Originally Posted by sunflour
I would appreciate advice from experienced flock owners about handling chickens at night in order to inspect and treat them.
I have been able to pick up and handle only 3 out of 6 of my 10 month old "hormonal" pullets, and desperately need to check the other 3 for ectoparasites, and clean a nasty butt on one. But have not been successful in my attempts. Although friendly and usually trusting, they frighten, flap, run, fly at anything different or unexpected in their surroundings, and pose a true risk of self injury when upset.
They live in a roofed all in one cabin type coop/run, the coop floor is 21/2 feet off the ground, and the run extends under this. The skittish 3 move out of reach with attempts to handle them. The human access door to the coop opens to unprotected space.
I have read in other Threads and in texts to try to examine or treat them at nite when they are roosting, but have concerns. By means of a camera in the coop, I know they don't just sleep all nite. They awaken, change roost position. Talk. On and off all nite. If a light shines in the coop they really wake.
The answers I seek:
Are they really sedate and easy to handle, inspect, treat, clean after dark?
Or, are they frightened and pose an escape risk?
What type of light can I use to reduce their awakening, but still be able to see well enough to accomplish the task?
Do you have other advice for us inexperienced with chicken handling?
Yes, chickens really are more docile and easy to handle at night, especially if you don't turn on any white lights.
I have a big flock and do not go out of my way to handle chicks. While most of my flock walks right up to me in the coop and can be grabbed, once I grab one, the rest get what's going on and won't let me pick them up. We call this the "chicken rodeo."
However, if I go in an hour or two after dark, once they've picked their roost and mostly gone to sleep, I can pick them up off the perch easily. I do what I need to do, then put them back in their spot. They may stay there, or they may jump off the perch because I've woken them up. By working quickly and quietly, I can check quite a few birds before the whole flock is awake and moving about.
To increase your odds of success, buy a headlamp on a strap that has a red light setting. I bought mine at WalMart, so they're easy to find and cost around $25. When you go to check your birds, work quickly but calmly and quietly. Now, my coop is big enough that it has 14' ceilings (more than enough room for a human to stand upright) and TWO doors between the birds and the outside world, so I never worry about escape. You may want to get a second person to watch your door for you if you think they might freak out and run out into the night.
As far as them harming themselves, I think it's less of a problem than you believe it to be. When we deworm and clip wings, we go out in the morning and catch each chicken one by one, do what we need to do, and then gently drop her out the window into the pasture so we don't catch the same bird twice (drop is about 3 feet). When we do this, the chickens are not at all happy. They run around the inside of the coop like crazy things. They fly around the place, and fly at us. Being caught is not something that happens on a regular basis, and chickens do not like things to change. They panic. However, out of the hundreds of birds that we've caught for treatment, we have never had a single bird injure itself. Not even one. Your chickens are tougher than you give them credit for, and if they need medical treatment, go out there and chase them down and catch them just like you would a pig or a cow or a goat or a sheep or even a cat.