Chicken Pets/or Not

bluecreekhen

Hatching
Jan 9, 2016
7
0
7
I spoil my BRs, NHRs, BOs, Australorpes -- either 4-8 at a time. They follow me like their mother, they knock on the front door for a handout, one even layed eggs on the front porch -- but I am so envious of these owners I see holding chickens in their arms or petting them in their laps. Mine just won't do that (voluntarily). What am I doing/not doing?
 

TwoCrows

🌻🐣🌻
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Mar 21, 2011
47,960
107,361
1,712
New Mexico, USA
My Coop
My Coop
Hello there and welcome to BYC!

Sounds you are doing all you can do! Not all chickens like to be held. A chicken gets nervous when their feet leave the ground, they feel insecure off the ground.

Certain breeds are more friendly and others are more skittish. But over all, it helps to work with them as babies. Especially in households where the kids carry the chicks around all day long....the birds get used to be carried.

I work with my birds as day olds by getting them on the living room floor and they naturally gravitate to my lap. I have a bunch of lap sitters. BUT....they do not tolerate being pet nor do they like to be carried. I pick my birds up every day just to keep them very tame, but they don't care for it.

So you are not alone. Once your birds become adults, it is very difficult, if not impossible to untrain the nervousness of being carried out of them. I have had some birds in my flock that were not the best lap sitters, however after a bout of sickness and I was always giving shots or meds down the throat, they did become trusting of me and their need to lap sit increased.

I think you are doing just fine with your flock. Go sit on the floor of the coop or run with them and a bag of goodies. Let them climb all over your legs as you sit there handing out goodies. Eventually they will have a seat in your lap. Touching them may always be something they would rather you didn't do.
 

DIY Chick

In the Brooder
Jan 6, 2016
14
5
26
West Central Georgia
My best guess is that unless you started handling them as babies, it will be tough to start now. My three RIR's follow me like puppies, but they don't let me handle them (voluntarily). I got them at 8 weeks old, and they had never been handled. If you really want to work at it, try separating out a few birds and coax them with mealworms into letting you start stroking their chest feathers while they nibble from your hand. It won't work with the whole flock, since they'll peck and fuss while fighting for the handouts. It is also unlikely to work with just one hen either, since she'll be nervous by herself and be anxious to join the other chickens. I've eventually gotten a couple of mine to jump up onto my lap for a treat, but it takes a lot of time, patience, and repetition. If I get any more chickens, I'll probably start with babies and begin handling them from the start. Good luck!
 

olivigus

Songster
5 Years
Jan 7, 2016
113
125
146
Ben Lomond, California
Ours are much the same. They come running when we go out to the run and will take treats from your hand, but being picked up or petted is not high on their list of favorite things. We have one Easter Egger named Sushi who is very friendly and, as long as you support her feet, will settle in very calmly when you pick her up. But she's the exception. I think some of it has to do with breed characteristics--our brown leghorn happily comes to tear lettuce or pick scratch out of your hand, but try to pet or pick her up? forget it--as well as individual personality.

I'd agree with DIY Chick that early handling probably makes a big difference. We brooded ours in their coop, which gave both families (we share our property and chickens with some good friends) easy access to visit them and also meant we never had to introduce them to a different home. But it also meant we didn't handle them as much as I'm sure would have happened had they been in the house.

There's something, too, to just accepting their bird nature. Even when you stroke Sushi, you can tell she just doesn't get that much out of it--not like our cat or a dog that seeks out touch and affection. Mammals are into that whole touching thing. I'm sure there are exceptions, but birds, not so much...
 

Bine

Songster
Mar 14, 2015
317
120
126
Germany, wrong site of the rhine
Most of my chickens are Belgish Bantams. They are pocket pets, most of them. I have hens and roosters sitting on my shoulder all the time, but not all of them enjoy to be carried or petted. One hen really, really likes it and can't get enough, she even takes pretended dust baths in my lap, rolling around and making funny sounds like a cat that purrs. But out of 20 hens she is the only one that loves to be picked up and carried around, Most of the other birds signal if they want to be touched, they decide by picking my hand or snuggle under it.
I think, the breed is a big factor and how much time you spend with the hens. Most ex-battery hens seam to be forever grateful for being rescued and are maybe more trusting. On the other hand a shy hens are better in a free range system, b/c they don't trust everyone and are not as prone to get catched by preditors as ex-bats or my tiny birds.
 

bluecreekhen

Hatching
Jan 9, 2016
7
0
7
Thanks!
My wife also wondered if raising the birds from chicks and getting them accustomed to me might not make a difference. But as Oblivious said I might need to reconcile myself to the nature of chickens as opposed to mammals. Still, I have to try.
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Twisty

In the Brooder
May 8, 2015
21
1
26
I have 4 hens - one Rooster - all together since day 1. One hen and the rooster like a cuddle every day, and seek it our, one hen hates being picked up at all and this is only done if I need to put here in the coop for safety during the day, and the other two will tolerate at their own discretion. All will eat out of my hand and follow me around they yard. I always approach from the front, rather than grab from above (less like a predator I guess). Please be careful of your eyes if they are on your shoulder - my hen who likes a cuddle, sweet as she is, will peck your shiny eye if she is near enough...so definitely not near the face. They are above all, just chickens...(but extremely wonderful) - a bit like people, some like a cuddle, some don't...
 

Bine

Songster
Mar 14, 2015
317
120
126
Germany, wrong site of the rhine
Yep, I have to wear a hoody on the allotment, not b/c of my eys, my bird don't reach my eyes when they sit on my shoulder, but the roosters think that they are wounderful hair dressers and - I have know idea how they manage it- but they open every plat or bun and tangle my hair.
 

azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,743
34,224
1,122
Colorado Rockies
I will offer the same advice as Two Crows. Sit down on the ground, on a comfy cushion if the ground is too hard and dirty for your taste, and let the chickens come to you at will to take treats from your hands.

Type of breed matters, though. While my Orpington, EE, Cochin, Brahma and two of my Welsummers are hug hogs, my other chickens are stand-offish, especially my Wyandottes, who loathe to be touched by my hands, although they will perch on my legs.

It's never too late to start establishing trust and closeness if that's what you want. Be patient. It takes time.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,945
11,317
636
western South Dakota
Even sitting in a chair in the run, quietly with your coffee will get them curious. Don't swoop them up, just sit there quietly, move slowly when you do move, and eventually, they will perch.

Mrs K
 

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