Getting your chicks to like you

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by BradyMSU, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. BradyMSU

    BradyMSU In the Brooder

    Apr 10, 2008
    Marshall, Michigan
    This is my first time owning chicks. Mine are two weeks old now. I work during the day but have been spending a couple hours in the evening reading next to their brooder and talking to them in order to get them accustomed to me. By whenever I open the top of the brooder to change the food, water, litter or to pick one of them up to check for health issues they run to the farthest corner to attempt to get away from me. Otherwise, they go about their business eating, drinking, sleeping, kicking wood chips around and jumping on each other. Should I be handling the chicks more to socialize with them even if I have to catch them or am I doing the right thing by only talking to them and reading near them? How often do you handle your chicks? Do you have any tips I can use to socialize them to be while they're this young or should I wait until they're older?
  2. Sparrow

    Sparrow Songster

    Apr 11, 2008
    I can give you a few tips to help you habituate your chicks. I have been doing these things with my babies and they are REALLY friendly now. Anytime I come around their brooder and open the lid, they jump out of the top and onto my arms, shoulder, hands, whatever they can get to! They are only 5 weeks old, too, so these methods appear to work quickly.

    On their first few days at home, I move slowly and try to appear very gentle and innocuous to them. Fast movements...even ones that seem fine to us...upset them, and once they are upset, that training session is not going to be as productive. They are very reactive to your emotions, so I tell people to be "Zen" around my chicks. I'm not a "Zennie" myself, lol, but if you act soothing and calm no matter what happens, they respond accordingly almost unfailingly.

    Also, when you put your hands in their tub to change their food/water, let your hand just rest on the bedding for a few minutes, don't move to pet them. They may run at first, but they will soon let their curiosity get the best of them and come closer. It doesn't hurt to put some chick food in your hand to entice them to peck at it, either. Eventually, they will realize that you are not going to hurt them, and that they will have to accept your presence in their brooder.

    About once or twice a day, after the first day at home, I make a point of gently catching my chicks for a short handling session. They will likely still run away for awhile, but just calmly catch them without letting them get too stressed. When you have your chick in your hand, sit on the floor and let it perch on your finger or cup it in your hand. You can gently pet him with a finger or two on the back/neck, or just cup your other hand lightly over him and talk to him. Get them used to your face, and they will soon learn that you are really pleasant to be around.

    Also, if you can scoop them up from the front, just sliding your hand under their breasbone, they seem to like this better than being grabbed from above I think it's the whole prey-response thing. I just slide my middle finger under the breastbone, letting my other two fingers go on either side of their legs loosely, so they can then step themselves up into a standing position. My big babies and tiny 2 week old Banties all like to be picked up this way. When you return them mto their brooder, let them step off of you onto the litter by their own choice. This makes them feel more comfortable walking on and off of you.

    If you just use these methods and stay in a calm, gentle state of mind, your chicks will become very attatched to you...I can't get mine off of my arms and wherever else they land on when I'm playing with mine. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2008
  3. CoopDelisle

    CoopDelisle Songster

    Feb 26, 2008
    Gulf Coast
    I think the more you hold them and feed them from your hand the better. I would pick my chicks up, and scratch under their chins a little and talk sweet to them. Then when I would give them snacks such as dry oatmeal, I would always call them as I walked toward the brooder, "Chick, Chick!", and then open the top and hold my hand in near the bottom, and then just let them come up and eat out of my hand. It got to where when they heard me call, they knew a treat was coming, and they would run up to be first. Of course, some were naturally more social like my barred rocks. Now that they are almost three months old, some of them jump up on me every time I walk in the coop, wanting to be petted and scritched. My five week old EEs were even quicker to befriend us. Oh, and I would also put down a towel in front of the brooder, spread some oatmeal on my lap and the towel, pick out one or two at a time, and let them hop around on the floor and my lap and pick. Hope this helps. [​IMG]
  4. lemurchaser

    lemurchaser Songster

    Apr 11, 2008
    Corvallis, OR
    I have some 5 week old plymouth rocks and I don't think I handled them enough as little ones. They were terrified of me. I think part of the problem was that everytime I put my hand in the brooder, I would pick them up, so they were associating my hand with something they didn't like. Now we've gotten to the point where I don't really need to pick them up anymore (which they really hated), and almost everytime I appear I have treats. They LOVE mealworms, waxworms, fresh corn on the cob and cucumber. I've also done cooked steel cut oatmeal, cooked eggs, yogurt, spinach, yam, squash, weeds, worms (which they won't eat anymore). They like the spinach and cooked yam quite a bit. The others they took some time to eat. They now run up to the coop door when I come in to see what I have. If I have time, I hand feed them the treats. They will almost let me pet them without being held. 3 of the 5 have become very friendly, 2 of the 5 are really kind of skittish, but I'm also thinking those 2 are roosters.

    I have 2 new ameraucanas and they are already much more social than my first group, and will sit with me without screaming. I'm going to hold them more and start treats with them earlier.
  5. BradyMSU

    BradyMSU In the Brooder

    Apr 10, 2008
    Marshall, Michigan
    I've seen a number of people mention mealworms. Are these the freeze dried types that are fed to fish or live worms?
  6. chcknrs

    chcknrs Songster

    Mar 7, 2008
    Kelso, WA
    The live ones! I get mine from the sporting goods store, in the refrigerated bait section, but you can raise them, too. My chickies go CRAZY over them!
  7. HorseFeathers

    HorseFeathers Frazzled

    Apr 2, 2008
    Southern Maine
    Sparrow said it all, but one other thing- as they get older, they get a little more wild, so make sure you keep doing things "Zen"ly, even if they run away. They go through a teenager phase, not just in looks; they rebel against you then go sweet as a marshmallow peep once they start laying (or in a few cases, vice versa).
  8. FrontPorchIndiana

    FrontPorchIndiana Songster

    Mar 8, 2008
    I'm handling my week olds and can already see a difference. Hermie is always the first and all I have to do is set my hand in the brooder and she jumps on for a ride. She's even fallen asleep in my cupped hands a few times. Then the other extreme is Zorro. He screams like a girl when I pick him up. I started just getting him used to the idea of being held and am increasing the length of the session each time. Now he screams at first then settles down. He still doesn't want to be held for a long time. Then there's Hawkeye Junior, who won't get off my hand when I try to put him back. So it will vary from bird to bird. I think if you follow Sparrow's advice and take it slowly and you'll end up with some friendly fowl.
  9. donnap1967

    donnap1967 Songster

    Mar 15, 2008
    Northern NJ
    Mine must be going through the "teenager stage" right now too. We have held them and been very gentle with them all along (they are 5 weeks old now) and they still love when I talk softly and sweetly to them. But when I pick them up they fuss and scream like someone is trying to eat them. They will calm down but if I talk one out of sight from the other two everyone starts crying and screaming again.

    Hopefully, if we just keep up the handling and being sweet and gentle they will get beyond this stage and be sweethearts.
  10. BradyMSU

    BradyMSU In the Brooder

    Apr 10, 2008
    Marshall, Michigan
    Thanks for the help everyone! I bought some mealworms on the way home from work. Within less than a minute I had one of my Barred Rock chicks eating out of my hand. Soon others joined to the point where the chicks were fighting over access to my hand! I was surprised to see how breed specific their behavior was. The Barred Rocks were the bravest followed by the EEs and then a New Hampshire Red. The other breeds wouldn't come get any mealworms from me. The Cochins and Australorps wouldn't have anything to do with my hand.

    The feathers are starting to come in on my Barred Rocks and I think they may end up becoming my favorites. The EEs have very nice colors but I've read they aren't very useful as layers.

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