The other evening I went out to feed the chickens, like I do every day. But this time one of the restless hens decided that she was going to make a break for it!
As soon as the door was opened she saw her chance and flew with all her might, escaping over my shoulder and landing on the ground below. Freedom!
Dang. I fed the rest of the good little girls, and went about trying to catch this rascally hen.
My first few attempts at catching her were calm and rational. While she quite contentedly pecked around at the ground below her coop, I very politely tried to come up behind her and gently get her in my hands to return to safety.
The chicken, however, had other plans.
She wasn’t about to let me get a hold of her. Every time I would get within millimeters of grasping her, she’d laugh at me and take off running the other way.
For an HOUR we chased this dumb chicken. The sun was quickly setting, and I really did not want to leave her out in the wide open woods, alone, all night long. I knew a raccoon, a fox, or something else would surely get her.
So there I was, my pregnant belly practically dragging the ground as I crawled on my hands and knees (in the mud!) trying my best to sneak up on the feisty hen. For a while she stayed under her coop, and the kids would chase her from one side to the other trying to get her to me.
Jada was running after her yelling, “Get back here you dumb chicken!” And Titus was chasing it with a toy bat; both trying to scare it my way. I know, poor chicken, right? Yeah, well, you would not have thought that if you were me at that moment. My poor unborn baby, was more like it!
Then the hen decided that she was going to take off into the woods; flying onto low limbs and scurrying under fallen trees.
So here I am, chasing after her through the scratchy pines; jumping over logs, ducking under branches, reaching high and low, lunging at the scared creature.
By the end of that hour I had decided that if the chicken got eaten it was because it deserved it. I finally told the kids, who seemed to be enjoying the chase, that we were done trying to catch her. I was too tired to keep running and crawling after it.
I went into my garden and attempted to get some work done, as I had planned to do an hour before. The sky was quickly growing dark, and in the middle of my hoeing we began to feel a light rain coming down on us. It was still pretty hot outside, so the cool mist was a welcomed treat.
In the midst of my work, I noticed that the chicken was back at her coop, and was trying desperately to get back in. She was flying up to the door, and grasping the screen with her claws. I threw my head back, knowing that I had to try again.
I slowly walked over to her, and sat down beside coop. She dropped down and ran away for a moment, but much to my relief she came right back, flew up, and clung to her door once again. As she hung on, I slowly reached up and wrapped my hands firmly around her.
She squawked and fussed, but I was finally able to place her back into the safety of her home.
As I closed the door I laughed, and let out a sigh of relief. Then I turned to the kids, who had been watching from the garden, and threw my hands up in the air in victory as I yelled, “Mommy caught the chicken!” I was really glad that I had caught her before nightfall. I really didn’t want her to get eaten.
I learned a couple of lessons though. Next time I will not waste my time chasing the chicken around.
Also, seeing how she tried to get back in when it became dark, I realize that they might be ready to be let loose during the day. She obviously knew where “home” was. So, we are going to build a ladder for them to get up and down, and see how they do during the day.
I’ll be happy to let them free range. We just have to worry about the hawks, and the stray dogs that run onto our property. Hopefully they will do well, and enjoy their new freedom. It would be really nice to not have to catch them anymore!
So, anyways, what a time! At least the kids enjoyed the game. And Mommy got a little exercise!
But to be honest, next time, I’d like to stress a little less when it comes to catching chickens. Obviously, the easiest way to catch a chicken is to not let it get away from you in the first place! But if you’ve stumbled upon this article, that kind of advice probably isn’t going to help you (although I will try to give you a few pointers in that regard, too).
Here are some of the best ways to catch a chicken that I’ve found work really well.
Ways to Catch Chickens
Train Them to Recall
Believe it or not, chickens, like dogs, can be trained where home is. You may not be able to get a chicken into your arms at your immediate beck and call, but you should be able to at least get them to come home at the end of the day.
This method works really well for chickens that just haven’t figured out where they are supposed to roost at night.
For it to work, you will need to train your chickens as to where home is. Start by keeping your flock inside the coop for two weeks.
It’s best if you can pick a cool period in which to do this, as you’ll have to keep your birds locked up for two solid weeks without letting them out at all. Do this in hot weather, and you may have some problems on your hands.
Anyway, during that two weeks, you won’t let your chickens out at all. After the second week of confinement in the coop, you will let them out each morning at the same time.
The first few days out of the coop, the chickens probably won’t roam too far. But when twilight rolls around, they’ll head back to the roost in the coop. You can then close up after the last chicken gets back inside.
You may have to pick up a chicken here or there on occasion, but for the most part, this will train your chickens on where their home is.
Teach Them to Come for Treats
Again, like dogs, chickens can be trained with some treats – along with your own voice, of course. You’ll need to pair the treat with some kind of signal. That way, when you make the sound or signal later, your chickens will associate it with food and they’ll come running.
Use yummy treats like watermelon or mealworms. You want something even more enticing than their usual fare, since you really need to do some initial legwork to get them to the coop that first time.
Over time, though, your chickens will begin to associate the sound of your voice with tasty morsels, and they’ll be sure to come running when they hear it!
What I love about this technique is that you can use it at any time of the day or night. It involves no chasing, and all you have to do is be disciplined about feeding your chickens treats on a regular basis. It’s perfect for catching the occasional escapee chicken.
Use a Poultry Pole
While the two methods above work well for training chickens so that escapee birds are rarely problematic, there are times when you may not have weeks to spare to train your birds. In that case, you’re going to need to think on your feet.
I recommend having a poultry pole on hand. Poultry poles are like crooks that you would use for sheep.
Instead, these clip around a chicken’s legs so you can snatch it up from a distance and pull it to you. All you have to do is extend the pole, loop it around a foot, and gently drag your bird to you.
The theory behind a poultry pole has to do with basic science and evolution. Did you know that the average human can only run at speeds of 8.6 miles per hour – and that’s at a dead sprint – while chickens can run at 9 miles per hour?
Simply put, the science is not on your side. If you chase a chicken, it’s almost always going to outrun you (unless Usain Bolt happens to be reading this article, that is!).
A poultry pole helps you get leverage on your chickens because you’ll be able to reach out to it while it’s still a ways in front of you. No lunging or diving required!
Get a Good Net
My first few years of keeping chickens, I relied heavily on a net to catch escapee chickens. There are lots of people who advocate against using nets, saying that they can injure chickens when they capture them.
However, in raising hundreds of chickens over the years, I never had a problem with a chicken being injured in this fashion (and I had to net a lot of birds!).
The key here is to be careful so that you don’t get the wings, spurs, or any other part of the bird entangled in the net. As long as you’re careful, you’ll be able to catch your chickens with relative ease.
Try to Corner Your Birds
This is probably the hardest tactic of them all. If you can somehow corner your chicken into a confined space or a corner, you may be able to grab it.
I’ve found that this technique works best with a flock consisting of only hens – they tend to be more docile and will get into the “breeding” position (squatting) when you approach.
This can slow them down and make them a bit easier to catch.
Be careful with this technique, as it can injure your chickens if you aren’t gentle enough. However, if you need to catch a chicken quickly, you can make an old-timey snare out of a piece of cord.
Simply make a slip noose in one end, roughly twenty or so inches in diameter. Lay the snare down on the ground, sprinkle some scratch grain around it, and stand off a distance. The other end of the cord should be in your hand.
When the chicken gets close, you can pull your end of the cord and it should trap your bird.
Use Nest Traps
This strategy probably wouldn’t work with large flocks, but it’s worth a try if you’re desperate.
All you have to do is set up the doors to your nest boxes to spring shut when your hens are inside (you may have to do some engineering to get your boxes to function in this manner).
It’s a good way to catch a young hen, but keep in mind you might end up catching the wrong hen.
It can also make your hens associate the nesting boxes with fear, which may end up backfiring on you later on when you have eggs hidden all over your yard!
Trap Your Chicken in a Box
Have an extra cardboard box? Here’s a way to catch a chicken. It’s great for aggressive roosters in particular. All you need to do is find a box large enough to contain the bird. Corner the chicken and place the box over it. The dark will calm your chickens down and you’ll be able to slowly close the flaps beneath the bird and bring the animal to its new location.
Approach From Behind – and Be Quiet About It!
Rather than facing a chicken head on, try to approach her form behind. Be as quiet as possible. She might not notice you coming (unlikely) but if she does, she’s likely to crouch down and raise up her wings. She might thin you’re a rooster, in fact, and get in her breeding position!
Find a Bird Trap Crate
Bird trap crates are open mesh cages that are designed to be filled with treats or scratch grain, ideally on the floor. You can set this trap up where your chickens tend to hang out. As soon as your hen goes inside, you’ll be able to pull a string and shut the door on her.
Use a Trained Dog
This one’s a long shot, but if you have a livestock guardian animal, you may be able to train it to catch your chickens for you.
You need to be careful using a dog, though, because even a well-trained dog can succumb to its instincts if a chicken looks tasty enough!
Another issue with using a dog to catch chickens is that chickens tend to spread out when they’re being chased (unlike other animals, like ducks, which hang together).
Reduce the Pen Size
If you’re trying to catch a chicken in your yard or run, why not reduce the amount of space that they have available to them to run around in?
Simply use some fencing mesh or plastic trellis to cordon off part of the coop. That’s less space you have to chase them on!
Go for the Rooster First
If you can, try to catch a rooster first. The other chickens will rally around their leader, so once you have the head honcho, the others might just follow suit. If you don’t have a rooster, try to capture the “flock matriarch” – or the hen who tends to rule the roost.
Wait Until Nightfall
If you can wait until nightfall to catch a chicken – this is a good technique if you need to catch a bird for grooming or veterinary care, something of that sort – then you can wait until they are on their roosts. This is one of the least traumatic methods of catching a chicken you will find. Plus, it requires no sprinting or contortionist moves on your part!
All you need to do is head out to your chicken coop at nightfall with a flashlight. Locate your desired bird on the roost, and pick it up.
Chickens move more slowly at night, when they’re on the roost, so they’re less likely to panic or fly away from you when you approach. You can just return her to the perch when you are done with her.
This is probably the best method if you’re trying to move chickens to a new home, too.
It can reduce the stress that you inflict on your birds, as they’ll not even realize what’s going on until the next morning, when they wake up in their new home!
The #1 Very Best Way to Catch a Chicken
The best way to catch a chicken? Don’t let her escape in the first place! You can prevent escapee chickens by cultivating good relationships with your birds.
While this is more difficult to do with some breeds than with others, if you’re able to interact regularly with your birds, you’ll find that they are much less flighty when you approach.
If you can, try to tame your birds. Start when your birds are chicks and pick them up every single day.
No matter what, when you catch your chickens, you need to be careful about how you are holding them. Try to avoid carrying a chicken by its neck, wings, or upside down by its legs.
Although carrying a chicken by its legs seems to calm it down, you have to be careful doing this because the chicken’s lungs are next to the upper ribcage and spine. When you hold a bird upside down, the weight of its organs will press on its air sacs and lungs, making it more difficult to breathe.
Instead, when you pick up your chicken, put one hand over each wing and lift the bird, cradling it against your body. You can tuck it beneath one arm with a forearm pressing the wing against your body. Hug it close so the bird can’t flap.
Be patient when you’re trying to catch a chicken. I know how easy it is to get frustrated, but it’s essential that you don’t panic or get frustrated because this will drive your chickens away from you.
Oh, and one more tip? If you’re trying to catch a chicken, recruit some help. I’m grateful that I had my kids on hand for my chicken-wrangling adventure!
Having multiple sets of hands so that you can corral your chickens with as little stress to the birds as possible is ideal – and will make the work go by a lot more smoothly, too.
updated 05/14/2020 by Rebekah White
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.