How To Pick Up a Chicken

Picking up a chicken is a basic part of hen care, and yet it’s often avoided. I know a woman who’s had chickens for a year and has never picked them up! Even if you don’t want to cuddle with your hens, there comes a time when you need to handle them, for instance, when the hen is wounded, or if you want to check for lice.

There’s plenty of urbanites who are not only new to chicken keeping, but new to livestock. Chickens flap, they squawk and they run away from you. Their feet look prehistoric (chickens are dinosaurs, but that’s for another post.) It can all be off-putting.

Sometimes, what seems like the most obvious task is the one that need to be explained. To that end, I’ve got a new YouTube video on thehencam channel. Take a look at How To Pick Up A Chicken. Even if you know how, you might want to take a peek. The hens used on this video live in the big barn, so you don’t get to see them on the HenCam. Twinkydink stars. For an old girl, I think she looks great!


  1. Thank you Terry that was very informative. I wish you would do some on bunny basics. Especially on the proper way to pick up a bunny. Thank you again.

    • Candy would say that there is not proper way to be picked up!:) She’s not a cuddly bunny. Then again, for a rabbit like that, it’s especially important to pick her up correctly to avoid stress. I’ll put that video on my to-do list.

      • Thank you Terry. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the video.

  2. Thanks Terry, you are TERrific!
    I love to handle my Buffs, but just learned from you how to check for parasites. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful site.

    • Lice will be obvious! If the shafts of the feathers look like Q-tips, then you have a problem. If the feathers and skin look clean, but you see one or two lice, don’t worry about it – just make sure the hens have loose dirt and DE to bathe in. BTW, ash from the fireplace is also a good lice preventative. Put in the dust bathing areas.

  3. I have no chickens to pick up, but nonetheless I love watching (and listening to) your How To Pick Up A Chicken. Someone, or several someones, are warbling away; everyone seems keen to get up close and watch, perhaps to make sure you are doing everything correctly?! And It is good to see Twinkydink, Edwina and Eleanor again. Thanks Terry!

  4. Thanks Terry, for that great info. It’s so important to check for all sorts of things, wounds can go undetected. Chickens are good at hiding things. I haven’t had a problem at all with lice or fleas since I started using cedar shavings in the nest boxes. I have eight boxes and a small bale of shavings the size used for bedding other pets is perfect for filling the nests. At the next cleanout, I scoop it out onto the floor to mix with the clean pine shavings. Or, I understand you can use cedar eggs, the kind for closets, and they work like false eggs in the nests. Not too expensive, and smells great, too. Never use hardwood shavings..oak or maple etc, because it can harbor a fungus that can cause problems with hens.

  5. I like it when they just squat, HOW EASY IS THAT!!! My pet chickens are easy to pick up my laying hens are a bit wild (they are housed in a seperate coop). The laying hens end up getting culled at about 20 months so I just take care of them and that’s it, no attention paid otherwise I wouldn’t have delicious stewing chickens in the fall and winter or a very productive laying flock due to old age.
    I don’t sell eggs I barter them, I would be curious if others barter their eggs and what you get in return.

  6. We just acquired about two dozen laying hens (and a rooster). Having always lived in the city, I’m having to learn fast. I’m really curious how you got your chickens comfortable enough to eat out of your hand. My chickens are too cautious to get anywhere near me, and I fear that my attempts to pick them up are just making them more frightened of me. But, I’m worried about scaly leg mites, so I need to pick them up soon. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Also, Ken, I would really love to know what you barter for. What a novel concept!

    • Get a stool and sit quietly amongst your chickens with corn in your hand. Every once in awhile toss a little bit out. They’ll come. If you have a roo, you might have to win him over first! Also, it’s much easier to pick up a hen when she’s in an enclosed space. Can you fit in the coop? One other trick is to pick them up after they’ve gone to roost at night. Chickens are quite calm at bedtime. Hold gently and then put them back.

      I barter my eggs for some superlative cheese from Carlisle Farmstead Cheese. Unfortunately, they’re moving out of town this fall.

      • I used cherry tomatoes from our garden, but that did the trick! Soon they were eating chicken feed out of my hand. Thanks for the advice!

        • I find you just have to go in there with a cup of tea and the last chocolate biscuit in the house that you’ve really been looking forward to, and then they all want to sit on your knee…

  7. Thank you for posting this. I figured out how to do it on my own, but it was VERY nice to see that I was doing it correctly. Thanks again.

  8. Mark,
    This time of year I barter for tomatoes, peppers, squash all the fresh stuff I can get a hold of.
    I barter three stewing hens for a fresh turkey at thanksgiving from a lady I work with.
    My neighbor who takes care of my chickens the few times a year I leave town gets all she wants.
    I guess the most unusual thing I barter for is tailoring. I always have to have my dress slacks shortened. A lady at work tailors each pair of pants for 18 eggs. I give them to her over time. It generally costs $10 to have a pair of pants tailored (legs shortened) so I usually buy 5 pairs at a time so that’s a savings of $50. So I know I come out ahead on that one but once I can get someone to try my fresh eggs I can usually get more for them in trade then they are actually worth.
    This fall when I cull my laying hens I am going to swap a guy two hens for three (processed) rabbits.

  9. I’m a chicken newbie and had been wondering the correct way to pick them up without making them upset. Your video was exactly what I needed! Thank you so very much.

  10. Hi Terry,
    I enjoyed seeing Twinkydink on YouTube. I just ordered 2 Australorp chicks and hope they are as pretty as Twinkydink. I do wonder, the breed is supposed to be inclined to being handled which is one reason I chose them. Twinkydink doesn’t seem to enjoy it, is that unusual for

    • I’ve only had two – and they’re nice placid hens. Mine are so closely bonded that they don’t like to be separated, even to have one held and one on the ground. Yours might be different!

  11. Hi Terry! That was a wonderful educational video. With more and more of my neighbors getting chickens, I often wonder how I’d collect a stray chicken. I’m used to collecting stray dogs but not chickens. But now, with your wonderful demo, I feel prepared.

    Like dogs and parrots, having treats helps. Guess, I need to add chicken feed to by doggie bait bag though, huh?


    • Chickens love dog food! They are omnivores. Some people who show chickens “condition” them with cat kibble because of the high protein.