Can I tame hens who have not been handled? They are terrified of us!


May 6, 2015
Rhome Texas
I bought 4 Buff Orpingtons yesterday (our first chickens ever) and they are 10 months old. I wanted to start off with hens who were laying and add to the flock. I got them from a farm and they do not seem like they have been handled. They are scared of us. Well they were timid at first but then when we tried to catch them and put them in the coop last night they totally freaked out. It was my fault. I let my 6 year old (who is loud), my 9 year old, and my 12 year old in to help. I think all the people combined with the new place just set them off. They hid under the coop and we had to use a rake handle to push them out. One flew in between the coop and the wall of the barn and we almost had to cut through the coop to get her out. She was wedged into a 5 inch wide gap. We finally got her out though. I knew they were scared so we got them in the coop quickly and closed the door. This morning I let them out but they wouldn't come out till I left. Later I went out to see them and they all ran into a corner of the run. I had some dried mealworms and tried to feed them but they wouldn't even look at them. They were so scared :(

So is it possible to teach them I am not going to hurt them?
Yes, but go SLOW. Basically, ignore them as much as possible and make the kids do the same. You can hang out near the coop, quietly, but don't force the birds to interact with you.

If they're not putting themselves into the coop at night, lock them in the coop for 3 days to a week so they learn it's home and safe. Then you can give them access to the run. You don't want to have to traumatize them every night.

Bring treats. Call them or shake something that makes a noise. Drop the treats on the ground and back away/leave. Soon enough they should learn that you equal food and calm down a bit. They may NEVER take to being handled though. I have four orps I raised in a brooder and one I got at 4 months from another member. Mine come to me, eat out of my hand, etc. The one I got from someone else does not. She's not afraid of me per se, but she has NEVER taken a treat out of my hand.
Welcome to BYC!
Yes, your birds can be tamed, it's just going to take time and patience. Right now everything is new and scary in their world - new place, new people, new sounds, new smells, etc. - add in a little bit of scary activity with the catching, getting stuck and so forth and you can see how they'd be just a bit hesitant to have warm fuzzies quite yet.
Start by just becoming familiar to them - spend time outside where they can see you so you are part of the "normal scenery" vs. this new scary thing that has appeared. Do chores around their coop and run, take a chair and book to sit and read (reading aloud is good, it makes your voice familiar just as you being there makes your body familiar), just be present in their world. If/when they start to investigate you - ignore them. If you are in the run sitting and they get brave enough to come to you or even hop onto you, ignore them. You will want to reach out and touch them, but don't. Build positive associations - the way to their heart is through their stomach. I know right now they are afraid, but you can still go out, toss the treat and walk away - while they may currently be afraid to approach you to get treats they will go after them when you are away and they will associate your presence with the goodies that appeared - before you know it they'll be coming to greet you because they expect you have treats.
Thank you both for the advice! I am so happy to know they might warm up to us. I really wished I had picked a closer spot for the coop now. Where they are they cannot see the house or yard. They are facing back into cattle land and a tree line. They are further away than I would like too. It just happened to be the safest spot. We are not really supposed to have chickens with our HOA but several others do. Even the HOA president has a turkey and 2 deer. They say it is fine unless it becomes a nuisance and then they will enforce the rules. I wanted the coop at the back of the yard so it was not visible from the street.

They are close to our rabbit pens and my girls like to get out a little wire pen (foldable, so the can it it up and play with the bunnies on the ground) every day. I will have them set it so the chickens can see them and hear them. They are very sweet with the bunnies so maybe the hens will see that. I will try to walk back there several times a day to throw out some treats :)

Should I try to catch the and put them in the coop today or wait till they calm down some?
If you're lucky, they'll put themselves up tonight and you won't have to worry about it. If not, wait until it's dark and they're calm and asleep and then round them up as quietly and calmly as you can and pop them into the coop.

Good luck!
They did not go into the coop tonight. I took my 9 year old daughter and we shooed them out from under the coop where they hide then blocked it off so they cannot go under it. Then we gently herded them into the coop. Worked like a charm!

I was going to keep them in for a few days so they learn to go inside but I found a problem. I hung their water thing in the run. It will not fit through the small chicken door, I would have to open the clean out door (entire side of the coop) and I cannot open that with them inside because they would get out into the yard. It was pretty easy to coax them in once the bottom was covered up though.

When I was putting them up I did find an egg! It is our first! It was next to the nesting box. I think my boxes are too small.
Mine were the same way. As already noted, ignoring them while hanging out with them seems to mellow them out eventually. They will see you have no ill intentions and become curious of who you are or what you may have to offer. Some treats and calming sounds helps as well. Soon enough you and your family will gain the trust of your hens. Before you know it they will be following you around everywhere you go :)
my rescues all came around quickly...with slow gentle movements and lots of newest 17 week olds were barnyard raised and are taking a bit longer BUT they are coming along....good luck

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