The Right Way to Hold & Handle a Chicken

Holding a chicken correctly allows you to examine a chicken easily, keeps them calm and securely supported by their keel, (breast bone) and has the added benefit of keeping the working end of the bird away from you, greatly reducing the change of getting pooped on.
Yes, Virginia, there really is a right way to hold a chicken. Is it always necessary to hold a chicken correctly? No, but every chicken keeper should be aware of the proper method and use it during exams and bathing. Not only can handling a bird improperly stress the chicken unnecessarily, it can endanger their lives by restricting their ability to inflate their air sacs to breathe. Holding a chicken correctly allows you to examine a chicken easily, keeps them calm and securely supported by their keel, (breast bone) and has the added benefit of keeping the working end of the bird away from you, greatly reducing the chance of getting pooped on. You’re welcome!

Holding a chicken correctly allows you to examine a chicken easily, keeps them calm and securely supported by their keel, (breast bone) and has the added benefit of keeping the working end of the bird away from you, greatly reducing the change of getting pooped on.
(Black Copper Marans hen)

Most chickens don’t care to be handled, so whenever possible, I recommend handling and examining chickens after dark when they’re half asleep on the roost and unable to see well enough to put up much of a fuss. Wear a headlamp or have a partner holding a flashlight for you while you work.

Wrap your pinky, ring finger and middle finger around one thigh while the thumb holds the other thigh.So, here’s how it’s done…with the chicken’s beak facing you and your palm facing up with fingers spread apart, slide your index finger between the legs. Allow the keel bone to rest on your palm and forearm. Wrap your pinky, ring finger and middle finger around one thigh while the thumb holds the other thigh. Ta-da! You’re doing it and the bird can still breathe freely!
Allow the keel bone to rest on your palm and forearm.Allow the keel bone to rest on your palm and forearm.Always supervise children handling chicks. They should be instructed to support the chick in one hand underneath the feet and one hand gently securing the wings, and never squeeze. Small children really shouldn’t attempt to hold large fowl breeds; often they try to hold the chicken by hugging them, which squeezes the bird’s air sacs, preventing the bird from inflating them to breathe.
Always supervise children handling chicks. They should be instructed to support the chick in one hand underneath the feet and one hand gently securing the wings, and never squeeze.Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

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Helen at My Big Fat Menopausal LifeMichele D YatesBarbara Shelley-DuganLynn Hutten GruenwaldSusan Dense Recent comment authors
Dana Ellis
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Dana Ellis

I’m glad to know I’ve been holding them right. I guess my hens are strange though, they seem to enjoy being held.

Lauren Burke
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Lauren Burke

I work with wildlife and this is similar to how we hold raptors 🙂 Good to know it’s appropriate for my hens as well!

5fowl
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5fowl

My girls would love a little more room in the grass!!

June
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June

It’s nice to know as a new chicken keeper that I have pretty much been holding my pullets the right way. Only one of the 4 complains, the other three don’t seem to mind.

Linda Beus
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Linda Beus

Love your info, always helpful!

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