Appalachia Chickens

Catching Chickens


“When I was growing up on Wiggins Creek we raised chickens for hatching eggs. After a flock was a couple of years old and production had slowed significantly, someone would come at night with a truckload of crates and in two hours or so a houseful of clucks became eerie silence. I said two hours. It took the first hour for three men to catch 1999 chickens and the last hour for those three plus Daddy and a bunch of us kids to catch the last one.

Chickens, when frightened tend to huddle together and even pile up atop each other. If you herd them all in one corner you can put them in crates as fast as you can pick them up. In fact if you don’t hurry they will smother and die. Even two chickens will try to huddle in the corner. Unless you can catch the last two together, you will eventually get down to one bird and she will make a break for it. Even trained professional chicken catchers have a hard time with the last one. Most times they just ignored her and went on to wherever those feather shedding trucks go.

One time those professional catchers arrived a little wobbly and smelling like they had fortified themselves with something intended for muscular aches and pains. But they performed well and soon the flock was crated, except for one hen. They chased her all over the hen house, then everybody chased her all over the hen house and still she eluded her captors.

The flock was on the floor of the chicken house but Daddy had built hutches for the hens to fly up to deposit their eggs. The hutches were on legs and stood a couple of feet off the floor. This one lone hen who managed to evade all seven of us finally decided to make her last stand under one of these hutches. Mistake! One of the tipsy trio took a running dive like a linebacker going for a fumbled football, slid all the way under that hutch, out the other side and came up with a recovery. And then there were none!”

—Ed Ammons 2015



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  • Reply
    May 24, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Best time to catch them is when their roosting. We use to do it all the time. Good story. Thanks Tipper for your prayers. God Bless!

  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    May 23, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    You can make catching a singled out chicken for dinner very simple. Do not chase desired poult, just start walking poult and never stop. In a few minutes you may simply pick up poult as they give out walking. No fuss, no bother. Watched my daddy do this all the time for mama.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 23, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    I love Ed’s stories of when he was a boy, living on Wiggins Creek. Speaking of Chickens, that is something about. We had about 75 to 80 of them things and Me and Harold couldn’t wait for them to get about half-grown, so we could wring their necks. We had Domineckers mostly, some Banties, ( fightningest things I ever saw ), and more chickens of all colors. We even had a couple of Dry-Land Ducks that flew-off as soon as they had finished eating with all the Chickens, somewhere.

    Daddy was real smart. He knew someone who used Dynamite and had him to save the Boxes. He nailed those boxes under the bedroom windows and had us boys to put Broomsage about half-way full in the boxes. That way we could just raise the Windows in the Wintertime to get Eggs, so we wouldn’t have to Wade in the Cold Snow, and track it into Mama’s Kitchen.

    I wish I could go back and re-live those Wonderful moments. …Ken

  • Reply
    May 23, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Chicken catching was one chore Mom never asked her children to do. It’s a good thing because she would have ended up chasing me. I remember my parents buying chickens and bringing them home in a feed sack that had the opening tied with a rope.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    May 23, 2020 at 8:39 am

    I think it must need to get done but it seems so cruel to me. I used to think I could be a farmer until I actually tried it. It was a hard day when I realized a farmer I would NEVER be. I had fantasized about it many years and it had been my dream until I lived the hard work, constant letdown of death or destruction of my beloved plants and worse yet for chickens and other beasts attacked by a wild critter in the night. And you can’t exactly reason logically with animals or plants. When a half ton horse gets loose, many thoughts run through your head like will the horse stomp the child next door—- it gets ugly and scary FAST! I was glad the day I vacated my 5 acres on a farm outside Nashville,TN in “02 and I never missed it. Granny always said “ JACK OF ALL TRADES YET MASTER OF NONE!” With that said, I’m sticking to amateur gardening and a few cats, a dog and crows who I love!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 23, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Our neighbor across the holler from my childhood home had a chicken house. He would hire the boys on the ridge to catch chickens when the truck came. I don’t remember now what he paid nor even how old I was. I was not very good at it, not even sure I ever carried two at a time. I can say that chickens are hot critters and chicken catching is hot, dusty and feathery work.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 23, 2020 at 7:19 am

    Thanks Ed! I’ve always heard that chickens are dumbest animal around but it sounds like that last one is pretty smart to evade the captors.
    Thanks for the post. You make a good story!
    When I was little and visiting my grandmother I would go with her to the chicken lot to get eggs. She would let me watch but she wouldn’t let me go in the lot. She said the chickens would peck me, and I sure didn’t want any of that. She would reach under the hens that were sitting in the nest and get an egg out from under then. They didn’t dare peck my grandmother…she would peck back!

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      May 23, 2020 at 10:45 am

      Chickens are kinda like people. When they start grouping together their collective intelligence is equal to that of the dumbest individual. It’s called the “herd mentality” or “mob mentality”.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    May 23, 2020 at 6:25 am

    I know what Ed means by catching just one chicken but I’ve never caught chickens in numbers he told about. This made me think, as a boy, I would sometimes be sent to the chicken pen with a 22 rifle to get one for dinner. No chasing, head shots only.

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