If you have chickens, some day you will have to catch chickens! I was fortunate during my early years with chickens to have a neighbor kid that loved helping around the farm. He was quick and knew enough about chickens to predict their movements and be able to catch that one that got away.
Whether buying chickens or selling chickens, they need to be caught. If I had a chicken that needed doctoring or I wanted to inspect for parasites, somehow I would have to get hold of them.
The best time to catch chickens is while they are still in the coop in the morning, or once they have come in to roost for the night. A chicken’s natural instinct to roost in the same safe place each night plays well to our advantage when we have to catch chickens for one reason or another and have a good coop.
Cooping up chickens for the night helps keep them safe from predators and gives us easy access to handle and manage our flocks. A tool that works well if you need help reaching them, is a fishing net with a long, short or adjustable handle.
Another good tool is the chicken feeder. If there is one thing chickens love, that would be food. If you have a regular feeding schedule or train your chickens to come to treats with a special call, this can make the job easy. Chickens will usually come running when a trusted caregiver alerts them to fresh feed or a snack.
The last thing you want to have to do is chase them all over hill and dale in order to catch chickens. This can be stressful for the chickens, especially on a hot day, and may be hard or even impossible for you.
Whenever I purchase chickens I insist on arriving in the cool of the morning, before they have been let out of the coop, or near dark, when they come in on their own. Moving chickens during the heat of the day can be deadly, so morning temperatures or evening will prevent heat stroke added to the stress of being caught and caged.
When I get close enough to grab a chicken by hand I usually go for one leg. Grabbing at feathers may just give you a handful, and no chicken. Taking hold of one leg stops them and quickly taking hold of the other leg will prevent stress to the joints and give you full control.
Once I have both legs I allow their body weight to hang them upside down, which often has a calming effect. To catch chickens that are tame; they can be picked up easily, and tucked under your arm to hold.
Those that don’t like being handled will put up a fight. If holding one by the legs upside down and it flaps wings wildly to get away, you may want to use a different hold. For these I take both of the wings in one hand in the middle of the wing bones closest to their body.
This holds the wings together at their back and prevents much movement and shouldn’t damage wing joints. If catching chickens to transport, always have the cage or carrier near. Most chickens are upset at being caught, so placing them in the carrier quickly will reduce stress and discomfort. Once in a carrier they usually calm down quickly.
Probably one of the most important reasons to catch chickens is if they decide to roost in a tree, instead of coming into the coop for the night. Tree roosting is a very natural thing for chickens, but it leaves them out over- night where they may be an easy meal for predators like: owls, raccoons, opossums, or large snakes.
For this you may want a long handled fishing net. If you wait til dark there is less chance the chicken will get away from you, since they are essentially blind once the sun goes down.
Once netted they can be carried by the legs or wings and placed on a safe roost for the night. I really prefer carrying them upside down by the legs as I have never had a chicken poop on me in that position.
The last thing you want to have to do to catch chickens is chase them in an open area, though sometimes you might have no choice. Most chickens don’t fly very well, but can use the flapping of wings with running to get going pretty darn fast! The smaller the chicken, often the faster they are.
Herding a chicken into an area you can close, like a feed room or the coop, will cause you and the chickens you want to catch the least amount of stress. Less stress, less chance for injury or harm and the easier it will be. Chickens are smart and do their best to avoid danger, real or imagined. A chicken stressed out and captured will be harder to get hold of the next time.