Holding chickens - training and technique advice

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ChickensAndMe, Jan 21, 2017.

  1. ChickensAndMe

    ChickensAndMe Just Hatched

    Dec 5, 2016
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi everyone, I am new to chickens - my three girls are ten weeks old and the highlight of my life at the moment, ha ha!

    They are very socialised, having been with me since day-old and raised inside the house until 6 weeks. They like to sit on my lap and hang around me, but I never picked them up much when they were little because they always seemed distressed by that.

    But now I want to learn how to pick them up so I have started picking them up at least once a day. It is fair to say they hate it! They squawk and try to flap and generally throw tantrums. I am using the "football" method; sometimes it works and they are calm, sometimes not and I feel bad and let them go.

    With the other method, the "fingers under belly" method, I was wondering if people with small hands can do this method, because I can't see how my hand would keep their wings from flapping... I have enough trouble holding them with the football method.

    And any other tips on training chickens to be held in general?

  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
  3. N F C

    N F C phooey! Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013
    I started working with my young chicks on being picked up right away. Some of them grew to like it and some never did. Just like people have preferences, I think animals are the same. Just remain calm with them and take your time. I hope some of yours come to not mind it.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    Much has to do with their feet and if dangling or secured with your hand. They freak when legs are just dangling there and automatic try to flap. It's a knee jerk reaction. To tame any animal it takes repetition and never changing up the regiment. If a bird doesn't like being handled then hold it longer until it is calm. If you give in then your rewarding it's bad behavior so it will continue. Same as a child in check out lines at the supermarket. Watch the ones who's parents trained them to have tantrums to get what they want. Giving in is the same as training, the behaviour is learned as it's reinforced.
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop

    Good points above......
    Holding them from a few days old is the best way to start, IMO, get them used to it early when they are easier to handle.
    They are prey animals and it's instinct for them to fight against being restrained, until you build the trust so they know you won't hurt them.
    Even then, some will never submit easily......some will actually 'ask' to be held/touched.

    Some of mine don't mind their feet dangling, some will use their feet for leverage to get away and if they can move them will not stop struggling.
    I almost always keep their wings restrained, depends on the bird, because if they can move them they will try to get away.

    Being calm and confident yourself is paramount, if you are fearful or anxious ....they can feel that and it makes them react.

    You should be the one to decide if they are on you, not the bird...I don't like them jumping on me when I don't want them too, can be a bad habit.
    But then, I am not a chicken cuddler (have a dog for that) and mostly only handle my birds off the roost at night when they are easy to 'catch'.
    1 person likes this.
  6. ChickensAndMe

    ChickensAndMe Just Hatched

    Dec 5, 2016
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks everyone. The advice to start young is great but too late (although ten weeks is still young, I suppose). I have also realised that I need to be calm and "in charge" so working on that too. I liked the advice to be firm and not give in to their tantrums, like children :) I have never had kids before, LOL... Geez... Chickens are like children, sometimes, I think.
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    You might consider treating them like I do adult roosters never held previously. Get them into small pens that you can reach into. You might be able to train them to go into pen each session with treat. Then reach in and touch their flank and breast with back of hand. As they get used to it, then start trying to get them to perch on your hand. Once the perching part realized, then start bringing them to you chest where you confine them briefly following descriptions above.
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Really, I have had luck with older chickens, but you need to let them approach you. Take a chair into the run and sit quietly, after you are there a while, throw some scratch out away from you. They will scatter like you have shot them, but they will come back when they see what it is. Stay 20 minutes. Repeat the next day, still throwing the scratch away from you, they will jump, but recover much quicker, seeing the scratch. Each day, throw it a little bit closer, eventually, they will come to expect that, they will approach you, slowly touch them, if they move away, that is ok. Eventually they will jump in your lap.

    I am like AArt, I did train them to do that, but then really did not like it. I just like to watch them. I seldom hold them. You do need to be careful, they will peck at your eyes, earrings and your glasses in just an exploratory manner, but it can still hurt.

    Mrs K
  9. ChickensAndMe

    ChickensAndMe Just Hatched

    Dec 5, 2016
    Melbourne, Australia
    Everyone's advice is so helpful, thanks. As much as I want to hold them, chickens are not exactly cats or dogs, huh. They are definately chickens!!! Ha ha. I am trying to balance my expectations and wishes with respecting them as the wilful little souls they are!

    My chickens do already come to me, no problems there!! They come rushing out the minute they hear me, and they jump on my lap no problem. But when I try to pet their backs, they move away, and if I try to pick them up, they certainly don't like it.

    Oh well, I will keep persisting and report back if I have success. Patience seems to be the advice most given on this website :)
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    I do not pet their back. That is very similar to aggression in chicken language.

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