Handling hens

By : | 0 Comments | On : July 10, 2016 | Category : Chickens, Garden Livestock

Why would you want to handle your hen?
There are many reasons for regularly handling hens. First of all, if they become sick, you will not be increasing their stress so much if they are already used to being handled. If a sick bird, that normally runs away from you, actually needs to be picked up and placed in a carry box to visit the vet, the ordeal can be very stressful to the point of being dangerous.

Regular handling of your hens is an important part of their regime of care. This way you can clip wings, administer all kinds of treatments, such as flea and mite powder and generally clean them up.

The regime involves:

No kissing

Please don’t kiss your hens, they don’t appreciate it and probably think you are trying to bite them. I suppose if you are going t kiss them anywhere, it will be around the top of the head, and therefore you open yourself liable for a jolly good pecking, which will leave you with even more health worries.

No handling around the bottom (unless you need to)
This is obviously a bad thing to do, and should only be done in very specific circumstances. You should avoid poo as a backdrop at all times if possible.

Always wash afterward

With no exception, you should wash your hands, and anything else for that matter, after handling hens or their eggs, or cleaning out the hut. Use an anti bacterial soap and good hot water, that obviously isn’t scalding.

Change your clothes

Or better still, have special clothes to wear when you are going to handle your birds. This can act as a stimulus for the birds – whenever they see you in a white overall, they know they are going to be picked up, and will often come to you to get some food.

Special clothes can include neoprene gloves and glasses, especially for children, who are more liable to a scratching, panicking bird.

Have a tetanus shot

Birds scratch in the soil, where tetanus is found. If they scratch you – well you get the idea.

No chasing

You will get nowhere by chasing your birds around the garden, they will never come to you and stress out every time they see you. They will become nervous birds and you will wear yourself out running around the garden.

Take your time when you collect your birds. Talk to them in gentle tones and hold out food for them to take. Do not use sudden movements and have a calm demeanor and they will come to you.

Hens are not pets

You might own these birds, but they are not pets, in that their purpose for living is not to be petted. They might never get used to being handled, and run away whenever they see you trying to pick them up. You have to spend time earning the right to handle them.

Crouch beside them, making short, soft repetitive sounds, holding food and generally keeeping them at what they consider a safe distance. Leave the food on the ground and then walk away. This might need to be repeated several times before you get them coming near you.


Hens that have no cockerel will frequently treat you as their mate, squatting down into a mating position every time you go by. Take the opportunity to pick them up each time they do this and you will find them easy to handle. Talk to them, gently stroke them for 30 seconds and then gently put them down after around 30 seconds, and if you can, leave then a little food.

How to handle your hen

This is done in many ways. I personally am not a fan of holding them by the legs or by the wings. It can be uncomfortable for them and they will respond to this, becoming reluctant to handling. They frequently open their wings, making it harder to move around without banging them.

handling hens by the wings (sort of under their armpits I think is very uncomfortable for them.

I prefer to hold the hen in a comfortable stance, using my body to hold one wing still, and my arm to hold the other, in a firm but easy grip. This way, should they struggle and try to flap their wings, they will not be able to do so, and consequently will damage neither themselves or yourself.

The other benefit of this method of handling hens is you usually have a free hand to do whatever you have to do with the bird. The downside is they can poo on you.

Have a partner

Some handling hens operations need two people and you need to plan for this.
Wing clipping is a case in point. One person holds the animal in place against the body and arm and at a comfortable point opens out the wing to be clipped. The other person takes about 34 cm off the tips of the flight feathers.

Releasing your hen

Dont think, because they are birds, you can throw them onto the grass to land with much flapping and much bok-bokking. They need to be placed down as easily as possible, and this means changing your grip so you are holding them in your hands.

This way they can walk away with no distress and will simply ruffle a little, and then walk away. If you are able, give them some food as a treat.

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