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Are chicks skittish and get calmer later?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by larsonll, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. larsonll

    larsonll Chirping

    Aug 13, 2011
    West Georgia
    Ok, so I'm completely new to chicken keeping. Our city (small one at that) just approved an ordinance to allow 6 hens in the back yard. So, thinking I would lose some, I bought 5 chicks from a local breeder, straight run, 2 Welsummers with female markings, 2 Wheaten Marans (who knows if those are girls or boys), 1 Pumpkin Hulsey bantam (which I have later determined is an American Gamfowl...you should see all the skeptical/upset looks when I call him/her a gamefowl rather than a Pumpkin Hulsey!), and then I ordered 5 female Easter Eggers from My Pet Chicken. The MPC chicks arrived 2 days after my other chicks, who were about 5 days old...so far so good two weeks later.

    So, the chicks at 2 weeks despite lots of handling run away and peep like they are upset when I reach in to get them...the EEs less so. Is this normal?

  2. al6517

    al6517 Real Men can Cook

    May 13, 2008
    Yes it is.......... they have a high flight/run instinct when they are small. try not messing with them so much when they are so young they mellow out more as they grow and definitely avoid handling and suspected roosters.
  3. larsonll

    larsonll Chirping

    Aug 13, 2011
    West Georgia
    Thank you for the quick reply...I've read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on, but was starting to get a little worried after a few weeks. The chicks were very docile at first, and now they are skittish. Glad to know that is normal.
  4. LarryPQ

    LarryPQ Easter Hatch!!

    Jul 17, 2009
    Hens don't want snuggles until they lay that first egg. Then they are like, "THE HORROR!! HOLD ME!!!"
  5. larsonll

    larsonll Chirping

    Aug 13, 2011
    West Georgia
    I am laughing so much from the last post! Thank you! I am prepared to hold that hen from the HORROR of laying the egg! This chicken keeping is the BEST! But really, I would have loved someone to hold me after my first birth....my mantra was "it could be twins!"
  6. clbdownunder

    clbdownunder In the Brooder

    Jan 23, 2011
    Northwest Ohio
    I thought my chicks didn't like me when they were small and thought they would grow up to be wild, but they are fine now, and really friendly and lovable, I have one who jumps into my lap and takes a nap!
    I've heard they freak out when your reaching in to care for them from above, they may think its a hawk or something.
  7. Yes, our chicks start out skittish but they warm up and we eventually handle them a lot. Here's a video of 10 month old bantam:

    It may help to name them, too. Our chickens are very responsive about their names. We noticed too, names of treats are important to them. ie, if you say "who wants a BANANA?" you'd better be holding a banana and nothing else, or they'll whine and pout til you produce a BANANA. In the video, you'll notice Esther comes up for a snack while Violet is politely pecking nothing in the grass. They use their names to prevent the stress of squabbling over the treat, they just hate to get pecked at in the little flock pecking order. Esther wouldn't even do this treat-perch-thing while her brothers were still around, they were SO controlling and peck-y. Now that the uber-dominant teenroo's are gone, if the hens hear their name, they come trotting over, so proud of themselves.

    The breed may be the biggest determinant of cuddle-ability. Ours are mixed of cuddly Silkie and melodramatic cuddly Rosecomb. My friend has flighty Leghorns, there's no cuddling there (but they're very pretty and give her GREAT eggs). Nature vs Nurture, though, I think consistently offering social interaction will work eventually IF the chicken has the genetics for socializing with big gangly smelly humans, as their exceedingly precise social rules within the bird social structure is so very, very different than what we humans are used to. I think there has to be an inborn ability to connect with a non-bird already in the chicken, if it is to become sociable with a non-bird.

    We also have a 9 week old pullet mix of cuddly Silkie and lazybones, fat, porch swing roosting, lap seeking EE hen. She was a lone hatch and her broody sister who hatched her is done, so the pullet now seeks roost space on us. Flying up to us and being held only started last week, which is about the time all our other chickens began to seek us out socially, at around 8 weeks when they pretty much look like a chicken, no longer a fuzzybutt chick.

    I hope this helps.

  8. Hinotori

    Hinotori Silver Feathers Premium Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    Graham, WA
    All but a few of mine ran screaming as chicks. Now that they are laying, I can't keep them away. We went on a trip and when we got back today they were all yelling at me to let them out. They mobbed me wanting pets and held.
  9. Flockstar

    Flockstar In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2011
    My chickens were VERY skittish when they were young, but when they grew older, they started becoming quieter, (except for the cockerel, he starting bossing my pullet around) So generally, yes they are skittish when young.
  10. Amethyste

    Amethyste For Love of Boo...

    It depends on several factors I think. I know with our birds, our very first flock we raised in the garage till the coop was finished. We went out every day and played with them, sat with them, let them use us as a jungle gym, spoiled them rotten etc. We bonded a lot! None of them were skittish at all. Wary yes, skittish and chicken no. Once they got to be in the coop and grew to adult size they still stayed sweet and lovey and would sit on our laps if we let them etc etc etc.

    Now, we had one or two that were more standoffish, and would give us the hairy eyeball at times, but they weren't skittish per se. They were a bit more cautious but still would be near us, and sit in our laps and shoulders like the others did.

    So, our second flock, several years later....we had lost most of our original girls to various things...predator attack, heart issues etc. We were down to two left, and Esther went broody. We got her 9 little chicks and slipped them under her and she adopted them as her own. Again, we handled them from the get go and tried to treat them the same as the original flock, but these were SKITTISH. Even now, full grown hens, they will not willingly let us pick them up...they freak out if they think we are too close and so on.

    So in retrospect...I think the skittishness has to do with both the breed and how they were raised. Given the choice, I would probably hand raise again rather than broody them if the skittishness and people wariness is too much.

    I did notice tho however, that specific breeds I had tended to be more wary/skittish. This was in regards to the EE. Both flocks, the EE were the ones that were most skittish/wary. However, atm my most friendly bird is my oldest EE from the original flock. So I do think it is more of an individual tendency that is more likely in certain breeds/backgrounds, that can be overcome somewhat by handraising and positive reinforcement.

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