handling chicks being raised by hen

Sep 20, 2017
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Washington State
Our first batch of chicks we got from a mail order hatchery and hand-raised them since they arrived in the mail at 3 days old. Now one of these chicks is a first-time mama who successfully hatched all 5 of the eggs we let her sit on. The little family is now in their "nursery," which is a big stock tank sitting in the middle of our living room.

Chanterelle, the mama, is being really protective of the chicks, and they are really attached to her. She is not happy when we pick one up, and they start peeping loudly as soon as they are separated and won't stop until we put them back. So we're only handling each of them maybe twice a day for a minute at a time, so as not to stress anyone out.

We do want the chicks to become fairly tame though. They are going to our friends' house when they get older, and while they will not be pets per se, our friends' flock is small (currently about 5 chickens) and they take good care of their chickens so I would guess that they wouldn't want them to be totally wild. What's the best way to get these babies used to human contact? Should we wait until they are a little older, more curious about their surroundings, and less attached to mama? Or should we continue picking them up and handling them just a little bit more each day?

This was easier with our first batch because there was no mama. They did sound the "alarm peep" when picked up but I think they instinctively longed for something large and warm to hold them and talk to them so they accepted us as surrogates. The new little guys are fortunate to have their mama (who is doing an excellent job, by the way) so they are not as eager to hang out with us :)

(Apologies for the poor quality photos)
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JaeG

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 29, 2014
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New Zealand
I'd say feed them (and Mama) treats! Greens especially - the hen will bite tiny bits off for her chicks to eat. I'd let them come to you rather than picking them up and they will soon recognise the food lady and greet you with enthusiasm.

I've found that works best with our quail - they are more curious and willing to interact if they have just been able to come to us as chicks and have a bit of a pat as opposed to being picked up. Even the ones that don't want to be patted still approach us and look at us, wanting to interact on their terms.
 

JaeG

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
6 Years
Sep 29, 2014
7,982
23,644
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New Zealand
View attachment 1321877 View attachment 1321880 Great idea about hand-feeding treats! I've started doing this. Mama usually gets to them first though, and distributes them herself :)

And yes, they are incredibly cute! :)

Her enthusiasm for you will rub off on the little ones. Is she still being super protective of them?

Thought you might want to enter this contest as those are some cute photos!:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/th...s-9th-annual-byc-easter-hatch-a-long.1228321/
 

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