This is what I've learnt during the past 4 yrs )with various breeds whom I've chosen due to their friendly reputation, quieter than most and reasonable layers) that:
a) it does depend on the breed but, what is generally normal for that breed there are exceptions to the breed. e.g.1. Silkies are extremely friendly and (usually) love to be cuddled and stroked. Though, I do have one that, though I've handled her every day since she was a hatchling, she isn't overly fond of being picked up. I always get the feeling that she "puts up with me cuddling her". Though, recently, since she has just finished fostering her first set of chicks (shared with two other foster Mums), she does appear to be more conducive to it.
e.g.2. I had the most delightfully friendly Speckled Sussex pullet who used to always jump up onto my arm or shoulder and chortle away to me. I adored her but she never made it to Hen-hood as she one day pecked out my nose-stud which I think caused her death after a couple of weeks. I never wear nose studs any more! I was soo upset! If I knew what I knew now, I would have operated on her right away and removed it before it did any damage or caused a blockage as I've done two successful compacted crop operations since that time. Though, a while ago now as I chop up any long grass so there is no longer a problem! Anyway, her sister was quite the opposite. Go figure! This isn't the only time that a so-called breed has turned out not-so-friendly according to their breed.
b) From my experience, there is a greater chance of producing "friendly" chickens if you personally incubate them and bring them up from hatchlings and handle them every day whilst talking to them in chicken language as well as your own human language. Even so, there are still exceptions to that rule but a far lesser chance of not succeeding. e.g. I hatched 3x lovely Blue Australorp girls who just didn't enjoy being picked up so I sold them. This past season, I tried again. This time, they were exceedingly friendly but the 2x Splashes are boys and the Black was the only girl! Splashes or Blues were what I was hoping for. Never mind. Love the girl! Maybe I can get my son to keep one of the male Splashes for me!? Lol!
c) Using Foster Mums will also depend on how protective the Foster Mum is and how much she trusts you. I've assisted a stuck chick out of it's shell right in front of the Mum or Foster Mum so that she can see what I'm doing and they have always watched patiently and made little reassuring noises presumably to the chick. Usually, if you insist on picking up the chicks daily in front of the Mother, no matter how they behave, the Mother usually doesn't make a fuss about it which reassures the chick that you are ok. Though, Lacy, my SL Wyandotte, during her first lost of fostering, decided to still make a fuss no matter what I did. So, her chicks were very wary of me because of her behaviour. Then, to my surprise, the 2nd time around, she decided not to make such a fuss and the chicks are really friendly and come running whenever they see me! Thank goodness, I decided to give her a 2nd chance at Fostering!
N.B.: if they do try to peck you, flick their beak each time. It won't hurt them. Just uncomfortable for them and just asserts you as higher in the pecking order.
d) If you've purchased them as a pullet or hen, it will all depend on how much they've been handled before you received them. I, once, purchased Silkies who were kept in rather crowded cages and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get them all to be happy about being picked up. Some did improve but were never like the Silkies I have now whom I've brought up since they were hatchlings. And Silkies are supposed to be all naturally extremely friendly and love their cuddles.
e) Treats! Whether it be special seeds (they usually love sunflower seeds), meal worms, maggots (if you can stand holding them! Lol!) or even cut up cheese (Yep! I did say cheese! 98% of chickens or chicks absolutely love cheese!) try to hand feed them to them personally. At first, some may peck your hand quite hard so ensure you lay your hand quite firmly flat. If you ensure that there is plenty to go around, they will realise that they don't have to worry about missing out. If you ensure that those who tend to get in last and miss out, call them to you and try to make sure the greedy ones don't keep pushing in. If you can't prevent it from happening, call the missing out hen by name and gently and very firmly holding the wings tight (that always reassures them and makes them feel secure), pick them up and give them their treats separately.
An important time to give them treats: after you have done the following: whenever you need to check them over, give them medicine if necessary, clip their crests, clip their wings if absolutely necessary, etc., etc.
f) Just stroking them whether they are sitting on your lap, shoulder, knee or standing: Especially when chicks, hold out your hand, slowly and gently move towards them, with a reassuring voice, then slowly stroke just their chests without picking them up. At first, they may seem nervous but will soon get used to your approach and realise that it doesn't necessarily mean that you are going to pick them up. After a while, they will just stand there, let you do it and chortle away in conversation with you. Especially when they see you do it to the others.
I have an Salmon Araucana called Freaky (you can guess why!) who freaks out at the slightest thing. Araucanas are a flighty bird but this one is really loopy! The slightest disturbing noise and she runs, (including in circles!), until she realises that no one else around her is concerned. I'm actually concerned that one day she is going to give herself a heart attack! Freaky lives with the Silkies though she is the biggest there, she is the lowest on the pecking order. Anyway, I thought that I was never going to get her to enjoy being picked up and cuddled even though I've had her since she hatched! Well, she hated being picked up but would absolutely go into raptures about being cuddled and stroked! Now, I've noticed that she doesn't go into a complete panic when I call her name to let her know that I'm about to pick her up. Just a little jumpy but she actually waits now.
I should write a book, shouldn't I?! Tee hee! There are a few other little titbits about how to make them feel more secure and comfortable like most love their ears being stroked (away from their eyes) whilst being cuddled.
Anyway, there's plenty here for you to try on your chickens. Good luck!
All the best,
Chucklin' & Cluckin' Away!