Is younger better when wanting "handle-able" chickens

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Thenewguy, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Thenewguy

    Thenewguy Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    24
    Aug 7, 2013
    Central Michigan
    Hello,
    I am new to all this, been at it since May of this year. We brought 4 two day old chicks home from my five year old daughters classroom at the end of her last school year. one turned out to be a rooster and had to leave for a less urban farm. We ended up loosing one when it was only a couple weeks old and accidentally replaced it with a turkey. We were told it was a chicken and it looked the same as the others.......for a couple weeks anyway. Then last week my son killed one while he was trying to corral the two hens and the turkey back to their coop. He had his hockey stick in his hand and tripped over something. Needless to say, he gave the hen a heck of a slap shot and that was all she wrote. He felt awful. So we are now down to a turkey and a hen.

    What I am wondering is: I will be adding more hens in the future and I have read that introducing younger birds to an established flock (if you can call a turkey and a hen a flock) is hard on the younger birds because they are picked on to establish their order in the flock. I also read that older birds that are not handled or used to being handled may never get used to it and want nothing to do with us.

    These birds were originally going to be used for only eggs, however, my children have found all sorts of uses for them. Especially my 6 year old daughter who is constantly having tea parties with them. She also carries the hen around like a baby, she has even brought her baby crib, blankets, little pillows, doll house furniture, and whatever else she can sneak out of the house before my wife catches her outside to play with the hen. The other day she gave it a bath (in one of my coolers) wrapped it in a towel, put it in the crib, covered it up and told it to go to sleep. It did.....really.

    I want my kids to be able to interact with the birds like this without giving them heart attacks. I think that the only way to do this is raise them from very young. I was actually thinking about trying to hatch some. This way the kids can start their torturing fresh out of the shell. Am I correct in thinking this? Has anyone had luck adding chickens at say 3 to 4 months old and being able to handle them without pretty much moving into the coop to handle them 24/7? the chicken and turkey we have are currently about 3 mos and we are looking to add in the next couple months.

    Thoughts and opinions please. Right now we really enjoy this and want to build on what we have.
     
  2. mithious

    mithious Chillin' With My Peeps

    A quick story cause I gotta run. I didn't get to handle my chicks till they were 3 weeks old...once I got them in their coop and away from my kittie, in the house...I was able to sit out with them, and used treats to get them to implant on me that treats and me are a good thing. Now, at about 7 weeks, I walk around doing chores, with 4-5 chickens roosting on my head, shoulders and such and all come running when I go in their coop. All I did was sit on the floor of the coop, yes in poopy shavings...just changed my clothes after and washed up real good and also gave them treats, like yogurt, grass clippings, ect. Taught them to eat some grit...they are hatchery chicks and don't seem to have the natural instinct to eat grit with things like the grass clippings and such...they freaked at first over bugs that flew in their coop and ran screaming from them.

    Long story short. They all, when I sit down with them, will climb all over me and I can handle all but one, in any way I need to. and I do all sorts of handling. Hold them upside down..genltly of course...let them sit on my open palm hand...make the cockerels lay down on me, for pats, and don't let them get on my back...bad habit to reinforce if they become aggressive later, pick them off my head and put them on my lap or hand...so if they are not too old, you really can teach them to be handled. Not sure about full grown chickens, have always handled my chicks, at some point, so I don't have to chase them, if I need to handle them. It can be done a bit later if needed and works great with the treats added...it imprints that you are the treat person. Mine are fightin a bout with cocci and when they were really sick, I had them wanting to cuddle, 4,5 6 at a time in my lap...Hope that helps some...Best of luck with your chicks/chickens!
     
  3. iheartnh

    iheartnh Chillin' With My Peeps

    303
    35
    113
    Apr 11, 2013
    Derry, NH
    Wow, do you know what breed of hen is tolerating all that from you daughter? That's amazing and adorable!

    I have mostly buff Orpington hens, at a couple of Easter Eggers. The EEs are snotty, mean little things, but the BOs are very, very sweet. We got them all at ~6 weeks old, and made a point of handling them every day. The EEs have never come around, but the buffs are almost like dogs - they will jump right into my lap and settle down, follow me around, come when I call them, etc. A great breed for first-timers or families - that's why we got them.
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    4,905
    586
    286
    Apr 8, 2013
    Australia
    I take in adult birds of all ages, backgrounds, breeds, etc. When it comes to handling, it's crucial they understand your intent. It pays to watch your behavior around them and see how they're reacting, and experiment with changing your body language to communicate your intent more effectively. It is totally achievable to take an older bird that's terrified of humans from an abusive environment and make it as tame as a pet; but this cannot be achieved if the bird itself does not have an open mind to this sort of interaction, so to speak. But almost all birds will reach some level of calm and tameness around humans if your body language says your intent is not harmful. This is true of even wild birds, other species, etc.

    As to rounding them up, best to not use a stick, and best to train them to come when called into the cage. Easily done with treats and best for everything involved to have a peaceful method of control and collection. When catching or moving from outside the cage, raising one or both of your arms to guide the bird's direction and moving from side to side whenever the bird does generally gets them to move in the direction you want.

    I handle each bird at hatching and throughout its adolescence a couple more times and this lets me know which will not tolerate humans by their personal inclination. Handling helps but does not guarantee friendliness. Most birds will settle in your lap once put there (and understanding they won't be release until you decide) and they can calmly leave to continue foraging; spacky ones will never settle for more than a moment and will always flee like you're a predator they've escaped. This is all in their minds, it doesn't matter what you do; it's how they perceive you. Some like you and will tame with handling, some don't like you, so won't. But only making a few good efforts to tame will enable you to tell the difference between the two. 24/7 handling is not necessary, just that the few interactions you do have with them are positive, and the bird recognizes you mean it no harm. Trust needs establishing. Treats help. ;)

    Some birds inherit a disinclination towards humans, and these will never like you no matter how many times they are handled. They're not the majority though. Other birds can be unhandled for their entire lives previously, but will take to it well because they are open to it, almost always because some of their recent ancestors were tame and friendly. A spacky, feral minded bird simply does not like people. Breed that if you want that behavior, but if you don't, then don't. The same is true of bullies and violent animals.

    People do say it's hard on babies because the pecking order is established --- but that's life. No matter when or where they got hatched, a pecking order was established. Some chicks are killers too, it's not like the adults have the monopoly on being vicious. No matter the age of the bird being introduced there will be immediate assignment to a social position determined by its health, breeding status, intelligence, and whether or not it's inclined to be violent. Even sub-par birds can get high on the hierarchy due to being far more violent than any other bird in the flock wants to be; this does not indicate it's a good breeder though.

    The key issue there is whether or not your older birds are actual bullies. Some are and will hurt or kill younger ones. I cull for that because not only is it counter productive, but tends to breed true as it is a complete aberration of instinct that was begotten under unnatural circumstances and propagated by human intervention. But in your situation you may wish to find other alternatives.

    I would watch the turkey especially. Hatchery birds are notorious for behavior and health issues, but turkeys in general are often bad no matter where you get them (at least around here they are) --- they can get mentally stuck on killing or fighting, and be unable to snap out of it.

    Their flesh is the highest known natural source of tryptophan/triptophan, which is a hallucinogenic which helps with all nerve, joint, and depressive issues. In general it is a sedative with some mind altering effects which in turkeys can lead to them being deranged in either good or bad directions --- utterly dopey sweethearts or insane bloodlusting manic depressive birds who live in a permanent state of anxiety. As with chickens this is also inherited but with turkeys it indicates potential tryptophan levels --- dopey turkeys are loaded, aggro turkeys are deficient and imbalanced because of it. Every convalescent omnivore or carnivore benefits from turkey flesh, even more so than from chicken flesh, which has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties.

    I would recommend you get your daughter another pet. She will in all likelihood kill them with her attentions. Being birds they are not well able to cope with constant handling like more tactile creatures such as cats or dogs, or even goats and sheep. Chickens don't rough-and-tumble like these other pets and aren't well suited to a kid's intense interest. Being carried around, prevented from ranging normally, feeding and drinking normally, etc is very likely to end up killing the bird for various reasons. They're easy to accidentally damage, too --- chicks would not survive that treatment. Of all pets she can have, birds are among the least 'toy-like'.

    A goat is a great, fun, tough pet that will actively play with your kids and be very hard to kill, and rearing it on a bottle will give your daughter a crash course in responsibility for an infant animal, if she's of an age and capacity and inclination to be responsible enough. Great for boys too of course. I believe all future potential parents should have at least some experience raising a dependent animal infant at the least; it helps prevent them reaching young adulthood with rose colored glasses on concerning the realities of parenthood or responsibility to another living being. The practicalities of farm life are far reaching and beneficial, in my experience and opinion. Kids who get their appetites whetted for the country life often want to return, or remember them with fondness.

    Anyway, I digress; I hope that somewhere in all my rambling is something useful to you. Best wishes.
     
  5. ChirpyChicks1

    ChirpyChicks1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,712
    83
    158
    Jul 22, 2013
    [​IMG] OMG That is adorable and gave me such a good laugh!

    I really have no advice but your question is a great one. I can see negatives and positives to both options. Best of luck to you and I can't wait to read more stories in the future!
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    17,732
    2,362
    466
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I train chicks to be handled later in life. They need to be so I can just walk out and pick them up or come when called. I use mealworms as enticement. Training for me starts at 3 weeks for brooder reared and hatch for hen reared is hen also trained when she was young. Later arrangement yields adults that are easiest to work with. Birds for me need to be able to perform a broad range of behaviors in front of strangers under conditions that would frighten average backyard birds.
     
  7. Thenewguy

    Thenewguy Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    24
    Aug 7, 2013
    Central Michigan
    Thank you for the replies. Just to clarify, my son wasn't using the hockey stick to heard the chickens, he was actually playing hocking in the driveway when I asked him to get the birds back in the coop. It was an accident and he really felt terrible about it. My daughter is very gentle with them and has been since we got them at two days old. The only one I would really worry about is my youngest who is four. For his age he is good with them but still doesn't really understand sometimes how careful he needs to be. But all three of the kids have been encouraged to handle them but not to over do it. We do have other pets as well. A dog and 3 cats. I like the chickens for the kids because it is a different kind of responsibility than the other animals we have. I know that turkeys can get aggressive and I have been keeping an eye on it. The turkey an hen are funny. They are never more than 5 feet apart and the hen follows the turkey around like its on a leash.
     
  8. ChirpyChicks1

    ChirpyChicks1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,712
    83
    158
    Jul 22, 2013
    My daughter is 4 as well. She is awesome with the chickens but she really wants to hold them but that's something I've just never allowed. She helps me let them out in the mornings and put them to bed at night. She gives them food while I give them water. She sits in the coop and talks to them all the time, she hand feeds them treats and pets them. But she's never picked them up, for a four year old it's kind of surprising that she's actually continued to obey me. There are still plenty of things she can do that help with, but she is also the only child and the only person she sees interact with the flock is me. I don't know really, I've explained to her how easy they are to injure and she just "gets it". I'll go ahead and admit that I did not read the novel above [​IMG] (sorry) but from your reply I hope nothing negative was said by anyone about your childrens actions. Your daughter sounds like a sweet soul and her and the hen obviously have a strong bond. NO animal would allow someone to treat them like that if they didn't want it.
     
  9. Thenewguy

    Thenewguy Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    24
    Aug 7, 2013
    Central Michigan
    No, I don't think it was meant to be anything negative. Maybe just a word of caution. I didn't really explain very well and I think it may have come off that they were being treated rough. I am almost always around when the kids are interacting with the birds. There are some times when they have gotten them out without permission but they have never hurt them.
     
  10. Thenewguy

    Thenewguy Out Of The Brooder

    13
    2
    24
    Aug 7, 2013
    Central Michigan
    I believe the hen is a White Rock? I'm not a hundred percent sure but it looks like one to me. Below is a picture of the rooster that had to go elsewhere, the hen that was on the wrong end of a slap shot, and the two birds I have left which are the turkey and the hen that is perched on it. If someone knows better what kind of birds these are, I would appreciate knowing. I have no idea on the turkey and even weather it a male or female. Thanks.

    [​IMG]
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by