Behavior questions - what should I be doing?


In the Brooder
9 Years
Jun 2, 2010
Duvall, WA
I have 4 Buff Orps almost 3 weeks old and 2 Light Brahmas just over a week old. All female (I think). The bigger Orps are starting to get.. I don't know if aggressive is the right term but I guess so. They fly at each other and bump into each other (not really pecking each other). I think they're starting to think about doing it to me, too, when I reach in there. They peck at the scooper when I am scooping their poop out.

I was told to handle them, the more the better. But do I insist on it if they hate it? What if they try to peck me? I swear one was going to peck me today when I tried to grab her. How much should I handle them? I try to pick each of them up at least once per day but I only hold them for a few seconds (maybe 10) because the whole time they want to get away.

I keep them in their brooder all the time at this rate since it's too cold to bring them outside for adventures (it's still below 60 here), but as soon as the temps rise I'll be taking them outside in a little play pen to let them peck around and be able to sit with them. I thought those breeds were supposed to be pretty docile so I'm not sure if their behavior is just normal chicken behavior for even docile birds or what. I am such a newb!
For a suggestion-Ours were never really what you could call sweet, more cooperative at best. At any rate, we started taking food out (leftovers, scraps, cheese) to them anytime we entered the run and feeding it to them out of our hands. Soon enough, they'd crowd the door when we came and beg for treats. They still don't love being handled, but it makes them more friendly to us. So, I would try some food & bribery
Good luck with them!
Normal behavior. They start working on their pecking order right away.

I would suggest picking up a chick and cupping your hands around it like a cage, with its head out where your thumbs come together, then gently, oh so gently blow (softly "ahhhhh" type, not with pursed lips like blowing bubbles) at the neck area towards the chick's body. It will start to calm down.

Then you can even turn it over onto its back and very gently rub its chest and belly (one direction, the way the feather/down lays, not back and forth) and watch it fall asleep in your hand.

This takes a few minutes. Then turn it over and let it sit on your lap. Now you can run a finger down its neck and back, between the shoulder-blades/wings, and to the tailfeathers.

If you pick up a chick and put it right back down, you're kinda reinforcing its fears. Even if you have to chase the chick with your hand to catch it, do the cage thing and spend a few minutes with each chick.
the running into and bumping each other is totally normal. they do it to establish the pecking order, and I personally think they just like to do it too. It is a phase and does not mean that they aren't docile. your two breeds are two of my favorites. they will be sweet. they will get plump and cheerful and laid-back soon enough! Some of my sweetest birds were really skittish as young birds. They mellow out.
All of my chicks, including my buffs, were pretty stand-offish in the brooder. Birds in general do not like things that are above them - it creates a fear response. (which is why many bird cages are up on stands or placed high up) I found that once out of the brooder and in the run, where I could go and sit down and they could move about freely, they started to come around. Now a few of my BOs are my "lap ladies" - by my side or in my lap whenever possible. Some of the others are coming around more slowly; I sit and talk with them and feed treats (mealworms are a favorite - chicken crack). They approach me - some jump onto my lap or shoulders, other still are wary. When I can I pick up the more fearful ones and place them on my lap. Sometimes they will take a treat while up there- other times they are still to nervous to eat. After a few minutes of gently holding them most of them settle down, and even start to fall asleep (a nice warm lap and warm hands - how can they lose?). I find that when I don't handle them as regularly some of the already "tame" ones need time to warm up again. I try to get out there at least every day after work and spend about an hour with them. When they hear my voice boy do they respond! It is hysterical! And I do get pecked - not by the ones getting held, but the ones on the ground wanted treats or attention. Freckles really take a hit

Hang in there - as they get older it gets easier; just give them time. Even spending time in the same room so they can hear your voice is helpful.

Have fun! Soon those BOs will be mobbing you
If you handfeed them, even if they don't take food the first time, they will run to meet you. This sounds impossible...but I trained a quail to do that too!!! :O
I've also found that chickens like to be held like dogs, so they feel secure. If you tower over them they will naturally feel scared so kneeling works too
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