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socializing chicks

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have 5 two week old chicks, and 3 one week olds chicks that I am currently working with to try and get them a bit more friendly. I don't care if they are so friendly that I can pick everyone up and flip them on their backs and cuddle them like children, but I do want to be able to pet them and have them not be afraid.  And I do want to be able to handle them as needed without a lot of fear.  I had them all able to eat from my hands and I was able to pet a few.  They were calm around me though and a few would perch on my arm and sit there happily.  However my 2 year old son got in their room last night while I was making dinner(the one time we left the gate open).  And while everyone is ok, no one is hurt but he was in there screaming at them and they were terrified as they should be.  Now I feel like all my hard work has been undone because now they are all skittish and don't even really want to eat from my hand anymore. 

 

Do I just give them a few days with minimal contact to calm down and then start over, or should I keep doing what I am doing and try to calmly handle them?  I am not trying to pick any up at this point unless I need to move them, as only one is ok being picked up, the others kind of freak out.  Its my first time with chickens so I am new to this and just don't want to end up with really unfriendly birds.

post #2 of 7

The noise scare is very temporary. In fact, your chicks have probably forgotten all about it.

 

The thing that scares chicks that they will remember for life is being handled carelessly from above. They have an instinctive fear of predators diving at them from the sky, and if they are scared through mishandling, it can be very damaging as far as trust goes.

 

So, don't worry about any damage your small son might have done by screaming at them. Chickens are not all that impressed with loud noises. They are temporarily startled, not scared for life.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by azygous View Post
 

The noise scare is very temporary. In fact, your chicks have probably forgotten all about it.

 

The thing that scares chicks that they will remember for life is being handled carelessly from above. They have an instinctive fear of predators diving at them from the sky, and if they are scared through mishandling, it can be very damaging as far as trust goes.

 

So, don't worry about any damage your small son might have done by screaming at them. Chickens are not all that impressed with loud noises. They are temporarily startled, not scared for life.


​Good to hear.  So would recommend not picking them up then since it does startle them so?  My plan was to just get them used to me through hand feeding and talking to them, petting them if they are calm and comfortable.  I was working up towards being able to pick them up once they become a bit more calm, but it doesn't seem like they really will ever be calm enough to just pick them up. 

post #4 of 7

It's all in how you pick them up. As I pointed out, approaching them by thrusting your hands into the brooder from above them is very stressful and frightening to them. Early on, I learned that having a brooder on the floor and accessing the chicks from the top, makes for skittish chicks and mistrustful chickens when they grow up.

 

If you can modify your brooder so you can have an access into the side wall and place the brooder on a table, thus accessing the chicks by sliding your hands in from the side, the chicks will quickly become the tame and friendly ones you crave.

 

If this isn't possible, try to reach down into the brooder very slowly and come at the chick sideways, slowly sliding your hand across the floor of the brooder until your hand is resting against the chick's toes. Gently nudge its little toes until it steps onto your hand, then bring your other hand around the back of the chick and cup it in your hands and then lift it out of the brooder.

 

I highly recommend getting a cardboard appliance box and fashioning a brooder with a side door. If you place it on a table, even small kids can learn to handle baby chicks without stressing them and scaring them. It's so much more enjoyable for all.

 

Here I have two cardboard boxes taped together with a pass-through cut into the common wall and even a big window cut into the back side so the chicks have plenty of natural light. Large access doors are cut into the front side, leaving the bottoms attached to form a hinge. They sit on a couple of tables and I pulled a chair up and would sit there and play with my chicks. They never were afraid to be handled because I was approaching from the side and not overhead.

 

But I've done away with brooders all together now. I brood directly in my run in a safe pen under the heating pad system. You can see photos and read about it by selecting the second link below this post under "Articles". The result is fearless chicks and it's a lot of fun playing with my chicks with all that room.

 

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Sadly raising my brooder is not possible at this time.  I had originally planned on brooding them on my front porch with a raised brooder but I ended up getting them sooner then planned so had to go the route I am using now.  I did try the method you mentioned for if I needed to come into the brooder from above and was able to handle half my chicks.  Sadly I am worried I may have unintentionally ruined my chances with the other four.  They are almost three weeks old and are quite skittish, they like all my chicks will eat out of my hands but nothing more.  Its strange they will run around and act skittish but then whenever I am cleaning out their brooder they come and excitedly scratch wherever I am cleaning.  they come over and look at me and cheep when I leave, as well as get excited when I come back.  Is it possible that maybe not all hope is lost with these chicks or perhaps is that just their personality?  I am going to have to construct something larger for them here soon until the coop is built and will try to see if I can build something easier to get into from the side.  And hopefully when they go out to the coop here in a couple of weeks I can spend some time with them on their level.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

I am also very grateful for your feedback.

post #7 of 7

Don't fret. They're still young enough that you can still tame them. All they need is the space to be able to see all of you, not just your hands and arms shooting down at them.

 

As soon as you get some nice weather, start taking them outdoors, sit on the ground and play with them. Let them explore your legs and climb on you. They will quickly settle down and quit being skittish.

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