This resource is Part IV in a series that is meant to assist you with the considerations you may encounter when it comes to loose birds in need of rescue, and will discuss some basic tips when it comes to safe handling and capture. We will also share some video resources so you can see how safe bird handling works in practice!
The Moment Of Capture
One key component to ensuring safe interactions with birds is always maintaining calm. Birds are prey animals and deeply sensitive creatures. They pick up on stress and anxiety very quickly, as well as any potential perceived threat. As noted in previous resources in this series, chasing birds is to be avoided at all possible times unless it is absolutely necessary to shoo or herd them away from areas where they may face extreme and sudden The infliction of mental, emotional, and/or physical pain, suffering, or loss. Harm can occur intentionally or unintentionally and directly or indirectly. Someone can intentionally cause direct harm (e.g., punitively cutting a sheep's skin while shearing them) or unintentionally cause direct harm (e.g., your hand slips while shearing a sheep, causing an accidental wound on their skin). Likewise, someone can intentionally cause indirect harm (e.g., selling socks made from a sanctuary resident's wool and encouraging folks who purchase them to buy more products made from the wool of farmed sheep) or unintentionally cause indirect harm (e.g., selling socks made from a sanctuary resident's wool, which inadvertently perpetuates the idea that it is ok to commodify sheep for their wool)., such as highly trafficked areas.
“Never Rush A Rooster, Never Hurry A Hen, Never Chase A Chicken.”Mary Britton Clouse, Chicken Run Rescue
The above quote is pertinent regarding the moment of capture, and is true of all birds! We cannot reiterate how important it is (unless there is an imminent threat) not to chase birds. When you are about to capture them, it is essential to maintain your calm and move quietly, slowly, and carefully. Nothing is more frustrating than coming very close to a capture and spooking a bird with an unnecessarily fast movement. Not only do you have to start the process of slowly following and nearing them again, but they will be extra wary of you on the second attempt.
Knowing in advance how to safely handle a bird is fundamental to learning to catch stray birds safely. The following two videos illustrate how to quietly and calmly approach chickens and show that a calm and quiet approach will ease the process.
In cases where you are approaching a highly agitated bird that you have cornered, especially if they are large and capable of inflicting damage with their wings, beaks, or claws should they act in self-defense, you may be better off trying a different approach than trying to pick up the bird with your bare hands. One option is using a net quickly and then grasping the bird through the net. Another option is approaching with another rescuer and tossing loose netting over the bird, after which you can secure them. For a more detailed discussion of appropriate netting for capturing birds, you can check that out in Part I of this series! Finally, if you have the skills to do it, toweling is another choice.
Whatever method you choose to use, once you have captured the bird, securing their wings against their body is critical to avoid injury to both you and to them, keeping in mind again that the level of pressure you use should be carefully controlled to avoid restricting the bird’s ability to breathe.
After A Successful Capture: What Next?
If you have used netting, disentangle the bird as soon as possible, although you may want to wait until you are as near as possible to your carrier so you don’t accidentally slip and release the bird and have to start over again. If at all possible, transfer is most safely done in an enclosed space. Even moving into a vehicle before transferring into a carrier can help prevent escape! If a bird has become very tangled, you may need to cut your netting to release them fast. Then, as quickly as possible, secure the bird inside an appropriate carrier, which is lined in a way to provide a non-slip surface for the bird. Cover the carrier to give the bird a darkened space in which to calm down. Securing birds in carriers as quickly as possible is critical for both bird and rescuer safety.
Your next move should be to bring the bird to your veterinarian as soon as possible. It is also good to give your veterinarian a heads up that you may have a new stray coming in so they are prepared. Keep in mind that veterinarians may have protocols in place for birds who have been outdoors and may have been exposed to HPAI, and it’s essential to respect these. Remember, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian is critical to providing ongoing responsible care to your residents and new rescues!
If you cannot immediately get the bird to the veterinarian, once you have them in a safe and secure space indoors you can conduct an intake exam to get some more information that you can provide to your veterinarian when they are able to see the bird. We have a resource on intake examinations that you can find here! We also have a intake record form that you can download to help memorialize all relevant information for your veterinarian that you can access here.
As mentioned in Part I of this series, with the current risk of highly pathogenic avian influenza, it is optimal to quarantine rescues off-site, ideally in a home without other birds. However, if you do not have this option, please make sure that you safely observe biosecurity measures to protect your existing residents!
Catching stray birds is important due to the risks they face from predation, the elements, and other human activities. However, rescue must be carefully planned and undertaken, with an eye on safety for both the rescuer and bird. If you are new to catching birds, getting hands-on bird training from veterinarians and established rescuers is the best way to ensure that you can undertake this work safely and efficiently. Conveying the safety concerns (especially the imperative that birds should not be chased unless they are at risk of imminent harm) to the public can go a very long way to ensuring an effective and harm-free capture, as well as the safety of those involved in it. We hope that this series has been helpful in giving you some guidance in this regard. The below action steps are meant as simple takeaways from this series. You can also find an infographic on capture and handling for quick reference below!
Series Action Steps
- If you are interested in trying to help capture stray birds, consult with experienced rescuers and veterinarians to get hands-on training on handling first.
- Assemble a “go-kit” for rescue with items that can help you both secure birds safely and protect yourself and other rescuers involved.
- Always try and work in teams.
- Communicate as much as possible with the community where the stray bird is found to let them know what you are doing and possibly secure additional support.
- Remember that chasing birds is never a good idea unless you are trying to move them away from imminent risk of harm.
- When you have secured a stray bird, try and make your first stop at your veterinarian. If you cannot do this, conduct an intake exam and get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Always observe safe The policy or space in which an individual is separately housed away from others as a preventative measure to protect other residents from potentially contagious health conditions, such as in the case of new residents or residents who may have been exposed to certain diseases. and The policies and protocols of an organization to limit the spread of illness and disease. measures when it comes to new intakes.
Capture And Handling by Julia Magnus
Subheader: Get Expert Training In Bird Handling!
Image: An image of a veterinarian overseeing a person kneeling to pick up a Unless explicitly mentioned, we are referring to domesticated goose breeds, not wild geese, who may have unique needs not covered by this resource..
-Ask your veterinarian for training in how to safely handle birds.
-Volunteer with bird rescuers and sanctuaries to get hands on experience in picking up and handling birds.
Subheader: Do Not Chase!
Image: An image of three Unless explicitly mentioned, we are referring to domesticated turkey breeds, not wild turkeys, who may have unique needs not covered by this resource. poults running, with a person frantically chasing them, that is X’d out by a big red X.
-Never chase a bird unless you absolutely must in order to shoo them from a dangerous situation.
-In attempting to move a bird from one place to another, do so by calmly walking, and gently guiding.
Subheader: Keep Your Calm
Image: An image of a person sitting quietly as a chicken approaches with two hearts above them.
-Catching all birds is easier at night to reduce trauma. Keeping calm and quiet avoids startling birds awake.
-Birds are very sensitive and pick up on anxiety and stress. Keep voices down and movements calm and slow.
Subheader: Handle With Care
Image: A turkey poult above two hands gently encircling them.
-Stay aware of the fact that birds are delicate and handle them gently.
-Keep carriers nearby and secure birds as quickly as possible. Cover and darken carriers.
Subheader: Seek Vet Care ASAP!
Image: A turkey on an examining table being checked by a veterinarian.
-Bring the bird to your veterinarian for assessment as soon as possible after capture.
-Quarantine the bird and observe careful biosecurity measures.
Establishing Safe And Effective Quarantine And In medical and health-related circumstances, isolation represents the act or policy of separating an individual with a contagious health condition from other residents in order to prevent the spread of disease. In non-medical circumstances, isolation represents the act of preventing an individual from being near their companions due to forced separation. Forcibly isolating an individual to live alone and apart from their companions can result in boredom, loneliness, anxiety, and distress. Procedures For Your Animal Sanctuary | The Open Sanctuary Project
Toweling Parrots | Bird Tricks (Non-Compassionate Source)
If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.