There are several reasons why chicken keepers around the world need to occasionally catch their birds. Whether it be, grooming for a poultry show, to give medication, eat, or just for a friendly cuddle & pat, this article explains the many different ways to catch a chicken.
1 – Chase it down
If you’re quick out of the blocks and were the champion sprinter for your age at high school then this method of chicken catching could be right up your alley (with a starter pistol).
Simply, target the unsuspecting hen and suddenly like a flash hit the track and start sprinting bent over with your arms out full stretch – GOOD LUCK and don’t trip over.
2 – Duck neck or shepherds hook wire method
This is a simple device easily made from any heavy gauge wire bent into a hook shape and usually mounted on a wooden pole of some sort.
Chickens will usually let you get within double arm’s length and the idea behind this method is to hook the hen by the leg by thrusting the hook at the bird then pulling back towards yourself. Hopefully, as you pull back the hen will be snagged and you can quickly grab it before it gets free.
Just a few important points about using this method:
- There’s a high chance the bird could be injured during the hooking process or even break a leg.
- Don’t let kids do it.
- Don’t use it around the neck!
Personally, although the hook wire method is popular I wouldn’t use it.
3 – Fishing net
This is probably one of the most widely used methods to catch a chicken and I’ve seen some chicken breeders who are absolute guns at using a net to quickly recover an escapee chook.
Any large framed net will do but the best are the fine meshed ones like you’d use to clean a pool (ensure it is deep and strong – good quality). However, a nice big standard fishing net will certainly work great you just have to expect to do some untangling to free the bird after capture.
The best way to use the net method is to actually get the chicken to run into the net by placing the hoop in the hen’s path rather than trying to slam the net down over the top or scoop from behind.
4 – Lure & grab
No NOT a fishing lure – that’s just silly! I’m talking about luring with feed or their favourite kitchen/garden scraps. This can be a very effective method if done correctly.
If you are familiar to your flock, chickens will often come right up to you and because they are inherently greedy they will often forgo their fear of man to get that pinch of bread before the competition does. It’s at this point (as the chicken comes within reach) when you lunge out and grasp the hen as the ultimate final act of betrayal.
5 – Training
If you’re lucky enough to raise chickens from the egg to adult and you have some time on your hands than training your chickens to allow handling is very advantageous. Training a chicken does require dedication and constant handling for the bird to see you as a friend and not just a threat that feeds us and steals our eggs.
Some chickens will be easier to familiarise than others and I’ve had the odd hen that trusts me enough to be picked up regardless of any training!
6 – Corner/channelling
Corralling a hen or several hens just as you would cattle can be an effective way to catch them. Basically, the capture area needs to be planned in advance and made look as if it’s an escape option when in fact it is a pathway to a dead end which can be closed off enabling the birds to be easily caught.
I’ve seen this method used very effectively with other poultry such as ducks where the aim is to slowly corral the birds into a convenient area for processing without causing panic among the flock.
7 – Pen reduction
This is similar to the above channelling/corralling method whereby the chicken pen already has built in reducers to cordon off certain areas thus reducing the pen size and making it easier to catch the hens.
I have this installed in my large pen and it is very effective! Plastic trellising/fencing mesh is ideal and cheap plus it’s easy to manage or roll up/out. Simply, have the mesh already positioned and attached to a wall of the pen neatly rolled up ready to be deployed.
Then, when it’s required unroll the mesh across the pen to make a temporary wall cutting down the size of the area. Depending on the overall size of your containment area, you can have several roll out walls installed and deploy them as necessary until the chickens are locked into an area where they are easy to grab.
8 – Night-time
By far the easiest way to catch a chicken (for whatever reason) is to simply wait for the birds to roost and bed down after dark. This is the perfect time to treat birds with medication or give them an overall health check.
Chickens can’t see Jack at night and become quite sedated. Therefore, all you need to do is calmly walk into the coop with a headlamp or flashlight and the birds will mostly stay still on the perches or nesting boxes whilst you handle them.
9 – Human Pack hunt
Catching chickens shouldn’t be done for sport but there can be rare occasions when the hens get loose and running them down the old fashioned way to catch them for their own safety is the only option.
Chickens are adapt to running from one predator so if at all possible try and round up several others to help you (I generally use my kids) and whilst more hands make light work, what this really does is confuse the hen and make it easier to catch.
A chicken will always try and minimise damage to itself so if you can get a hand on its back with slight pressure the hen will go into self-preservation mode by usually propping and dropping rather than struggle and risk injury.
When several people block avenues of escape the chicken often gives up or slows down to weigh up options and during this distraction is when the chaser has a good chance of catching the bird.
10 – Endurance race
In contrary to the above and similar to the first mentioned method (Chase it down) there may be times when you are on your own (like when my kids are at school) and you have to catch a chicken by sheer physical endurance and perseverance.
This method is not recommended for people with existing medical conditions, poor physical fitness, or when there are other easier methods available. It also helps if it isn’t in the middle of summer and/or your neighbours are not watching.
Essentially, as the name suggests the endurance race method means to chase after the chicken consistently until it gives up. Yeah, I know you’re giggling away thinking “not a chance” but it is possible to chase a chicken long enough to make it finally surrender. Considering your own fitness level and the condition of the hen, of course, this could take some time and be pretty uncomfortable although immensely rewarding if successful.
Actually, I recall seeing this method used as a training technique in some movie once… The Karate Kid… I’m not sure?
11 – Hypnotise
Speaking of movies if you ever saw Crocodile Dundee you would remember how he hypnotised the buffalo? Well, hypnotising or more like memorising a chicken is apparently possible. Just like how humans can be hypnotised to act like a chicken (and look rather stupid BTW) a chicken can be done the same way.
However, I’m not sure if all chickens can be hypnotised or just some that are susceptible (or believe). To be honest, I have never tried this method so I can’t speak from any real authority on the matter. Suffice to say, a hypnotised chook would probably be a cinch to catch.
12 – Trap
Needing little explanation but a box trap made out of wire mesh with a swingling door, which closes down after the chicken has entered is a sure way to catch a chicken. Setting a trap such as this is a great way to snavel a hen if you are the weird, survivalist, obsessive type who likes practicing their bush skills and can’t be bothered hanging around.
13 – Nesting
If you have laying hens then waiting until they are in their nesting boxes is another easy way to catch them. When hens are getting ready to lay or shortly after they have laid an egg they are hesitant to get off the nest.
Catching a chicken whilst she is nesting might be easy but she sure won’t be happy about it!
14 – Dog
Chicken friendly dogs like mine (Scooter) can help to catch a chicken the same way a cattle dog rounds up sheep.
The only problem with chickens compared to sheep, or even ducks, is they don’t run together but rather split up running all over the place. This can make chicken rounding up with mans’ best friend a little hit and miss, hence, not one of the better methods to try.
15 – Long-wait
I first heard of this term in the army when the occasional new recruit fresh to a unit (all starry eyed and obedient) would be told by their immediate superior when preparing for a task to go see the quartermaster and get a long-wait. The QM would always “play the game” (no doubt with a roll of the eyes) and give the newbie exactly what they asked for… a really long wait.
How does this relate to catching chickens? Well, firstly, I thought it was a funny story and it is true! However, playing the waiting game can be a realistic method of “catching” chickens under certain circumstances, for example, when they have escaped their coop or pen.
With a little patience, chickens will return to their home on their own accord and certainly before dark. If there is no immediate danger to your escaped chickens, then the easiest method of all might be to grab a cuppa and wait for your flock to make their own way back into the pen.
So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed my 15 different methods of how to catch a chicken…
Sorry, I did say 100 ways didn’t I? What I really meant was my 15 ways and then the other 85 is made up from you guys!
That’s right, please share with me and everyone YOUR favourite way to catch a chicken in the comments section below. I’m looking forward to reading them all!
P.S Just for your light entertainment check out this video of yours truly doing just that trying to catch a chicken or two… enjoy!