We can't because we have too many hawks and cats. When they get older, we were hoping it would be a safer environment outdoors since they can fend for themselves more.
Chick Handling - Page 4
Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
How are they doing now? I handled my chicks every day, whether they liked it or not! And most of the time they don't like it as chicks. It can take months for them to really be okay around you.
Chickens ordinarily will imprint. When they see their mother for the first time, they see her as their mother and a bond is formed. When we get day or week old chicks, this is all disrupted! They don't have a maternal figure to imprint on or they lose the maternal figure that they did imprint on. This means that everything is more frightening to them. There isn't anyone to teach them that the new sights and sounds aren't supposed to be terrifying!
The best thing that you can do is just keep handling them. Eventually they'll get used to you and start to look to you as the person who feeds them and gives them water. It isn't a good idea to spoil them too much with treats because this can create poor feeding habits, but just feed them normally and eventually they'll associate you with nutrients.
My last brood really didn't start to like me until about 6 or 7 weeks. By then when I went in with them, a couple of the more friendly chicks would follow me around or sit on my lap or perch on my shoes. At 14 weeks they follow me around the yard now. When I walk past their run, they walk up and down it with me. When I fill up their food or water dish, they come running! If I put my fingers in, they'll peck at my fingernails. I can even hold a couple of the friendlier ones without much of a fuss.
It's important to note that they're not pets in the way that cats and dogs are! They don't purr when you pet them or jump up and down when you walk in the room. At most, an affectionate chicken is one who doesn't run terrified away from you, which is a perfectly normal chicken reaction in a lot of circumstances. They don't really like being touched or pet or held. It's something that you have to teach them to tolerate more than anything and even that doesn't always work. Every chicken has a personality and there isn't a lot that you can do sometimes!
In this last brood, my Barred Rocks are really friendly. They're the first ones to come to me when I check in on them. My Cochin will also tolerate being held. My Wyandottes are really not friendly, though. I have to chase them down if I'm going to handle them and they don't like it! Roosters are also particularly known for not being friendly. They see you as a threat to their dominance and will try to fight you for the top of the pecking order. If you have any males, this might be part of the reason that they aren't affectionate towards you.
I too would like to know if yours are becoming more friendly. I also handle mine daily. It definitely depends on the individual to some extent. My Wyandottes are my friendliest. The Silver laced begs to be held and will readily get on my hand. As soon as I pick her up the Gold laced will run up the ramp to the coop and fly up to my arm. Then it's a race to see who gets on my shoulder first. My Buff Orpington is getting better. She fusses when I first pick her up but quickly settles down and lays on my hand or arm to be petted. The Americana is almost impossible to handle and quickly wants down from my hand. I set my stool next to a perch in the run and they will all jump up on it. If I look at the Americana too long she knows what's coming and leaves to go peck the ground.
I will preface all of the following with "I am no expert. I began my love affair with chickens just a couple of years ago when I bought a couple of hens, just to get some eggs for our breakfast each day! So what I have to say is just my opinion and certainly shouldn't be taken as Gospel. I am not trying to tell you that this is what you should do, only that this is what I have done. And it works for me.
I have been reading through all these posts from go to whoa and find the concept of the outside brooder very interesting. I also have noticed that my chicks that grow up naturally with their mums are different in their attitudes to those that I hand-raise inside in the small brooder. As so many people point out, they are more "street savvy" but, in my case anyway, less approachable.
I have silkies, pekins, Australorps (for eggs), Araucanas, Silver-lace Wyandottes and some mixed. I find the pekins the friendliest; the Wyandottes the calmest - I bought a trio so didn't have anything to do with their early progress. Although they initially dislike being picked up, once in our arms they are happy to sit quietly without being restricted in any way - even the roo. I am not sure of their exact age but the girls should be just about ready to start laying. I especially love my pekin roos. Some don't even crow and they are so beautiful, friendly and attentive. When someone wants a trio from me I find it very difficult to let them go.
Most of the Australorp or mixed chicks that I will keep just for eggs are allowed to be hatched by their mum, or foster mum but I have been breeding silkies and pekins for sale as pets and some of them, especially pekins, I have given to an Aged Care facility for their dementia patients. For this reason, I prefer to keep them close to me so that they get used to being handled. The brooders have always been raised up on a table, mainly because I'm no spring chicken myself and I can't bend too much but it has worked in their favour too. I use a "snake" light which emits no light, but when they come out of the incubator, I take a few plastic water drink bottles, fill them with hot water and wrap them in paper towels. I then place them in the brooder. The chicks will sleep on top of the bottles, under the light, or they climb down and stick their heads into the end of the paper towels and rest them on the neck of the bottle where the paper leaves a gap. Quite often all we can see is a series of little bums sticking out the end of these paper "tubes".
The chicks get constant attention, picked up - but never from above - allowed to wander all over our bodies as we sit on the lounge (sofa) - no sitting on the floor at my age of 72 as it's too hard for me to get up with metal knees!! They even sometimes come to bed with us where they run all over the bed which is covered with an old sheet for the "gifts". (Don't worry, we don't fall asleep while they are there so no worries about squashing them! I've had babies of my own, I know the problems.) If there is a time gap between the hatchings, I remove the older chicks, putting them into a spare brooder for a few hours and put the babies into the regular brooder. When I replace the older chicks back into the original brooder there are no pecking order arguments with the bubs. After a few days (it could be a week, depending on the temperature) the chicks then progress to a four-wheeled trolley that is much bigger than the brooder and gives them much more room to run around in, and on sunny days they are taken outside and put into a large cage without a base so they can experience grass and learn to scratch. The free-ranging chooks and ducks all wander over for a look and a chat with the babies. If the weather is cold (it's May now and it's beginning to cool down, even in the tropics) so the trolley chicks will be returned to the second brooder under the lamp for the night.
These chicks grow up being totally used to humans and even those that I keep (generally because I fall in love with them and can't bare to part with them) remain happy to be picked up. They will even jump onto perches or the tops of their houses so that they can reach our shoulders, heads, arms and even our backs if we are bending over at the time. That makes it a bit hard to walk around at times, but they are enjoying themselves so we let them!
When the pekins and silkies are allowed out of their pens (which do have reasonable sized runs) to free-range in the gardens they remain in their birth groups which is different to the larger birds (they live in a large communal pen, divided into a few smaller runs) and they tend to integrate more easily. At one stage I had some silkies (white) hatch and at the same time an Australorp chick was orphaned when its mum was killed by a hawk as she fought to the death to protect him. We found him still huddled under her body. Unsure what to do with him and with no broodies at the time, we put him in the brooder with the silkies. When "it" became a "he" we had to remove him from their group and now, many months on, he still wants to get into their pen with them. I am probably too much of a softie but, despite having an over abundance of roosters, I can't get rid of him. I am finding it difficult to get rid of any of my "unnecessary" roos as they all have a story.
But, guys, that's my story. If it helps, that's great. If not, I'm sorry. But hopefully it was an interesting interlude into my life with chickens in Australia and filled in a few moments of your day. Following are some pics of some of my bird and their various "habitats". The pekin on my hat is "Chickadee" and my absolute favourite. He is much younger in this pic and has grown into a really pretty bird.
I've made some progress as my BO (Buffy) has learned I'm not evil and the hand is a nice warm place to lay. She's only gotten comfortable being handled about 2 days ago and loves it now. She fusses for a second when I first pick her up but lays down and enjoys laying in my hand. She and my skittish Americana (Libby) pal around the run. Yesterday while I was holding Buffy, Libby flew up to my arm and tried to push her out of my hand which she wasn't going for. This morning I was sitting on my stool holding the Wyandotte sisters (actually one gold (Goldie) and one silver laced (no name yet) on one leg and Buffy on he other. Buffy went to sleep and her friend Libby jumped up on my leg next to here and laid down beside her. I was so surprised as she never wants any human interaction. It didn't last long as one spotted something to chase and they had to join in. Buffy just laid there and went back to sleep and soon Libby jumped back up with her and settled down for a bit. It just takes time for them to get comfortable. I feel like Libby accepting me is a milestone event. Here the latest family portrait.
Now about 5-6 weeks old, they seem less scared, not fully there yet. I thank everyone for all the help that has been provided. Thanks again!