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How to Hold and Handle a Chicken

As a backyard chicken owner, you probably have a couple of hens or a rooster you wouldn’t mind picking up and hugging. Knowing how to properly hold and handle your feather friends is important, because there are a lot of things you can do when your chickens are comfortable in your grip. That is why we have come up with this step-by-step guide describing how to hold and handle a chicken, so you can give them the love they deserve.

Let’s get started.

farmer holding a light brown hen

How to Hold and Handle a Chicken — Step-by-Step

So you want to handle your chicken like a pro. Here are the steps that will help you hold and handle a chicken:

Step 1. Establish Trust

It is always a wise decision to take some time and get your chicken used to you and you touching them. One of the best ways to do that is by giving them plenty of treats. Like any animal, chickens may be skittish at first. Never chase them around, because they will learn to fear you and any fast movements. You will have to work at getting them to come closer and closer. Over time, your chickens may be fine with even eating treats straight from your hand.

Getting them used to your presence and movements will make it easier to get close and scoop them up. Plus, the chicken will be more calm and collected the whole time.

Step 2. Assume the Proper Position

Again, do not chase your chickens or corner them when trying to do this. You want your chickens to trust you. The other reason you want your chicken to trust that you are safe is because they need to be facing you when you first pick them up. A bird that’s scared could easily peck you in this position.

If you do not want your chicken facing you, there is another method. You could face the chicken towards the direction of the grabbing hand. For instance, if you plan on picking them up with the right hand, face them to the right.

Step 3. Holding Your Chicken Correctly

Now, to pick up the chicken, you first want the grabbing hand palm-side up. Slide your hand forward, reaching towards the chicken’s chest, fingers pointing in between their legs. It will almost feel like football hold as you bring the other hand to their back. The hand up top should carefully secure their wings.

Ideally, the chicken’s breast, neck, and head will be resting along your forearm when lifted off the ground.

Check out this video for some visual instruction:

Never grab your chicken’s neck, wings, or feet, as you could potentially injure them.

Step 4. Checking In

Prior to lifting your chicken, do a quick check. Ask yourself if the chicken feels calm and secure. Are they struggling to get free? Are you squeezing too much? Does the animal seemed stressed in some way? If you answered no to these questions, you are ready for lift off. Do not lift the chicken from the ground too quick.

Slowly lift, bringing them close to the side of your body. Tuck them against you so they cannot flap their wings or jump.

Step 5. Carrying Your Chicken

If your chicken seems calm still, you can begin to move around the area while holding it. Place a hand under your chicken’s bottom, securing it. You can also attempt to tuck the chicken’s head under your arm. Be careful about restricting what it can see, because your chicken may become nervous and flighty.

Take a few steps before checking in again. If the chicken starts resisting or fighting for freedom, let them back down. Do not keep them against their will.

Step 6. Letting Your Chicken Down

Letting your chicken go should be as gentle as when you lifted it. You can either kneel, putting your chickens feet on the ground, then release them, or you can try another method. While upright, get both hands on either side of the chicken’s legs with them facing away. Then slowly lower them to the ground.

Since you want your chicken used to the idea of getting picked up, be sure to repeat this process often. It is also a good idea to gift the chicken with a treat, as that will reinforce it as a positive experience in their mind.

The Importance of Holding Your Chickens Properly

farmer holding a red hen

Now that you know how to hold a chicken, let’s discuss why this proper form is so important:

Avoid Unnecessary Stress

Chickens are resilient, but they can still be injured with improper handling. Understanding the best way to hold and handle a chicken decreases the stress they feel. It also ensures that your chicken is not going to retaliate out of fear or pain, which could result in injuries for the both of you.

Bond With Your Flock

Showing your chicken that you are trustworthy by holding them comfortably means a better bond between you and the members of the flock. They will be more willing to come and cuddle with you, too.

Routine Healthcare

Learning how to hold your chicken the correct way will make it easy to perform health checks and to give your birds any medications that are required.

Tips to Remember When Handling a Chicken

The first thing you need to know is that chickens are generally not fond of being held or picked up, as it can cause stress and discomfort. However, with proper training and gentle handling, some chickens can become more comfortable with being held. The more confident you are when holding your chickens, the more safe and secure they will feel. This will lead to them easing into your touch rather than trying to run away.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not let your chicken fall. Dropping from even a low height could injure your chicken, causing issues ranging from bumblefoot to broken bones and joints. Always practice close to the ground first.
  • Do not squeeze your chicken. Holding onto your chicken too tightly could restrict air flow to their lungs and damage their internal organs.
  • Do not forget the treats. Chickens, like dogs, can be taught to associate cuddling and holding with other positive things like treats. Be sure to praise your chickens with a tasty morsel after you have held them for a while.
a woman feeds young chickens with her own hands
  • Be deliberate with your movements. Avoid doing anything too fast. Show your chickens that you are trustworthy by moving calmly and touching them gently. This sets the tone and keeps them from getting too stressed.

Final Thoughts on Holding and Handling Chickens

There you have it: All the steps to properly hold and handle a chicken. The steps involved are relatively straightforward, but remember to take it slow. Your chickens will need some time to get used to being picked up and carried around. But once you have mastered the technique being holding and handling chickens, don’t be surprised if your flock starts asking for it.