If you’ve ever found yourself out of breath trying to catch a wily chicken, this article is for you. It’s not as easy as it may seem. Though there are several methods out there, we’ll discuss our opinion on the BEST way to catch a chicken. We might also argue it’s the easiest as well.
Catching a chicken can potentially look a lot like Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the movie, Rocky. ‘Sly” was able to pull it off as his training advanced and he became faster and more nimble. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really up to going through all that just to catch a few members of my flock!
Thankfully, I don’t have to, and neither do you. We’ll uncover many methods used to catch chickens, highlighting our favorite which is waiting until nightfall when they’re sleeping on the roost. This, in our opinion, is the simplest way to catch a chicken.
But even this method doesn’t come without a few drawbacks. That is why we’ll be discussing other methods as well. Read on to get all the details.
Best Ways To Catch A Chicken
The following list is a collection of ways we’ve either researched or tried ourselves. What you’ll likely find after reviewing them is that some of these ideas will resonate with you, others will not.
Just pick and choose which ones you think will work the best. You may have to experiment as well to really determine which one is best for you.
Chicken Leg Hook
This is a tool we used when I was a kid and it worked well for catching our Leghorns. We raised up to 75 per year at the time so that leg hook really had to work! I remember, even as a kid, that it was very effective and we seemed to catch them very consistently.
How does a chicken leg hook work? The idea is very basic:
- Simply grab hold of the handle, slowly come up behind a chicken to catch it from the back.
- Extend out the hook and try to catch one of the chicken’s leg in the “V” of the leg hook. It’s best to catch the leg at or below the chicken’s knee.
We purchased our own leg hook a few years ago. Maybe it’s me getting a little older or because they changed the style a bit, but I had a much harder time hooking them now. It may be my technique, though, and I never thought about looking up how to do it on You tube.
When I did, I found a great video of someone making their own leg hook, and catching chickens with it. See the video below.
The leg hook is still a very good method and if I work on my technique, I’m sure I’ll get better at it. If you’re ingenious, you can try making your own hook, as in the video above.
The tricky part of these hooks is finding the right gap or “V” size for your chickens legs. If you have smaller chickens with skinnier legs, it may not work as well as catching larger breeds with stout legs or vice versa. This is my guess as to why my percentage of catches is lower these days than when I was a kid. Either that or I’m just simply not as fast…no, that can’t be it!
Recently, I was able to catch the larger breeds without issue. But our smaller/medium sized breeds (Rhode Island Reds) would not hold the leg in the hook. If I pinched the “V” (or hook) a little tighter, my success rate was better. It wasn’t great, but it improved.
All in all, this is a good tool to have around. With a little practice and research on the product, you can probably get pretty darn good at catching your chickens consistently.
A fishing net is another effective method for catching chickens. If you’re a fisherman, you may already have one! If not, you can easily find them at fishing and tackle stores or online.
Catching a chicken with a net is rather self-explanatory:
- Simply get close enough to your intended victim, er…I mean chicken 😉
- Extend the net out and place it over top of the chicken. Hold the rim of the net on the ground with your non-dominant hand.
- Then slowly lift up the net just enough to shimmy your other hand (dominant hand) under the net.
- Carefully grab the chicken by the legs or, if you prefer, hold it to the ground by placing your hand on it’s back.
- Slowly remove the net with your other hand and then grasp onto the chicken with both hands.
One key in looking for a net is to buy one with a long enough handle. This will make it much easier to sneak up on your flock and not have to stand so close to catch them. I like the older style nets with the aluminum handle and rims but the new ones will work well too.
Another key is finding a net with a wide enough opening. Look for the nets for large fish i.e. Salmon, Northern Pike, etc. Anything with a minimum diameter of 12 inches is good, but the larger the opening the better!
Wait Until They Roost At Night
As we mentioned earlier, this is our favorite method. Obviously this can be subjective, but we like it because it’s simple and seems to be less traumatic for the flock.
Whether it’s wing clipping, or getting some chickens ready to sell, we like to work at night. The chickens all go to roost at dusk. Once it get’s completely dark, we go in the coop with our head lamps on and do what we need to.
The chickens will simply sit on the roost and not fly anywhere. It’s easy to handle them this way. We can pick them, trim their wings, and place them right back on the roost. We do hear some squawking, but that’s about it.
Pros and Cons of this method
The downside to this method is that it’s dark. We’re usually more tired by that time of day and would prefer to handle flock care during the day. But we don’t really need to handle our chickens that often so if we have to work in the dark with a head lamp once in awhile, we don’t mind!
The upside is that it seems to be less wear and tear on the birds. They gently sit on the roost while we enter the coop and do what we need to do. Once we leave, they simply go back to sleep. We aren’t chasing them all over the coop or running all over to catch them.
This is not the only method we use, but it’s definitely our favorite way of performing chicken care when it’s needed. We do this when it’s time to clip their wings and it’s worked very well through the years.
Chase Them Until You Catch Them
Although it may not be the easiest way to catch a chicken, it can work. This is what Sly learned to do in Rocky! My son can do this as well. He’s a teenager though and I’m…a little older than that.
Although there are those who have mastered this technique, it will be much more effective if you slow down vs running after them!
By slowly walking around the coop or run, your flock will not necessarily think anything unusual is happening. Once you get within an arm’s length, bend or crouch down and grab them by the back or tail.
My son consistently gets them this way and it’s quite something to watch. I have not mastered it, however, so will stick with going in at night.
Tame Your Chickens
This is another excellent strategy! The more you are around your chickens, providing them with treats, petting them, etc. the easier it will be to catch them. In fact, if they’re tame enough, you won’t have to chase them at all.
To prove the point, just this week we inherited four hens from a friend of ours who could no longer take care of them. They really doted on these chickens and it shows. They’re incredibly tame, much more so than our existing flock.
It’s easy to spot them in the flock because, unlike the others, they will always approach us when we’re in the run, let us pet them, and are very calm. It’s very easy to pick them up, hold them, and do whatever tasks are needed.
We simply didn’t socialize the rest of our flock very well, and it shows. Like any animals, though, they can be trained! If you’re in the same position, it’s not too late! Providing treats for them is a good way to gain their approval and, before long, they’ll be eating out of your hand.
Enlist Several People To Help
Yet another good strategy is to enlist your friends or family to help. This not only makes it easier, you have others around to laugh and share the experience with!
The method is not too difficult: Assuming you can round up 3 or more people, encircle the chicken and then slowly approach it all at the same time. The chicken will want to avoid that circle and eventually try to escape between a couple of you. It’s at that moment, you reach down to grab him or her.
The downside to this method is it can make the chicken panic more than using some of the other methods.
Chicken Box Trap
We have never tried this method before, but can see how it can be effective. It is essentially a simple, old style, box trap set up with a box, string, and stick. As a kid, I made a similar trap to catch rabbits.
Trap supplies and preparation:
- Find a box large enough to hold the chicken. A cardboard box should work fine. Finding a box at least 12 inches (“) x 12″ in x 12” can work but the larger the box, the better it will work!
- Find a stick or board that is at least 12 inches long and cut or fashion a notch in the top of it.
- Tie a piece of string on the non-notched end of the stick, at least 3 ft long, but longer is better. A six foot piece of string or longer would be ideal.
The set up goes something like this:
- Start by lifting up one side of the box .
- Place the notched edge of the stick under the lip of the box, near the middle of the elevated side. The other end of the stick (with the string) will be on the ground and holding up the box. Once completed, the box should now be propped up.
- Now carefully extend the string out away from the set-up and get ready to pull it.
- Add some of their favorite treats under the box.
- Once the chicken goes in/under the box for the treats, pull the string, hopefully capturing the chicken underneath.
Even as an adult, this sounds like so much fun! We WILL have to give this a try now.
Live Animal Trap
Similar to the simple box trap is a live animal trap. We’ve used these to catch cats and racoons before. With the right treats inside, you can use it for chickens too.
This method will cost more upfront but can be great trap for a really wild or aggressive chicken, or one that has escaped the coop and is running rampant in the yard.
This not only works to bribe the kids to get their chores done, it’s also effective on chickens. Once they begin associating you with treats, you’ll have a much easier time catching them. You’ll also have a friendly flock.
How to use treats to catch a chicken:
- Kneel down on the ground by the chicken you want to catch.
- Grab a handful of their favorite treats. Thank meal worms, corn, or whatever you’ve noticed they love to eat.
- Carefully spread the treats out very near to where you’re kneeling down. Don’t toss them too far away so you can’t reach the chicken when they go to eat the treats.
- Once the treats are on the ground, wait patiently in the crouched position until they approach you.
- Once they are starting to chow down by your shoes, reach out and grab the chicken by the feet or by placing your hand on it’s back.
This is another method we have not tried but definitely plan to put in our bag of chicken catching tricks.
Blanket or Burlap Sack
A large blanket can also be used to catch a chicken. It’s a very simple way, and does not involve buying a lot of expensive products. A burlap sack can also work.
How it’s done:
- Have the blanket or sack in your hands, ready to toss. Hold it so you’re hands are spread apart, spreading out the blanket as wide as possible.
- Slowly walk into the coop or run near the chicken you’re trying to catch. Using treats is optional, but a good idea to keep them near you.
- Once you sense you’re close enough to the chicken to safely toss it over him or her, throw the blanket so that it’s stays spread wide vs all bunched up which will obviously not work.
A few points to consider with this method. 1) Don’t use a heavy blanket or comforter. Think lightweight so as not to injure your chicken in any way. 2) Be careful not to trip on the blanket after it’s been thrown on the chicken and you approach it.
This is not the highest on our list of chicken catching tricks of the trade, but it’s still an effective method if done exercising caution.
Many if not all of the above will work with basically any chicken. Whether it be rooster, hen, large or small, any of those methods should work.
However, within each breed there are those that can be very aggressive. Usually this distinction is more common in roosters, but we’ve had some ornery hens as well.
The methods that may likely work best for your feisty feathered friends will most likely be the fishing net, waiting until they go to roost, live trap, or blanket.
These methods allow you to have more control and will be less likely to frighten or anger the chicken into biting or, if it’s a rooster, digging his spurs into your body. I can tell you from first hand experience, that really hurts!
When catching chickens, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the worst.
- Wear Gloves – This is not just a precaution for aggressive chickens. While catching any chicken, you can get scratched or pecked.
- Wear Protective Clothing – A long sleeve shirt or jacket will protect your arms. A cover-all will protect your whole body.
- Mask Up – If you’re catching chickens in the coop, it can be dusty. Grab one of those extras masks you have lying around from the COVID pandemic to keep you safe from the dust that gets kicked up.
We hope one of these methods will work for you. Although catching chickens can get a bit tricky sometimes, it’s definitely not impossible.
Try the methods above on or size and let us know if any of them worked for you in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!.
Good luck catching your chickens and, as always, “happy chickening.”