What’s the best tactic for catching and moving chickens from one place to another?
The easiest time to catch a chicken is usually at night, when it is sleeping. Approach it slowly, grab it firmly over its wings (expect loud squawking) and then carry the bird to wherever you want it.
During the day in a coop or run, a poultry hook — a long metal rod with a hooked end that you can slip over a bird’s leg — can also come in handy for snagging stray chickens. You can buy one for less than $10 at an agricultural supply store or from an online supplier.
Another good option is to train chickens to come to you for treats. If you feed them grain or bread treats every now and then and call them as you do so, they will quickly learn to come when you call. Then, you can simply stand inside a new pen or toss some treats inside a smaller cage and the chickens will usually go right in to get the treats.
If you want your birds to return to roost in a new location, you need to move them there and keep them locked in for a week or so. After they become accustomed to their new location, you can let them out to range and they will typically return without any effort on your part, other than checking to be sure none of them tried to return to their previous location. Do a head count for a couple of evenings to be sure they all understand where “home” is.
Occasionally, a wayward chicken will roost in a tree outside the coop, says Glenn Drowns, co-owner of Sand Hill Preservation Center in Calamus, Iowa, which sells heritage poultry breeds. “To catch a renegade, wait until it roosts, then sneak up and catch it after dark,” Drowns says. “If the branch is too high, go to that area the next night, just before dark, and catch the bird on its way up the tree.”
Remember, chickens will get away with whatever their owner allows. “If you train chickens as youngsters to ‘shed up’ at night, they will. If you let them wander and sleep wherever they may, you will fight with them their whole lives,” Drowns says.
Above: Moving your chickens will be a cinch if you train them to follow you as you offer them food.
Photo By Dreamstime/Catalin Petolea
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.