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How can I get my chickens to like me again??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Margy1, Dec 13, 2014.

  1. Margy1

    Margy1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When we got our chickens (EE) when they were a week old, we played with them, loved on them, gave them treats. They loved us, would let us walk around holding them and eat out of our hands.

    Now they are about 21 weeks old and will not let us touch them. They have a big pen and a big coop. Every once in awhile I can pick one up, but she gets so scared! We go out everyday and spend time with them, I have tried to get them to eat from my hands, they wont. They barely come near us, yesterday they came over and started picking off the little "hitchhikers" from the grass that were stuck to my slippers. I have read posts about going out and sitting with them, bringing them treats, talking to them getting them used to my voice, and then eventually trying to get them to eat out of my hands, I have tried all that and they are still so scared! We have another chicken its a free range and she will let us touch her and pick her up and love on her.

    How can we make them like us again???
     
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  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Hmm, sounds like you've already checked out the predominant successful methods out there. If you use your voice in communicating with them, is it working? Or are they ignoring you?

    Most chooks will show greater tolerance for humans when young, if handled, but many chooks simply don't like people or have complete apathy towards them. If they just don't like you there's not much you can do. However, they're still young, basically young adults now, they should settle down more with time.

    You could try a very friendly rooster; some of those are quite good at getting even feral hens to come right to you. I'd try other methods first though, last thing you'd need is to try to get a good rooster and find he's just more trouble.

    When you pick them up, do you prevent them struggling or are they left to flap and fight? The less they're able to fight, the more they're likely to settle down and learn instead. They can get stuck into a pattern of struggling and panicking when held if someone routinely picks them up in a way that makes them feel unsafe or unbalanced. Holding their wings to their bodies helps with that. Then you can sit them on your leg and when they're calm, let them walk off. Soon enough most chooks learn it's nothing to be feared.

    Are they allowed to spend time hanging around you without you trying to touch them? Do you let them walk over you and take treats while you sit on the ground and don't try to grab them? Do you go digging in the garden with them or call them for treats regularly? All those things can help train them to trust you. While an automatic feeder could make life a bit simpler, with longer times between feeds, I prefer my chooks to know I'm the source of food, since it helps keep even human-averse chooks more human-oriented and docile.

    They may be anti-human or may just need more time. They react strongly to your mood so being calm and relaxed about them helps a lot.

    Best wishes and good luck.
     
    2 people like this.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    chooks gives good advice and asks great questions.

    I've found that even the friendliest of chicks do not always continue to like to be touched, let alone held, after they get older. But most will come and eat treats out of hand, but i never try to pick them up while doing that or pretty soon they won't come to hand feed.

    At 21 weeks they are probably just laying or getting close. They can get real spooky at that time, some will calm back down after they get the laying thing worked out, some will not.

    I have a couple that come up to me every morning and do not fight at all being picked up and more important IMO being put back down....other avoid it like the plague. These 2 did not particularly like being handled as chicks either..so ya never know.

    I try to handle most of them regularly by being sneaky in grabbing them calmly(oxymoron?) and getting control immediately by holding down wings and stabilizing feet, most will submit but do not like it. I try to put them back down while still holding wings and get them to stay still when feet touch the ground just for a second, sometimes picking them back up if they struggle. Some I can only handle off the roost at night, I won't chase/corner them unless it is absolutely necessary.

    Overall I don't think of chickens as pets to pet. If they like it - great, if not - I have dogs to pet.
     
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  4. Xtineart

    Xtineart Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think chooks and aart give some pretty sound advice here.

    I definately agree with aart that it could be their age, they are basically teenagers, going though puberty.....think about most spotty hormonal teenagers you know, they probably seem batshit crazy and not too keen to be friendly either lol!. A classic *I'm going to my room to listen to music and you dont understand leave me alone* attitude. I'm pretty sure they'll come back down to earth once their wee bodies adjust and they get the hang of being egg laying grown ups instead of flaky kids.

    I'd back off on the trying to hold or lift them for a bit and spend more time just sitting spending time with them, when I got my rescues they'd barely seen a human before so I spent a few weeks just laying out on the grass with them, chatting to them and making 'nice baby goo-goo speak' sounds or offering treats, a small bowl of meal worms on my lap or scatter some scratch round and sit out while they ate it so they knew I wasn't a threat to them. After a while I've been able to hand feed them slices of grapes, while saying their names individually as they take their piece and they've now associated their names with treats and come to my call, but it took a lot of perseverance to get to that stage.

    Lifting and carrying was almost on their terms, once they came to me and were comfortable I'd lift them with both hands over the wings and cradle them like babies till they calmed while cooing to them and giving them a rock-a-bye baby cuddle and making sure I held them until they looked really calm, or started to close their eyes and relax before letting go while they were on my lap and letting them get up and walk off. They soon realised that it wasn't anything to be scared of and now two of them actively jump up to my lap when they want attention and cuddle time, although my princess still prefers me to lie down so she can cuddle up on her own terms, especially if I allow her to sit against my head or lie down next to me rather than be lifted. I think al lot of it needs to be on their terms, unlike dogs they dont seem to simply put up with being petted just to make their owner happy.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I agree with the previous two posters. I believe what you have here is a hormone thing. At times of hormonal changes, whether it's from a surge preceding onset of laying or in the case of cockerels, coming into their maturity, and then during molt when hormones drain away, chickens are more apt to be irritable and standoffish. After hormones normalize, they usually revert back to their friendly natures, if they were friendly before.

    As has also been pointed out, there are chickens that have anti-social natures. I have a few of those, and no matter how much I try to get on their good side, if there is one, they are having none of it, preferring instead to fight and flap and screech and bite when held. If you have fourteen out of a flock of eighteen that are cuddly and love being held, I count that as a huge success.
     
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  6. Margy1

    Margy1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If I am outside of their coop/run area they will listen to me when I talk to them. They run over to me to see if I am going to give them grass (they have eaten all the grass inside their run and right outside the boarder lol.

    When I get one that I am going to pick up I do hold her wings to her sides, I let her get used to my touch and calm down before I actually lift her off the ground, then I will hold them away from me a little and then I will put them up towards my chest. Usually after about a minute their little lets start shaking so I put them down and as I get them to the ground they get frantic and start flapping their wings like crazy.

    We don't have an automatic feeder, we have a 7 gallon one which we fill maybe once a week. I don't always try to pick them up when I go in there, more often then not I just go in and stand or kneel down (I don't sit as its all dirt in there).If I do pick one up and hold it once I put it down I stay for another minute or two and then go outside of their area, sit and talk for a few minutes to them and then leave them be. I don't want to tramatize them too much.

    I am definetly going to try going out with treats more frequently, they won't eat their grit we have for them so I get scared to give them stuff they would need grit for.
     
  7. Margy1

    Margy1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our free range chicken (we only have the one that is free range - her name is KC) she is okay being held and she will sit with you as long as you want. My boyfriend thought it might have something to do with the babies (21 weekers) getting ready to lay as well. They haven't laid yet. When we first found KC (she just showed up one day) she didn't want anyone to touch her or go near her, the day she started laying she became the friendliest little chicken! Sometimes there is still some coaxing with her to pick her up, but she enjoys it. I know chickens aren't - pets to pet- but it is still so sweet to hold them and love on them.
     
  8. Margy1

    Margy1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you all for the excellent advice.

    I wen't out to the coop earlier, and they were eating the weeds off my slippers, and then just standing around me, I bent down to just run my fingers over one of their backs (Mr. T - she is a female lol) and she just stood there, I slowly grabbed her and picked her up and she just went with it. Did not act scared at all, pet her little head, under her neck, she just seemed so happy! I put her down after a minute or two so I didn't overwhelm her, once I put her down she stood right at my feet for a minute, then walked away. Maybe we are making progress?! :)
     
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  9. Xtineart

    Xtineart Chillin' With My Peeps

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    that's great margy it sounds like things are on the up. I think the key is spending plenty of time with them. Further to my post above I think I've overdone spending time with my girls to the point that they hate me to be away and would rather sit all day at my feet in the back room than go free ranging, and even a bowl of juicy worms couldn't tempt them out to the coop to sleep tonight, they just threw a proper strop and cried after I'd carried them in and closed the door, they are so clingy they think I'm part of the flock and seem stressed when I'm not in the group
     
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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