The Free Chicken Escapade

618578_90430074The other day I came across a Craigslist ad:

“Free chickens. You catch!”

Free chickens? Oh, yeah! So I called the lady right away and got directions.

She lived on a farm, and was due to have knee surgery in about a week. She was tired of the chickens getting under her feet when she fed her horses, and just wanted them gone.

The problem? They were everywhere! Her free range hens had quickly multiplied, and were roosting in the woods, in the barn, and anywhere else they found a place to park for the night.

Armed with a huge fishing net and several crates to hold our captives, we pulled our van up to the barn gate and surveyed the battlefield. There in front of us was a huge pasture with horses, donkeys and pecking chickens everywhere!

Couldn’t be too hard, right? We set right to work.

Eggs and Chickens book from Lehman's
Eggs and Chickens Book

Our first attempts were to sneak up on a few hens and try to ensnare them with the net. No luck. They were very quick, and were NOT having it. The lady offered me a long, metal pole that was hooked on the end to grab the chickens by the leg. With my new chicken-catching-tool in hand, I decided to climb to the top of her barn, hoping to snag a hen that had flown up there.

By this time another car full of people had come to catch chickens, too. Great, I thought. Competition. And they were loud, obnoxious people. Double fun. As I finished my steady climb up the rickety homemade ladder, I heard the newcomer lady down below me shout loud enough for neighboring county to hear, “Look at ‘er! She’s gonna fawl!”

Gee, thanks, lady.

I was relieved to get a fairly good footing once up top. The hen I was chasing flew and landed on top of a florescent light fixture hanging from the barn ceiling. I reached from my loft with the stick and tried to shoo her off the light; she was just out of grabbing distance. But then I spotted another hen up there with her. I leaned out and poked it, hoping it too would fly into reach, but it didn’t budge. I poked it again.

Wooden Egg Crates
Wooden Egg Crates

Yep. Dead as a doornail.

I called to the farmer lady below, “Uh, there’s a dead chicken up here on top of your light.” You know, just in case she started to smell something, as if she’d be able to smell a dead chicken among the horse manure.

“Oh,” she called back up, “it might-a touched an exposed wire.”

Here I am touching it with a metal stick. Lovely.

I climbed back down to see where my husband and kids had gone off to. It was beginning to get dark, but I was able make out his figure in the distance of the pasture. He was running full speed after a little hen, with net raised in hand as if it were a spear, which he suddenly lunged through the air in an attempt to perfectly land it over the fleeing hen.

Oh, why did I not bring my video camera?!

The kids were busy trying to catch hens themselves, or shooing them from their hiding places. And the other people were easily catching all of the hens my guys were sending out. That’s great, people, thanks.

Living With Chickens Book
Living With Chickens Book

I stood back and watched for a minute, and realized that a bunch of the chickens were jumping up into one really tall pine tree to roost for the night.

I handed my leg snatcher stick to my eight-year-old girl, grabbed a low hanging tree branch, and proceeded to make my way up the tree, being careful not to put my hand in one of the massive piles of poo that had accumulated on the surrounded branches. By the looks of it, this was the place to roost.

Once I got situated on a sturdy limb, my daughter raised the stick back up to me. But every time I tried to grab a hen with it, they would only fly to a higher branch. I climbed, and climbed (and was grateful I wore pants for this little escapade). But once we got close to the top, the hens just flew down and ran off to find another roosting place.

Well, at least they were out of the tree.

But then the older boy that came with the other couple grabbed one of the hens I’d just chased down; the huge, black hen I’d had my eye on from the get-go! It was really on, then. War, people! I needed some chickens!

A minute later, I mercilessly flung myself at a big, white hen that was desperately trying to find a hiding place in all the chaos. And I caught her!! I held her tight as I made my way back to the van to find a crate to put her in. The other lady saw the hen I’d just captured and came close enough to deafen me as she shouted to her husband, “Hey honey! She caught that white hen you was wantin’!” Obviously, she was letting me know that that was her hen. I tried to conceal my smug pride.

So I, my husband, and the kids ran around for a good 2 1/2 hours before we finally rounded up seven hens and one gorgeous rooster. Jerry, my husband, even caught a hen with his spear-like lunging net maneuver! Which made him king of the hunt.

Wire Egg Basket
Wire Egg Basket

But by then it was pitch black, freezing cold, and we were all hungry. Time to head home. I thanked the woman graciously for allowing us to have the chickens for free. Our competition was packing up as well.

And then I remembered something. As I sat in the van and nursed my hungry baby, my hubby went over to the other couple and offered a trade: that black hen I was after, for the white one they had wanted.

It was a deal. And I got my big, beautiful black hen after all. We drove home, exhausted, starving, stinking to high heaven, and thrilled with the new additions to our flock!

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Terri Farrow
12 years ago

Real life is so much funnier than television. I belly laughed.

James Lindley
12 years ago

I’ve had to catch chickens that were loose so I could just see you chasing them.

Judy Friend Wirkkala
12 years ago

If people only knew that chickens go into a kind of stuper after dark and you can walk up and pick them up without a squawk!

Mary Demattio
12 years ago

Catching a chicken is work, especially once they are wise to the fact that you are trying to catch them!

Joyce Mentrup Dudley
12 years ago

This is a funny story.

Victoria Hicken
12 years ago

LOL- Judy, I was just thinking the same thing. A flashlight and 15 minutes they would have had all the birds they could fit in the car!

12 years ago

Wow, thanks ladies for that chicken-catching tip – we learned something new today! How many of you keep chickens currently?

12 years ago

Wow, thanks ladies for that chicken-catching tip – we learned something new today! How many of you keep chickens currently?

Judy Friend Wirkkala
12 years ago

I keep chickens…for laying and am getting 25 meat birds in a few days. Love them and really love the ability to eat organic chickens rather than the meat industry’s poison.

Kendra P
12 years ago

LOL. I would have much preferred to get the chickens after dark, but the lady who was offering them insisted that we come at feeding time. *sigh* So, we did the best we could ;) Plus, we had competition, lol!! No doubt, plucking them out of the trees after dark would have been a piece of cake… but then we wouldn’t have had a funny story to tell, would we, lol! :)

Victoria Hicken
12 years ago

Me too! We love our “girls” (all 32) they’re free range hens for eggs and we just love them. They are “the pet that pays you back”!

11 years ago

[…] has a great blog, with different authors providing various perspectives on the homesteading life.  The recent post about trying to corral some wayward chickens was a hoot (a cluck?) and kind of made me feel better […]

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