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How to Catch and Handle Your Chickens

Being able to catch and handle your chickens is very useful and is actually quite important. Chickens need to be checked over regularly and so need to be handled. The more you get them used to being caught and held the less stressful it will be for them. If you work hard to tame your chickens as soon as you get them, then catching and handling them should be no problem. It becomes a little tricker if they are flighty and not used to being caught.

A lovely healthy chicken being picked up by its owner
A lovely healthy chicken being picked up by its owner

The best way to tame your chickens and build up trust it to offer your chickens their favourite treat in your hand. You should get them used to eating out your hand first and then start to stroke them with slow movements. Some hens may even crouch down thinking you are a cockerel about to mate with her. This will make it even easier for her to picked up.

How To Pick Up Your Chickens

When picking up a chicken use both hands to pin the wings to her side. This will stop her flapping. Lift her up and then place one underneath her with your middle finger in between her legs and your index, and fourth finger outside of the legs. Use your other hand to hold her close to you. She should remain quiet like this.

Amy Punchard has tamed her lovely hens by picking them up regularly and giving them treats
Amy Punchard has tamed her lovely hens by picking them up regularly and giving them treats

Top Tip: If your hens aren’t used to handling and won’t come close to you try handling them at night when they have gone into roost. You should be able to just pick them up off of their perch.

Do Chickens Enjoy Being Stroked?

A tame hen enjoys being stroked, just like a cat or dog. Submitting to a cuddle is a submissive gesture, and it means she trusts you.

Sometimes a hen will flatten herself on the ground as you approach. This makes it easy to pick her up. It's an instinctive action from the hen, and what she's actually doing is mistaking you for a cockerel. Flattening herself like this is an invitation to mating!

A cockerel is very unlikely to submit to stroking, so it's best not to try!

Customer Images

Chicken sitting with lady reading book
my hens settling into the coop, day one
Clean up operation and chicken enrichment
Holding the chickens in college.
My girl florence
Don't squeeze them, but the more you pick them up the tamer they become
First time i picked up my chicken
Once they get used to you they may even perch on your shoulder!


Phillip, 27 May 2020

Yes I agree if cocks are not handled they will attack you. I had a flock of 50 chickens with a number of cocks. Ones that I hatched from eggs that I left alone used to attack the back of my legs when I used to turn around. Just leaving foot prints on my legs just was annoying. When I had 7 hens and one cock which was handled to put in a dark pen untill 7 am (so they don't make noise at 3am etc.. he was fine at being picked up and put to bed and never attacked in anyway. So keeping all chickens are fine but in urban areas you check local legalisation and handle cocks and keep them tame. In my area there is no legalisation about keeping cocks and hens so that when I started growing my flock I mostly left them to do there thing under defra you don't register flocks untill after 50 chickens. When my flock was coming up to o er 50 one or two was ready for the pot (eating) . Should only eat food you are ready to kill or would kill for food. Table birds are also about 20 kg in weight so alot better than supermarket brought very small chickens. My dog used to be fine around my chickens but did not like pigeons and used to try to kill them (never got one though).

Blake, 24 July 2018

I wait until they have gone to roost to handle mine. I try and go out every night and pet them for a few minutes. It gets them uae to my voice and touching them

Leah, 14 December 2017

Personally the rooster comment on the end was unnecessary it tells people new to chickens that roosters are not be handled. Yet in 4h most showmen ship chickens are roos. And you need to handle a rooster in order to do showmen ship. Also most roosters if treated the same as hens will gladly let you pick them up and cuddle with you very few roos are aggressive or dislike human contact. hundreds of thousand of them are sent off to the butcher daily because of people who say they don't like humans when there just like any other hen or chicken. Most chickens are not easy to catch, unless they are handled daily, just because they are males dose not mean they are more aggressive or un-cuddly..

Gill, 30 May 2016

We have had our hens for 10 days. Any Advice on catching them?

Debbie, 28 May 2013

Great advice for fit young people. I am 50 and my hens are quick on their feet. I wait until they have gone in for the night - they are much easier to pick up and handle when they are roosting causing a lot less stress if your birds would rather not be picked up :)