Most chicken keepers these days have friendly, tamed chickens whom they consider to be pets. People see these chickens and are astonished! Who knew chickens could be such docile creatures! But how did they get to be that way? Were they hatched that way? No! It all depends on how the owner raises them. So how do you get your flock to be affectionate, lap lovers and sweeties? The answers lie below!
Pick the Right Breeds
First of all, before you start taming your birds, you have to pick the right breeds. Even though all chickens are different there are specific breeds that are known for being more friendly than others. For example, buff orpingtons are (generally) affectionate, cuddly and overall very friendly. Whereas game birds such as the Malay are (usually) aggressive, violent and overall mean birds. So, when choosing chicken breeds, do your research and find out what breeds will best fit your needs. BYC is a great place to look for breeds since members can say what that breed is like in their own opinion and experience. (Here is a link to our breed section https://www.backyardchickens.com/products/category/chicken-breeds)
Here is a list of the most common chicken breeds known for their friendliness
How to Socialize Chicks
Week One and Two
You need to start socializing your chicks as soon as possible. However, on the day they either arrive or you buy them, try not to touch and cuddle them much. They need this time to get acquainted with their new home and siblings. The second or third day is when you should start touching, holding and speaking to them. I found that by taping my voice on my ipod and then playing it for my chicks helped them get acquainted and comfortable with my voice much faster than they otherwise would have been. When speaking, remember to talk softly, soothingly and quietly. If you ever have heard how a mother hen talks to her chicks, she clucks softly and makes purring sounds. Try and sound the same way. Hold them every day. Scoop them in the cup of your hand slowly and then bring them under your chin while speaking very soothingly. They will probably fall asleep which is a great sign! It shows they are totally relaxed and calm.
Note that whenever you reach into the brooder, your chicks will more than likely scatter and freak out. This is normal behavior. They assume your hand is a predator (like a swooping hawk) and have the immediate instinct to hide. So try and reach in slowly while speaking and then slowly grab the chick you want. If your chicks still seem very frightened then put your hand in the brooder often. Talk to them but don't touch them. Soon they might even come and stand in your hand. You can also try putting feed in your hand so they soon will associate your voice and hand with food.
Around day 2, get the chicks out of the brooder for a small field trip each day on the living room floor. Lay down an old sheet to catch all those accidents! Be very careful when holding and moving chicks out of the brooder that they don't fall to the ground or you don't drop them. They are very fragile and can die from such a long fall. So go sit on the floor with them and let them out to run around. The first thing they are going to do is run to your lap. At this point in their lives, they have to trust you. You are removing them from their home brooder and returning them safely. They will seem a bit frightened. But this helps them to bond with you. Get them out each day on the floor for some exercise for 10 or so minutes. Gradually they will leave your lap to explore and learn to not be afraid of new things. This really helps them to bond with you. They learn that you are a place of great safety.
After about one week, if the weather warrants it, I like to get them outside for some outdoor time too. Make sure the temperature is at least in the upper 50's, no wind and some nice sunshine. Always keep them in an enclosure so they don't disappear and to keep them safe from predators. Keep it short at first so they don't get too stressed. Sit with them just as you did on the living room floor.
All these activities create a nice bond with you and your chicks.
Week Three through Seven
This is that age that your chicks will start acting crazy! They are hyper, curious and busy all day! They probably will no longer be interested in their daily cuddles. So, this is the time to train them to come when you call. Take them outside and call them by using "Girls, Chickies, Come," or any other short, quick call. They will follow you closely. But also know that they will probably stop often to investigate something new or even take a quick nap in the sun! So be patient!
They will be fun to watch! Sometimes they flap their wings as they chase after you! At the end of the day when they have worn themselves out you can cuddle and hold them. Maybe even put them on a towel on your lap while you watch TV!
Week Eight and Beyond
Continue the calling and cuddling. Start feeding kitchen scraps at week eight. Hand feed them. Your chickens will soon learn that only good things come from you. If you raise your chicks to be friendly from the start then you will have friendly chickens till the end. Plus they will be much easier to work with at shows and if you plan on teaching them tricks.
Good luck to you! If you have questions on concerns, please feel free to PM me
(@Mountain Peeps ) or @TwoCrows