A Quick Note on Catching Chickens

We keep laying hens. We also have an incubator and have hatched out some since we keep cocks (adult male chickens), too. This means that we periodically have cockerels (juvenile male chickens) and spent hens (hens that no longer lay eggs) to kill, otherwise they just eat feed and generally harass younger hens and pullets (juvenile female chickens). We have found that old hens, cockerels, and even cocks make fine eating if you prepare them correctly (generally 4 hours on a stove top simmering or 12 hours in a crock pot).

The hardest part is catching them. Though I am capable of running down a chicken, even a mature rooster, this is not advisable. Such shenanigans are likely to cause injury to yourself and almost certainly the chicken. It is much better to catch them somehow and hold them in a way that keeps you safe (a cock’s spurs can be very injurious).

Some people use nets, and I’d imagine these work pretty well, but I often catch chickens inside their coop in the morning before they go out. This way there is less chasing. Maneuvering a chicken-sized net inside a small coop would be awkward.

I wondered if a leg catch would work, so I fashioned this weird sort of crook out of a pice of 12 gauge high-tensile galvanized fence wire and an old hoe handle.


I think it is very important to use high tensile wire because it is springy and very tough. Regular soft wire would not work, I think. I screwed some screws into a board that made a jig for bending the wire. Such wire is much stronger than my fingers.

I cut a slit in the end of the handle just deep enough to insert the wire using a table saw (very cautiously). It turns out that the kerf of the saw blade was just right! I used a Haywire Clamper to tighten 16 gauge soft wire around the end to hold the wire, but a couple of hose clamps would have worked, too. I think it is a good idea to stone down the cut end of the wire so it doesn’t injure anybody.

With a little practice even children can effectively catch chickens this way. It holds their leg just long enough that you can bend down and grab hold of it and then grab their other leg. This is a safe way to hold chickens (upside down by their legs) as they have very strong legs and sort of “freeze” when held this way. I understand waterfowl, which have much weaker leg bones, should not be held this way; rather they should be cradled in your arm. It’s a good thing that they don’t have claws like chickens do!

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