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Baby Chicken suddenly terrified of me

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Ruckus, May 30, 2010.

  1. Ruckus

    Ruckus In the Brooder

    Nov 2, 2009
    Hi, I've got a little Serama chicken that is about 3 months old now, which I hand-reared from egg. It has always loved me and other people to a point of being attention starved. I'm sure this is because it's a lone, indoor chicken (which I realize isn't ideal, but for a lot of reasons, that's just how it is). I don't know if it's a roo or a hen yet, although I assume that by now I'd start to see a comb but so far it's just a tiny bump ridge that it's had since it was a few weeks old. It does have a nubby little bump on the back of its heels that look like developing spurs, but its tail feathers are also very short and plain, so I don't know. I'm not sure how to tell or if it matters.

    The problem is that it is suddenly terrified of my hands. When I put it to bed last night, it couldn't get enough of snuggling with me, but this morning when I went to fill up its food, it made an angry noise and went into this frightening defensive posture and began kicking and biting at my hands. It caught me so off guard that I swatted it away out of reaction and slammed the pen shut. I have no idea what the problem is. The only things I noticed that were different was that the angle of the sun and its high brightness this morning cast the shadows of the bars on my hand as I put them in the cage, which gave them stripy pattern that I could imagine might make it look like a snake or something. I moved it out of the sun and tried again with no shadows, but got the same reaction. I was afraid the damage was done by that point though and it has made some link in its brain between my hands and killer snakes. : (((((((((((( It is breaking my heart!

    I have read elsewhere that chickens don't respond well to negative reenforcement, so I'm not sure what to do from here. I don't want to upset it by trying to handle it and then punishing it with finger pecks for snapping and clawing at me, but I can't think of any other ways to change its mind. I have a couple of two year old RIR's who live outside. I know they're a more aggressive and unfriendly breed, and I've only tried to introduce them once through chicken fence bars, which was met with a head-aimed peck by one of the RIR's (which didn't land, thankfully), so I haven't ever considered getting them familiar with one another. If this is the end of my personal relationship with Baby Chicken, can I at least build a relationship between it and the old ladies outside or am I going to have to find it a new home?

    Thanks for everything - this is such a helpful resource!

    EDIT: I thought of another thing that may have changed from yesterday - I have been replacing the rear main seal on my jeep, which involves putting your hands in the place where all of your engine oil is stored, so I have oil stuck under all my fingernails that will not come out for a little, and since I'm not done with the job yet, I haven't been *too* thorough cleaning them off. Could this change the way I smell/look? Would that even matter to the chicken?
    Last edited: May 30, 2010
  2. missychicky

    missychicky Songster

    Jun 10, 2009
    Milwuakie. OR
    the oil might make a diffrence, yes. What I would do is clean your hands, get something your chicken really loves( mine love cat food), go to your chicken and put it in your hands and wait for the temptation to overpower the fear.

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