As keeping chickens becomes every more popular (and fashionable) across the UK, I awoke this morning to a news article (in the Daily Mail) about celebrity chickens. (Or rather, their keepers!) I clicked on the link, not because of the celebrities, but because I saw lots of chickens being held incorrectly and very dangerously. (Not good!)
There is a right way to hold a chicken, get it wrong and they won’t be able to breathe properly. Get it very wrong and they won’t be able to breathe at all! (Poor celebrity chickens!)
Why is this? It’s because chickens don’t have a diaphragm. (The muscle which helps us to draw into our lungs and to release it again.) Instead, chickens’ move their rib cage and keel bone (the prominent long bone at the front of their chest) to breathe in and out. So, if you grasp your chicken, and wrap your hands around their body, they can’t breathe properly. For your chicken, this will be very stressful emotionally as well as physically.
It’s not hard to hold a chicken properly, and everybody can learn to do it! (When I run courses, I use ‘Henrietta’ to show everybody how to hold a chicken and yes, everybody gets to have a turn!)
How to Hold a Chicken – Safely
The safest way to hold a chicken is to lay their tummy along the length of your forearm and hold their legs between your fingers. Put one leg to the left of your middle finger and the other to the right. Then, when you close your fingers, their legs will be secure in your hand. (This will stop them from scrabbling about and injuring themselves and you!)
If your hen is flapping her wings, place your other hand on top of her back to gently hold her wings down and in place. Don’t squeeze your chicken close to your body. They need to have room enough to drop their keel bone and expand their rib cage. It is also worth remembering that small children may need an extra pair (of bigger) hands to move the chicken into position comfortably and safely.
Celebrity Chicken Casualties?
When I saw the article about celebrity chickens, in the Daily Mail, I was worried for the chickens owned by these celebrities. Clearly these people care very much for their chickens, and spoil them rotten, but it’s important to learn how to handle animals correctly. For the same reason, I was also worried about all the chickens now belonging to Coronavirus keepers who might look at the article and then hold (or continue to hold) their own chickens incorrectly.
To try to fix this, I hope that this brief guide (and accompanying images) will help chicken keepers all over the UK to care for their feathered friends. (Hopefully, we can help some celebrity chickens too!) I also contacted the article’s author, Alison Boshoff, to see whether a follow-up could be written.