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Catching Birds

Last Updated: 2/20/07


Getting Close:
Lure Method
Follow Method
Chase Method

Grab Method
Trap Method

This page is all written off the top of my head, starting 1/4/07.


I answered a number of e-mails about how to catch loose birds. One was a domestic turkey that was loose in the woods. Another was a domestic chicken and her three chicks loose in a neighborhood. I myself have had to catch the Eastern wild turkeys that we let loose and then needed to re-pen as well as escaped chickens a few times. I also have moved a hen and chick and later a rooster within the chicken pen itself.

I decided to make a list of various methods that could be used to catch birds. While these are mostly geared towards domestic turkeys and chickens, they can also be used domestic geese and ducks and perhaps even other birds such as domestic caged birds or even wild songbirds. The methods would have to be adapted to the particular bird.

Of the stories mentioned above, this is how the birds were caught (caged). The domestic turkey in the wild was lured into a fenced area and then hand caught. The domestic chickens and chicks was from an e-mail that I just answered (no reply yet). To get my wild turkeys back into their pen, I played follow the leader. They followed me right in. For the loose chickens, it was usually a matter of opening the chicken house door and walking behind them in circles around the pen a few hundred times it seemed before they went in. For the hen, chick, and rooster that I moved, I just grabbed them and moved fast. For the rooster (a big one!), I threw a towel over him, he got in one good flap, and then I had him in my grip.

All birds to be caught have to be lured, chased, or lead and then grabbed or trapped.
For wild, loose birds or domestic birds that have been in the wild for a while, the lure and trap method is best.
For wild, domestic birds, that you know, the chase and trap method usually works but most methods can work.
For birds that are already in a confined area but need to be moved, the grab method usually works.

Note: I do not in any way advocate catching wild birds and removing them from the wild. This page is for catching domestic birds that either escaped or have been in the wild (and turned wild) for a while.

Lure Method

Feed grapes, mealworms, treats, etc. The lure method works better than other methods for wild birds or domestic birds that have been in the wild for a while (or all their lives). Lure into box, cage, fenced area for flightless birds. Use nets (preferably spring loaded) for birds that can fly well. See traps below.

To lure a bird to an area, first put the foods close to the trap/cage/fenced area but not actually in it. Make a trail of it into the trap/cage/area. As time (days if need be) go on, move the food closer into the trap.

Follow Method

Birds that already know you will often follow you around, especially if you have food. See if you can get the bird to follow and lead him/her right into the cage, fenced area, house, etc. This is what we did with the pair of wild turkeys that we let go. We had to catch them again since they were too domesticated. I tried throwing blankets on them, chasing them, luring them, etc. to no avail. So, I just called them, and they followed me right into the turkey house!

Chase Method

For loose birds, chasing them around in circles, trying to get them to go into their pen or someplace else can exhaust both of you. Having helpers can make things go faster or freak the bird out totally. A few times, a hen has snuck out our cage. I left the chicken house door open and followed the chicken around it over and over until she went in. Be sure other birds cannot escape (you do not need more free!). Running defeats the purpose. The chase must be slow. The bird must think you do not care. If you run, the bird will just run faster or fly. If you walk slowly, the bird will stay more calm. When you get closer, then you may have to move faster. Many a bird owner has made a fool of themselves chasing fowl.

If the bird is already confined, the simplest way to get the bird is to chase it down and grab or trap it. It is easier to catch the bird off guard if you pretend you are just enjoying the day and slowly move closer to the bird. Think of it more as herding than chasing. Then, grab or trap him/her quickly.

Grab Method

This could also be called the stalk or predatory method. Birds do not have time to put up a fight if you do it quickly. Hopefully, they will not see it coming. If you act nonchalant, and then grab a bird quickly, that is often the fastest way to deal with them, at least the domestic species. Once you have made a grab for a bird and missed, it is not very likely you will be able to catch them that day by this method. Birds are smart, and once they realize what you are up to, you do not stand a chance of getting them the same way (at least for a while).

You can grab a bird bare handed or use some thing to help. I have used a towel to get my rooster a few times. The towel protected me from getting more scratches. A box can also be used to either go over the bird or to put the bird in once it is grabbed.

Birds can also be grabbed using various nets but there is more risk of injury to a bird when using a net. Do everything you can to reduce flapping and the bird moving around too much.

Trap Method

If various foods are put into a trap, a bird may walk right into the trap. A bird can also be lured into a larger trap by the follow method if the bird follows you. It can also be chased into a trap.

The trap can be triggered a number of ways. It can be one that automatically shuts the door when weight is felt inside the trap. No one would have to be there for that. Often such traps go off and do not actually catch anything. The trap door can also be shut by pulling a line attached to the door. Some one would have to be there to do that. The Have-A-Heart traps are generally for mammals but may work for certain smaller birds. Birds may not be heavy enough to trigger the trap.

Traps can be made of metal, animal cages, boxes, fencing, etc. On Survivor, they took a heavy wooden crate and propped it up, put food under, and when the chicken was under, pulled a rope that dropped the box. An example of the fencing would be to use loose dog fencing to enclose an area say 50 square feet. Lure a group of wild, flightless birds into the fenced area to feed. Then, pull the fencing so that it becomes a smaller and smaller area. Then, go in and hand catch the birds or otherwise get them into a container.

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