While they may not seem like the most obviously affectionate of animals, most backyard chickens grow very accustomed to their owners, often delighting in being picked up, petted and talked to in a soft and gentle manner.
It is essential that as a backyard chicken keeper you know how to properly and safely catch and hold your chickens. Not only to show them a little love and affection and get them use to human touch and handling, for those times where you might need to place them back in their coop yourself for their own safety-not an easy task with a fretting and flighty bird!
First and foremost, it is important that you avoid chasing your chicken. This will only result in your poor poultry pal becoming skittish and stressed, which can lead to further health problems. It is much more conducive to train your chickens to come to you, which can be encouraged using a few food pellets or grain-it won’t be long before your girls associate your arrival with a treat and will come running!
If possible, it is best to try and usher your hen into a corner before attempting to pick her up. Place your strongest hand on the middle of their back, securing their wings as much as possible with that hand-do not grab for wings or tail feathers! With your other hand secure their legs and lower part of their body and gently and slowly lift them. Be sure to hug them close to your body so it is difficult for them to flap about or jump down, which can result in injury.
It is important when performing this to perfect the balance between ensuring they are held tightly and firmly, and avoiding causing them injury. You want them to stay cool, calm and collected, but we don’t want to cause our feathered friends any unnecessary pain.
You should never pick up a chicken by it’s feet or neck, not only will this cause mental stress, it can also cause physical damage to your hen, both of which can lead to furthered health problems.
Once you have your hen in your arms, make sure they feel secure by petting them and talking to them softly, this will help calm their nerves and familiarise them with human handling.
To correctly carry your hen, place one hand under it’s rear, being sure to hold it securely, and tuck it’s head slightly under your arm. However, try to avoid restricting it’s view as this can cause them to become nervous and frightened, resulting in a flighty hen-not fun for handling purposes!
It’s a great idea to reward your hen with some grain or food pellets when placing them safely back down to show them that handling should not be viewed as an unpleasant or feared experience for them.
Once you become more confident in your chicken handling, and start to pick up and hold your chickens more frequently, you will find that both you and your girls will become use to the routine, and it will become second nature! So spread the love and have a cuddle with your chicks!
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