Holding chickens is one of my favorite hobbies! There’s nothing like going out to the coop and getting in some good chicken snuggles. While this is a highlight of raising backyard chickens, it’s also very important to know how to hold them correctly. Why? First of all, knowing how to hold a chicken is important so you don’t cause injury. Secondly, holding your chickens is important to give them a good health inspection. Looking over their combs, waddles, eyes, beak, legs, body and feathers on a regular basis will allow you to have a good handle on the health of each chicken as well as your flock as a whole.
So, let’s talk about the different stages of holding chickens. When you get your cute little chicks, you will want to handle them very little the first couple of days so they can adjust to their brooder and keep their body temp where it needs to be. As they grow and you want to hold them, go for it. The more you handle your chicks as they grow, the easier it will be to catch them and hold them as adults.
To hold a chick: Carefully place one hand over the chick's wings and one hand under their feet. This will keep them from trying to fly or jump out of your hands. Never squeeze a chick or chicken of any size!
As they grow up, I have found that chickens in their “teenager” months are more skittish and don’t love to be held. Eventually, they will start to submit and allow you to hold them again.
When holding an adult chicken, carefully place your hands over their wings. Gently pick them up and bring them to your side. This way they feel safe and secure. If you put your hand under a mature chicken, they will want to jump, so don’t worry about having a hand under their feet. I will carry my chickens around like a football or cuddle them while cradling them to my body.
The biggest concern is that you don’t squeeze them. Squeezing a chicken can cut off their air supply or damage their organs. Holding them firmly so they don’t flap or jump is important, but squeezing is off limits. Chickens that fall or jump from high places can end up with broken legs or damaged joints. They can also get abrasions on their feet that would lead to bumblefoot. So, it’s important that you don’t drop them! If this happens, give them a minute to recover and then check them over good for abrasions or injury.
While you’re holding your chicken, make sure to do a good checkup of their feet, feathers, beaks, comb, waddle and eyes. Keeping close tabs on your chickens can prevent disease spreading through your flock or catching an abrasion that could turn into an infection.
Raising backyard chickens is so much fun! And most of that fun is learning your chickens’ different personalities. Some of my chickens follow me around until I pick them up for a hug. Others run like the wind when I walk near them! Either way, knowing how to properly hold a chicken will help you in your backyard chicken journey.
Until next time,
--The Wing Lady