard.
- Get close enough to snag the hook over its leg.
- Pull the chicken close, and disentangle the hook.
Apply caution when snagging the chicken’s leg as their hollow bones could get injured by the hook. You should never use a hook on a chicken’s neck.
Method 5: Build a Secure Coop
One of the best ways of preventing chickens from escaping the farm is by building a quality chicken coop. A coop is a physical structure constructed with solid wood and high-quality chicken wire to serve as an enclosed space for chickens.
Chicken coops are usually elevated, with everything the chickens need to lead a healthy life. There are windows and doors, with the entire structure surrounded by chicken wire. Also present in a typical coop are roosting bars where the chickens sleep, and nesting areas where they lay and brood over their eggs.
The coop should be large enough to provide plenty of space for the chickens to move around. I recommend planning for about 3 square feet of floor space per chicken. Consider constructing nesting boxes that accommodate three chickens per box. You can build your coop elevation with brick, wood, and cement blocks.
Another essential part of the coop you should pay attention to is the floor. In our farm, we use linoleum-covered plywood as our flooring. If, however, the coop is not elevated, you can employ the dirt floor.
With a secure coop, there’s a reduced chance of the chicken escaping the yard.
Method 6: Catch the Chicken with a Fishing Net
Now, this is not a convenient way to catch a chicken, but it’s the go-to option when the chickens become familiar with your poultry hook or pole. If you can get the chicken to be in a confined space, then you can easily catch it with a fishing net.
It’s best to use a fine-meshed net, although a large fishing net can do the job too. The best way to go about it is by placing the net on the chicken’s path. Doing this is better than slamming the net down on the chicken.
Of course, the chicken is going to try breaking free from the net and might peck you through the net openings. Hugging the chicken close or covering it with a blanket will usually calm it down.
Trust is All You Need
Building up a trusting relationship with your poultry is the best way to have them close always. You can easily pick the chickens up, without having them run away in anxiety or fear. When your chickens have any reason to become nervous or scared of you, it becomes more challenging to catch them.
One way to ensure this is to hand-tame your chicken. When you buy new chicks, make it a habit to feed them with your hands, so they bond with you. Bonding will ensure they always run to you instead of running away.
Without a doubt, chickens are considered pets by most people, and you can establish a friendly relationship with them. That way, you can easily catch them when you need to do something urgently, like pick lice from their feathers, or administer drugs.
Another way to build trust is to never do something undesirable – like medication – in the presence of other birds.
When you master catching your chickens with any of these methods, you’ll never have to engage in a race with them. Never forget that chickens are designed by nature to flee when they feel threatened, even by their lovely owner. So, you’ll always need to deploy the methods we’ve discussed so far.
If there any questions you need to ask about catching a chicken, feel free to drop them in the comment box.
Here’s a rundown of the different ways you can catch a chicken:
- Capture the chicken at night
- Bait and grab the chicken
- Use a chicken trap
- Use a poultry hook
- Build a secure coop
- Catch the chicken with a fishing net
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.