An escaped chicken can give you a run for your money if they aren’t ready to be caught. Naturally, chickens are faster than humans and their small bodies allow them to slip under objects and get a head start on us. Thankfully, there are a few tricks that make learning how to catch a chicken easier.
Prevent The Chase Altogether
The ideal way to catch a chicken is to walk straight up and gently grab it. You may laugh, but this is a totally doable task if you train your chickens to enjoy being handled. Start by handling chicks frequently when they are young. You want to make being handled enjoyable, so hold them individually, and give them attention and some special treats.
After you’ve spent a few minutes with them, gently set them on the ground. It helps if you can hold every chicken where the rest of the flock can see. Chickens are smarter than people give them credit for and the rest of the flock will be curious and less stressed about their turn in your lap.
Related Post: Raising Baby Chicks
If you’re handling chickens to take care of some unpleasant business like clipping a toenail, treating a wound, or taking care of a case of bumblefoot, you’ll want to handle the chicken away from the rest of the flock. Again, the rest of the flock will take notice of whether the chicken you’re holding is scared or in pain, and they may be more reluctant to be held the next time you reach for them.
Training your chickens to enjoy being held will make your chicken-owning life much simpler. You may even experience the occasional chicken popping onto your lap looking for attention and treats.
How To Catch A Chicken That’s Escaped
Keeping chickens in a secure coop is the safest. However, chickens can become escape artists and will check the coop daily for places where they can get out. When one does, it’s usually very reluctant to go back into the coop.
If you find yourself chasing a chicken, keep in mind they are faster and more agile than you, but you can definitely outsmart them. Here are some options for how to catch a chicken that’s escaped.
How To Catch Them With An Enticing Treat
When a chicken escapes, the first thing I always try is enticing them near the coop with a special treat. If they’ve been hanging out by the coop, I’ll open the coop door slightly and toss a treat inside.
Related Post: 17 Treats for Chickens
Mealworms are the perfect treat when you’re trying to lure a chicken back into the coop. Open the coop door, toss in a handful of mealworms, and stand back. If you’re lucky, the chicken will return and no harm is done.
How To Catch A Chicken With A Few People
A smart chicken, or one that’s escaped before, may not be as easily tricked into getting back in the coop. If that’s the case, you’ll have to physically catch it. One of the easiest ways to catch a chicken is to have multiple people help you. Kids are the best at catching chickens. They’re usually a little faster and more maneuverable than adults.
Having multiple people will allow you to corral the escaped chicken and close in on it slowly. This is usually a less traumatic experience than some of the options you have when you’re catching chickens by yourself.
How To Catch An Escaped Chicken By Yourself
Catching a chicken by yourself can be quite the task. Don’t attempt to aimlessly run after your escaped bird. You’ll only end up out of breath and frustrated. Instead, start by trying to lure the chicken into the coop with treats (as above). If that doesn’t work, look for a tool you can use to give yourself a longer arm span.
A long fishing net is a perfect option for catching a chicken. You can snag the chicken or pin it to the ground without having to get too close to it. With that being said, don’t expect this trick to work as easily in the future. Chickens that have been caught with a net or leg hook will remember this tool and won’t let you near them.
How To Catch A Chicken That’s Aggressive
Sometimes a chicken that escapes is aggressive which makes it even harder to catch. Don’t try to grab an aggressive chicken with your hands. They may peck you, spur you, or scratch you with their toenails. Any of these attacks can create a bleeding wound that is subject to infection. It’s best to catch an aggressive chicken without touching them.
Set up a bird trap or box trap. Bird traps are cages that have a plate in the bottom that trips and shuts the cage when the chicken is in it. You can bait the trap with an enticing treat (again, mealworms work great) and set it where the chicken will find it.
If you’ve got multiple chickens out, you may have to reset the trap a few times to catch the one you want. You can also set up an old-fashioned box trap. Prop up the box and put treats under it. Once the chicken you want is under the box, drop it to the ground to catch your chicken.
These methods work best when you’re trying to catch a chicken that is aggressive. Don’t use these methods for a chicken that isn’t aggressive if you can help it. Also, never use leg traps or other types of traps that can be harmful to your chickens.
Playing The Waiting Game
If you’re not in a hurry to catch your chickens, you can wait on them. A chicken that escapes the coop is very likely to return to it that evening, especially if they’re the only one out. Chickens prefer the company of other chickens and will try to get back with their flock when it’s time to roost. You can usually find an escaped chicken near the coop at dusk — looking for a way back in with their buddies.
Chickens will roost at night to sleep and if you can wait, pulling them off the roost is one of the simplest and least stressful ways to catch a chicken. Roosting chickens are extremely calm and won’t resist when you try to grab them. If you need to check on your birds, waiting until the roost is one of the best ways to catch them. Even shy chickens are unlikely to avoid you when they’re roosting.
It’s important to remember that chickens aren’t the dumb farm animals that many people claim them to be. They’re pretty smart and can be trained to be caught and spend time with you. If you put in the work upfront and train your chickens to enjoy your company, catching them will be a breeze. Sometimes though, it’s necessary to catch a chicken that isn’t trained to be caught.
If you find yourself chasing a chicken, don’t try to outrun them. Entice them with treats and use the least stressful capture possible. That way, if the same chicken gets out in the future, you won’t have to work as hard to catch it again. What are your tips for how to catch a chicken? Share your experience with us in the comments below.
Wren Everett says
I totally agree with what you’ve written, Shelby! I’ll add that I have found that the inward demeanor you choose to have also totally affects the situation. I think animals are pretty sensitive to that–maybe they detect stress hormones or can read “feelings” based on something we don’t yet understand. My first year with chickens, I was nervous, anxious, and freaked out when they escaped. I had no idea what I was doing, haha. This resulted in a frenzied chase that had me frustrated, out of breath, and staring at a panicked chicken that was STILL outside the coop.
Fast forward years later, if I see that a bird has slipped out the door while I’m collecting eggs, I often just have to walk up to it, gently direct it coop-ward, and it usually just returns with no issue. I think they can feel that I’m totally calm, and it keeps them calm enough to go back to where they belong.
The neighbours keep chickens and allow them to free range.they have destroyed my vegetable gardens to the point of us not being able to plant.I don’t do this for a hobby.it is how we out food in out table and it is labour intensive.I lived in a farm all my life and these back yard chickens are nothing but a nuisance. Worse than rats the owners think they are farmers but are stupid city folks that have moved out here and know nothing but think they know everything because they saw it on you tube.I have fenced my garden plots but they fly in.when I catch them I kill them.that’s a sure fire method.they I do this but still don’t take steps to contain the nuisance which makes the humans a bigger nuisance.you can’t fix stupid.
Lisa Nellis says
You seem nice.