How to catch a chicken

Dear studious reader,

Our daughter came home from middle school the other day with an assignment — to write a five-paragraph essay explaining how to do something. Her dad and I had fun joking about the possible topics she could choose. How to Pester Your Baby Sister. How to Coerce Your Parents into Another I-Tunes Purchase. How to Avoid Washing the Dishes. As you can imagine, she was not amused by our suggestions.

It was only after her evening chores that she was inspired to write her essay. Again, Sam and I offered up amusing takes on the topic, but she said she would just tell it straight — that it didn’t need any embellishments. I think she was right.

So, in unedited copy, here is Grace Ivey’s essay:

How to Catch a Chicken

Knowing how to catch a chicken is a very important skill to master. Whether a chicken has escaped the henhouse, or you need to capture one for dinner, it’s good to have a plan. The basic three steps are getting prepared, cornering the chicken, and grabbing the chicken.

First, get ready by putting on protective clothing. Wear either a long-sleeve shirt or a coat to protect your arms, and a pair of thick gloves. Then, make sure you are wearing long pants, in case the chicken attacks.

Next, find a specific corner you want to chase the chicken into. Once you’ve found a corner, find a route to scare the bird directly into it. Then, make sure all other escape routes, besides to the corner, are blocked. After that, get behind the chicken and herd it into the designated area. Block the way out of the corner with your body.

Finally, hold out your hands and quickly grab the chicken so that you’re holding down its flapping wings. Make sure the head is faced away from you, so it can’t peck you. Then, you can carry it and move it anywhere you want.

After you go to the hassle of all this, it pays off.  Whether your mother makes warm chicken noodle soup or you just put the chicken back where it should be, this task always ends with a feeling of satisfaction … and exhaustion.



P.S. I reprinted this essay with Grace’s permission, with the understanding that I inform readers that it was written under the duress of her language arts class, in case someone should mistakenly think she did this for fun.


  • Well done, Grace. Clean writing and to the point. I’m not familiar with raising chickens, so I learned something from your essay.

  • Mr. Baer says:

    Good job Grace on the sporting way to catch a chicken. I for one prefer a long handled salmon dip net or there’s your Father’s method!

  • Cynthia Herrin says:
  • Sue Mathis says:

    Good job Grace! We had ducks, (Honkers, Quackers, Toot and Mr. Big), not chickens, but catching them is pretty much the same. I avoided catching the ducks because Honkers, (she was the biggest) for some reason didn’t like me. Every time I entered the duck house, whether it was to feed them or collect eggs or put an escaped duck back, she would run after me, quacking loudly and trying to peck my legs. Needless to say, I avoided any chore that had to do with entering that duck house!!!

  • Sally Coulter says:

    I absolutely love it and please tell Grace that chicken raising has become quite an art here in the city of Atlanta. My niece has 4 and a friend, who lives outside of town, has 19. The friend has a special breed that lays green eggs, which is fun for the smaller children who are reading “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. When I buy eggs from her, she always makes sure I get 3 green eggs in each dozen. It seems as though Grace is taking after her mother. Both of you keep writing.

    • Eowyn Ivey says:

      Hi Sally — We have a few chickens of that breed as well. They lay such beautiful green and blue eggs that are fun to find in the nesting boxes. But I had no idea chickens were popular in Atlanta 🙂

  • Christy Thomas says:

    What a great essay!

  • Shirley Novak says:

    Is this young lady trying to tell us that she doesn’t plan to follow in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps?

  • Eowyn Ivey says:

    Thank you all for your poultry stories and kind words on Grace’s essay. I have to tell you, her deadpan approach totally cracks me up. I can’t read it without laughing. As she was writing it, I was encouraging her to make it funny, but she said it would be funny enough with just the facts. I think she was right.

  • Stella Lyn says:

    Deadpan is right- I love it! So simple…less is more! More than making me want to go catch chickens, though, it makes me want to befriend the author.