Handling chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by dainerra, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    Why does everyone try to make their chicks "friendly"?
    I see lots of posts here about it, but I also see lots of disappointment when the birds start to ignore you or just not want to be handled. I do handle my chicks regularly, bring them treats, give them names. I even have a couple chicks every year that are happy to perch on my finger or sit in my lap. But once they get a little older, they grow out of it.

    I handle them so that, once they are moved outside, they aren't afraid of me. They know that I bring food and am not a predator. I am a familiar face to them, so they don't panic when I open the coop. Being cute and cuddly isn't really in their nature. Some individuals, yes, but not as a group.

    I just hate seeing all the disappointment here. :( Lots of posts of "why don't my chickens like me" - they like you just fine, but they aren't dogs. Chickens are prey animals. They evolved those "run away from the big shadow" instincts for a reason. They frighten easily. They don't cuddle and they don't "make friends" with people. They can be trained to be friendly because they are expecting treats. Mine come running every time they see me, just in case I've got something yummy. If I move to pick them up, some will squat and others will run in terror. It's just the nature of chickens. Growing up we had one rooster that would let you carry him around like a baby, but he was a rare exception.

    Sorry, don't want to offend anyone. Just needed to get this off my chest this morning.
    1 person likes this.

  2. featheredroots

    featheredroots Songster

    May 4, 2011
    Madisonville, KY
    Great post! People nowadays have a hard time discerning the difference between pets and working animals, and I think that's where the disappointment comes from.

    Chickens are working animals, and on our homestead they're considered partners, not pets. . Like you, we give them treats, play with the babies, and handle them as much as possible, which we enjoy very much. But the true purpose is as you stated above, to train them to not be afraid of us, and to let us catch and hold them if necessary.

    Although chickens aren't necessarily "friendly", I do believe they learn to trust people. If ours get scared, or it gets too dark and they're away from the coop, they always come to us for protection or comfort. That's enough for me....if I want cuddles, I have dogs, cats, kids and a husband, to fufill that need. I let the chickens be chickens. [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  3. BooBear

    BooBear Chicken Cuddler

    Oct 7, 2010
    Conroe, Texas
    Why handle? Cus they are just so darn cute!!
    And yes, I agree it does make handling easier for when you need to look them over or move them about.

    I love that they all have different personalities and yeah if you were on everyones dinner list you would be a nervous, jumpy, critter too.

    I have some that love to hop on my shoulder and snuggle in my hair; but don't want me to pet them. Some that like being petted (Bearded gals love beard rubs). A few that do love to be picked up n snuggled. A few that love to be picked up so they can use me to get a better view of the lay of the land. And ofcourse the group who are just too chicken to be handled at all.
  4. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    BooBear, I handle mine for that reason too :) they are just too cute and fluffy not too.

    I just feel bad when I read all the disappointment because the chicks outgrow that cute fuzzy stage and don't want to be handled anymore. I guess I'm thinking of "why try to change their basic nature" Enjoy your chicks as they are and don't be upset that they usually don't grow up to be cuddlebugs and "pets"
  5. Tigertrea

    Tigertrea Songster

    Feb 10, 2012
    LaSalle Ontario Canada
    I know this thread is a few months old but, thank you!

    I have 11 chicks, my first that are 3 weeks old. Every time I try to reach in the brooder I have 1 or 2 who screech then run and "hide" in a corner. Of course the rest of them hear the distress and get all worked up. Most of them just do not like to be picked up at all. I have seen so many posts about taking chicks outside, picking them up and other handling of them. I was wondering if I'd done something "wrong" for them to always seem so afraid of me.

    today I took them outside. It was terrifying for them! Having to be caught, put into a box then out into a pen. They didn't leave their box outside (could have, just didn't LOL) until it was time for me to take them back into the brooder in the house. 2 of them saw me coming toward the box and ran. We had to corner those 2 poor chicks to catch them. I hated to see and hear their fear. I don't think I'll put them through that again! They will not be going back outside until they are old enough to stay out.

    I am just going to work on gaining their trust. They already know (or did until today) that when they hear my voice and see me it means food, water, greens or meal-worms. Most of them would look at me expectantly. I have a couple who are always more nervous though.. One even gives a distress cry when I reach into the brooder (of course that gets the others nervous too). I'm sure they will come to at least trust me at some point.

  6. Aschenfire

    Aschenfire Songster

    Feb 8, 2012
    I am glad this thread was posted. I too am sorry that a lot of people expect their chickens to be more like a dog or cat than like a chicken. You will find the few birds that are more social...I have a bantam Polish that is going to be a truly friendly chicken I think. She is fearless and always willing to hop up and sit on my hand when I open the pen, and she is hard to shake...she'd rather perch on me than anything else once she *can*.

    BUT the rest are trusting but not "friends" with me. They talk to me, they know the daily routine, they come running when I call them..but I know they are not going to want to be picked up and cuddled like a lapdog. They will tolerate and sometimes enjoy a good scratch, but that's about it. That is how chickens behave. Birds which are prey to everything that enjoys chicken dinner are pre-programmed to always stay on their toes, even with those they trust.

    They are however very entertaining, they are gorgeous and funny, and just watching them interact is a wonderful lesson in animal sociology and in understanding how they think. They are best enjoyed for the critters they are, without putting too much expectation on them.
    1 person likes this.
  7. GardenGal

    GardenGal Songster

    Mar 11, 2011
    Western WA
    I don't know how much of that also depends on the size of the flock, the breed(s), the way they were treated as chicks. Our chickens have exceeded my expectations regarding friendliness, curiosity, intelligence. Some especially so. It's a good idea not to expect the world from chickens, but also, it's really good not to set your sites too low!
    Last edited: May 5, 2012
  8. Tigertrea

    Tigertrea Songster

    Feb 10, 2012
    LaSalle Ontario Canada
    I think this is true also. I only wanted 4 to begin with. I was hoping to be able to handle each chick every day so that they would be easier to handle as adults. I've had livestock before and know the limitations of many farm species and that on occasion, with work, some individuals can exceed those limitations. Anyway...I wound up with 11. I just cannot spend 10-20min every day with each chick. I also have 2 who tend to be more skittish. (both my RIRs!) Of course when they sound the "alarm" the rest respond also. There are 4 who, after some time, will calm down and come over to me. They will gently peck my hand and often climb up on it. There are a couple who calm down well when I do handle them also, a couple who keep screaming the whole time too! I just can't spend the same amount of time with each individual as I could if I only had 4. I also have a wider range of personalities though!

    But, then I also have the conflict within me that I don't want to get overly attached to them. I am at my limit for numbers already and I am going to have to be pretty brutal with culling when egg production decreases or I find one who is nasty. Though I am mainly keeping them just because I have a biological need to have animals around, I still want to make sure I am getting the "most bang for my buck" LOL.....(maybe another biological need, since I come from a long line of farmers who have had to work hard to keep their farms!)

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