I am not one of those people who cuddles and kisses my chickens. I love the girls, but they don’t need my affectionate embraces. What they do need is a caregiver who is attentive and calm. I get eggs from them, but I also get to be around curious, funny, busy-body animals that I find endlessly entertaining. I like to say that keeping chickens is like having the ocean in your backyard – there’s always something going on, and yet it is relaxing. The hens and I spend much companionable time together. That’s why, when I do go to pick them up they don’t make much of a flap (pun intended!) and they stay comfortably in my arms.
Although I don’t hug my hens, I do handle and pick them up. Sometimes it’s to check a chicken that’s been looking “off” for signs of illness. Sometimes it’s to move her from one place to another. I have a couple of hens that are happy to sit on my lap; they are the girls that accompany me on school visits. If you are just starting out with your flock, keep in mind that anything swooping down to grab a hen will scare her – so many animals want to catch a chicken dinner! So, be quick and confident, but make sure she knows it’s you who is reaching for her. If your mature hen sees you as a benign caregiver, she might squat in that deferential way that she would for a rooster. That makes her easy to pick up. If she always runs from you, then some quiet taming is in order.
When you do hold a hen, keep her close to your chest and gently keep her wings at her side. If she can flap, she’ll panic, but if she’s held securely she’ll settle right in.
And, remember to enjoy yourselves, like these gentlemen are.
For more about picking up hens, read my FAQ and see my YouTube video. It also helps to have hens that come when called. A few of my hens are much easier to catch when distracted by a bit of corn! See how to train them to come running here.