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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Nancy Johnson Stanislawski
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Nancy Johnson Stanislawski

I found this story a while back and had been trying to find it since. Of course it was yours! 😉 I’ve been working with my very eager future chicken momma in the making how to properly hold our chickens. She does great. I am saving this so I can show her your pictures here. Our 4 year old is only allowed to pet. They all love him though so I’m sure they’ll be jumping on him soon.

Lisa Epperson
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Lisa Epperson

Thanks for the articles! I did not know how to hold a chicken properly, and one time I caused one to start to vomit. Also! I read total contradictory instructions on the Eclipse! Read to put all chickens into coop so we don’t have damaged chicken eyes! What a bunch of work!

Kathy Neal Montoya
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Kathy Neal Montoya

Have had chickens for quite sometime but am new to your site. Love watching and learning about chickens! I am across the country from you in Washington state.

Susan Geraci Loth
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Susan Geraci Loth

My girls are into their second year of providing us with yummy eggs. One in particular loves to sit in the swing with me while I sing to her, read to her, or just chat. ( no I’m not crazy even though that what the sign on my car says—crazy chicken lady). I do have one that’s a problem. She still thinks she is a rooster. Jumps on the other girls and pecks at their crops. I think she is also the one who lays her egg while sitting on the roost. It breaks of course, then she eats it.… Read more »

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