Jumpy Chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Darguth, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    My chicks are just now 4 days old (this is our first time with chickens). I've noticed over just the last day that the chicks seem much more easily startled than they did the first few days. Whenever we enter the room or peer over the brooder box to watch them they will jump and/or scatter, pretty much all of them.

    After a few moments they'll settle down unless we make a quick movement or unexpected noise. They'll also scatter whenever we reach into the brooder to replace feed/water/bedding or if we need to pick one up to deal with a pasty butt.

    Now, all of that seems pretty natural to me. It's a natural instinct for them to be wary. My question is, can me and my wife do anything to help mitigate that impulse and acclimate them better to our presence? I don't want to be giving my chicks a near heart attack everytime I want to check up on them, plus I assume down the road it would be beneficial if they don't scatter when we come near.

    I've avoided handling them as much as possible, only really touching them when dealing with pasty butts, so as to avoid the stress/possible injuries of doing so. Should I be handling them any more to get them used to me? If so, at what age should I do that (maybe a bit older so they aren't as fragile/injury prone)?
     
  2. song of joy

    song of joy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My theory is that they're not as jumpy the first couple of days because they're exhausted from the shipping ordeal. As to their current jumpiness, I'm guessing you're approaching them from above, as that's the way most brooders are set up. If so, they are instinctively reacting to you as an aerial predator.

    To minimize this reaction, I always speak a soft phrase that they'll eventually learn to associate with me, such as "hey girls" BEFORE they can see me. It also helps to approach slowly and make slow movements around them. For example, instead of always grabbing them from above (which I'm sometimes guilty of doing), try putting your hand in the brooder (palm side up) for them to investigate and climb on. Sweep them into your hand from below rather than above. Some chicks will eventually climb into your palm and let you pick them up without protesting.

    At this age, it's fine (and recommended) to handle them each day so they get used to you and become tame. When I hold them, I cup them using two hands so they don't bail out, fall, and hurt themselves. This also ensures I don't put too much pressure on their tiny bodies.

    Note also that some folks advocate using a brooder box with flap openings cut in the SIDES so the chicks can be approached from the side rather than the top. They claim that this greatly reduces the chicks' fear. I haven't tried it, but it makes sense.
     
  3. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All of this, mostly the coming from above. You must move your arm slowly down the side of the brooder if your only option is coming from above, then you can start to approach them from the sides.

    I will keep my hand in there, Palm up, while I coo at them ("hey, chicki ckicki"). In a few weeks you can put some finely ground dried mealworm in your palm and they'll LOVE you. A few more weeks after that and a live mealworm will be the funniest thing YOU have ever seen!

    But I'd have to say it's really coming from above that tends to be the biggest issue.
     
  4. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    Are there any kind of treats I can give them this early that would help them "love" me? Or can they not handle anything much more than their tiny pellets? I was thinking maybe small lettuce pieces or sliced grapes?
     
  5. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

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    Boil up some eggs, smash a yolk and hand feed it to them (any other you make can be stored in the fridge to be fed later).
    For what its worth, chickens are prey animals. It should be expected that they aren't going to be cuddly pets. I think chickens that seek their people out for affection are the exception, not the rule. As youngsters, none of mine particularly like me. They might take the the risk and eat out of my hand if I have something especially tempting, but usually they just all pile up in the corner of the brooder, as far as they can get from me. As they mature though, and make their way into the coop, they eventually come around. I have to do what I call the "chicken yard shuffle" to keep from stepping on them when I bring food, water and collect eggs. Some of them don't mind being picked up, but most of them don't care for it one bit. They do all eat out of my hand though :)
     
  6. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Does a red tail hawk offer baby chicks on the ground a "treat" before it dives down from the sky and snatches one? Chicks are naturally afraid of anything coming at them from above, so if your brooder is on the floor, and you're reaching in from above for them, they are going to dread even the sound of your feet coming into the room, because they know they're going to have to endure another "attack".

    Believe me, chickens learn very quickly about things that terrify them, and they hold onto the notion for a long time. Your chicks grow quickly into adults that carry this fear of being handled, and you may never be able to tame them, even offering treats.

    The only remedy for this is to be very slow and careful, if you have a top access brooder and don't want to change it, and somehow slip your hand down to the floor, palm up. You need to stay there like that until the chicks calm down, then slowly slide your hand over to the chick you need to pick up, placing the edge of your hand against its feet. Gently nudge its feet until it steps onto your hand, then cup your hand around it and slowly lift it up.

    Floor brooders are going against the very nature of baby chicks, and it's a real shame people keep insisting on using them when there are so many better alternatives.https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...ders-and-what-makes-raising-chicks-way-easier
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  7. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yogurt!

    I'm a huge fan of giving yogurt to chicks, mostly because their behavior ele eating it is soooo hysterical! You and try putting some plain yogurt on the tip of your finger. If they don't seem interested that way, teach them what it is by spreading it onto something (I just gloop a little of the wall of my bin brooder). They feel safe exploring there, and the second they realize they like it, they're pushing around for space to get some! It's really funny to watch.

    Heres a video of the chicks I have now eating it up:


    Also the egg, as mentioned above. Neither of these things require chick grit, but at about four weeks if you supply some chick grit, you can start doing other treats.
     
  8. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:
    Definitely not looking for them to be cuddly pets, just want to keep them content and make my life a bit easier when it comes time to handle them in the future :)
     
  9. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    While your advice is appreciated, your tone is not. I'm new and trying to learn. I had no idea this was a particular issue and sadly don't really have the time to remedy it for this initial flock, though it's something I'll consider in the future. However, a bit of friendly advice is that if you wish to express an idea to someone you might attempt to come off as less judgmental.
     
  10. Clearly

    Clearly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't currently have another option outside of a floor brooder (cost vs benefit, putting more money into my incubator and eggs than my brooding currently. Next year comes the high quality brooder), but @azugous is exactly right (as always). I'd listen to her. In fact go through and read everything she posts. I've learned a lot. :)

    Snake your hand down the side like I do and just let it lay in there. Even if they never approach my hand while I do this, I will sit for twenty minutes like this just so they learn my hand.

    But another thing I like to do is, once a day, I take all of them out (might be easier for me than you, as I only raise at max six chicks at a time) and take them into my living room, setting them on my couch on a towel. I keep them in this space so I'm at level with them, and within no time they are jumping on my knees and lap. It's fun because they get a new scene to explore and learn that I'm not so looming.

    Here we are this very moment as I forum surf on the iPad! :)
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015

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