Help with chicken handling

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Roger-B, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. Roger-B

    Roger-B In the Brooder

    Oct 14, 2007
    Our family converted a cherished backyard play house into a chicken house with a new run attached. Being that we live in California, we incorporated our earthquake supplies into a sealed-off storage area below the 30" high platform where our five hens spend much of their time. The house is clean enough and pleasant enough that my wife and I will sit out with the girls of an evening, catching up on each others day and enjoying the chickens. When we are sitttiing on our stools we are at eye level with the chickens and quite close to them. We enjoy this close observation/interaction vantage but are concerned about the girls beaks and there proximity to our faces and particularly our eyes. We are being carefull not to get too close but would be interested in what others have to say about being this close. If we are not stressing them by being too close, should we be terribly concerned about them giving us a peck in the face?
    We also have two cats and are wondering how to introduce them to the chickens so that they can coexist peacefully in our yard once we let our chickens out of the run to roam about.
  2. justusnak

    justusnak Flock Mistress

    Feb 28, 2007
    South Eastern Indiana
    Hi Roger, and missus! Welcome to the wonderfull, and wacky world of being owned by chickens! LOL
    Be carefull about those little chicks....when they are looking at your face, and they spot your eyes...all they see is a shiney, juicy snack! Yes, they will peck at your eyes, and so fast you wont have time to react. I wear my sunglasses now....when I am holding my hens. Been there, done that. Had one of my very favorite hens on my shoulder one day....turned to look at her and tell her the " ride was over" when POW!! She got me! Boy does that smart...and for a few days as well. I dont think that you being "down at thier level" is stressing for them...I :get down with my chickens alot" LOL
  3. Roger-B

    Roger-B In the Brooder

    Oct 14, 2007
    Thank you for the feedback. I think I will put some safety glasses out in the house for when we want to get really close. We are having a great time and are looking forward to years of companionship. Thanks again.
  4. GoodEgg

    GoodEgg Songster

    Feb 12, 2007
    NW Florida
    Welcome, and glad you are enjoying your chickens. I'd second the part about being careful near your face. I pick mine up, but keep them away from my face.

    As far as the cats, it really depends on the cat as well as the chickens. I had an older spayed female that is generally pretty easy-going and doesn't pay much attention to other animals. I introduced her to the ducks first. She ignored them pretty much until they got into the water, then she RAN from them. The ducks thought she was fun to follow around. She let them, and after watching them through a few meetings it was pretty obvious we didn't have anything to worry about.

    I waited until the chickens were just about full-sized before introducing her to them. (I think chicks can be just too tempting for almost any cat.) She ignored them mostly too. They pick on her sometimes, surrounding her and making threatening noises. She will run away, or look at me with a pleading look in her eyes, begging me to pick her up and rescue her. (Funny, this is the same cat that didn't hesitate to attack the kitten when he got too big for his britches, and she also chases off stray cats. She's off like a shot after them, yowling for all she's worth.) But around the birds she is and always has been COMPLETELY laid back.

    Now, we also have a kitten we rescued just before the chicks arrived. He's a young boy, getting to be a teenager now. And he just can't help himself. I "introduced" them through chicken wire. He wanted to bat at them, and I told him "NO!" and held his paws down, and I let the chickens "explore" him a little ... which meant he got a peck or two to the ears. He was terrified. I still kept him away from them, because they were not full sized.

    We also had to carefully teach him "no claws" and "no bite" when he plays, or else he was too rough (with us). He learned to play gently, ALWAYS. To him, the ducks are great playmates. He loves to wrestle with them. And they are vicious little creatures anyway (3 of the 4) and looking to attack anyone else, so they attack him, and he thinks they are playing, and attacks back. No claws or biting. So far so good.

    But the chickens ... sigh. Well, I think he's fine. I do watch him (watched him CONSTANTLY for the first several months). He sometimes can't help himself and has to chase a banty. He has tackled them. Never hurts them. But I do worry, because he has more developed hunting instincts. (Although he DID have a couple of chances to chase the gerbils when they escaped, and I always found him following them but never trying to catch or attack them. Maybe he understands the difference between "our" animals and things he finds.)

    However, the bigger pullets have taken to coming after him sometimes. (I think this is because I chased him and yelled at him every time he stalked one or scared one, and they are taking cues from me.) He is beginning to respect them because they WILL bite him or peck him, and pretty hard too, if they don't want him close or sometimes just for no reason.

    I don't know ... it really very much depends on the cat, and on the size of the chickens. The setup you have to protect them, and the time available to supervise come into play also. I think you really have to know your animals, and do it as carefully as you can, and judge the situation as it develops.

    I still worry a little about my younger cat, being only a few months old he isn't 100% trustworthy.

    Good luck with yours. [​IMG]

    (Sorry for the long post, I just hoped some experiences would be helpful!)

  5. Catalina

    Catalina Songster

    Jul 19, 2007
    My favorite chicky has poked me in the eye three times. Once on the left and twice on the right.
    One thing I've learned - never look a chicken in the eye
    They start looking at your shiny eyes and they can't resist trying to peck you. [​IMG]
    My babies are 15 weeks old and they're already much bigger than my cats. The cats are either terrified of them or ignore them. Terrifed if the chicks are free ranging. Ignoring them (and acting brave) if the chicks are cooped up.
  6. redwa

    redwa Songster

    Aug 9, 2007
    One of my favorite sites is when my chickens, the cats and the dog are all hanging out on the back deck, together. We hatched some of our chickens last spring and there were a few times one of our cats was looking at them with that "Come to mama!" expression. Now that the girls are older the cats know not to tangle with the chickens. In fact, the tables have turned and I have been concerned for my cats on occasion had they challenged the rooster in any way. And yes, we have had our share of eye pecks, especially when they are sitting on our shoulder.
  7. Roger-B

    Roger-B In the Brooder

    Oct 14, 2007
    Thank you both for your thoughts on this. We are being very careful with our eyes and will get the safety glasses tomorrow. We like being in close proximity but don't like the idea pf any part of us being considered a tasty morsel.

    I would like to ask about something else. My wife is concerned about one of our five hens. About three weeks ago we moved them out to their new home in the back yard from a good sized cage in our front room. My wife has observed that one of the girls has been occasionally sleeping by herself. It seems to me that she is having a healthy responce to having four sisters. Occasionally one needs to get away a bit. My wife says that I am anthropromorphizing them and that instead, it shows that one of the girls is being ostrosized, and is in consequence, ending up by herself. She is concerned that this it is not healthy, and that we should at least be trying to promote unity in the flock by putting them on their roost together when we put them down for the night. Is there anything we can or should be doing?
  8. Roger-B

    Roger-B In the Brooder

    Oct 14, 2007
    I forgot to thank you for your thoughts on the cats. We have noticed our male Siamese scoping out the chicken run, in that low slung stealthy hunters crouch. The hens are not much impressed. They are watchful but not stressed. We shall wait a bit longer until they get to full size before we put them together. This will also give me a bit more time to fix the last fence section that was an attractive invitation to "life on the open road".
  9. karmical

    karmical Songster

    Aug 3, 2007
    Honeoye Falls, NY
    I went through the great "eye" debate myself...I think you have to go with what makes you most comfortable. As a general rule, I don't let my birds on my shoulder for the simple reason that I can't really see what they're doing when they're in that position. (I learned that lesson when they were about 8 weeks old and I got a little peck in the side of the eye from my partridge rock who was sitting on my can't defend yourself from what you don't see coming) So since I don't like to have to deal with wearing protective eyewear whenever I'm down there interacting with them....the shoulder is off-limits. I'm lucky in that my birds are in my lap regularly though. I find that I can make fairly close eye contact with them in my lap as long as I'm sure to pay attention to what they're doing while they're there visiting. So far, I haven't had any problems with anyone going for my eyes and I get the fun of feeling like I'm connecting with them. And anyways, they seem much more interested in figuring out how to eat my curly hair or poking their little beaks into my pockets to check for goodies!

    In regard to your one girl who's been sleeping guess would be that she's at the bottom of the pecking order. She might be getting pecked a lot on the roost at night and has opted to sleep on her own for the sake of getting a little peace. Ultimately, they have to work these things out themselves. The pullet at the bottom of the peck in my flock will sometimes have a hard time getting her "spot" on the roost at night. She gets pecked by EVERYBODY. Even if I "place" her somewhere, she inevitibly will hop off and work her way in again on her own.

    Hope some of that helps. Sorry if it got a little long-winded! Haven't gotten my fix of "talking chicken" much these past few days [​IMG]

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