My chickens hate to be held or touched- what did we do wrong?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by AccioSarah, Aug 6, 2010.

  1. AccioSarah

    AccioSarah Songster

    Apr 21, 2010
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    We have four pullets that we got as chickens from My Pet Chicken in April. We interacted with them (following a fellow BC person advice), held them, stroked them, let them walk around on our bellies, they even rode on our shoulders for short distances!
    There was a two week period where they weren't interacted with quite as much... I can't remember what two weeks it was though.

    Anyways, when we go out to the coop to see them, they are excited to see us, and looking for food. They will even eat from our hands.
    They absolutely HATE being touched though- complaining very loudly. They also dislike being held, but calm down after a few seconds and will let us pet them without to much complaining. Although they do seem happy to leave once we set them down.

    Is there anything we can do to make them like being held? Did we do something terribly wrong?
    We hear stories of chickens running to people and riding on shoulders... and while that too would be nice... we just want to pet our chickens! [​IMG]
  2. keeko

    keeko Songster

    Dec 22, 2009
    Asheville, NC
    I had a very similar experience. I got 12 birds as chicks, held each one twice a day for a month, and tried my best to interact with them all once they were out in the coop. I wanted sweet, docile, pet chickens, which was one of the reasons we started with chicks. Low and behold, they only come running when they think I have food - which is often. They also hate being picked up; squawk, flap, kick, throw a tantrum basically. There are some that are friendlier than others - my Rhode Island Reds walk right up to me and show no fear of my hand when I stroke them. But the Ameraucanas are flighty, and though friendly and personable, they don't want to cuddle. I think that's just how chickens are. I seem to think that if I had less than 12 - maybe even 4 or 5 - I could have spent more time with each and every one. I would have never predicted my RIR would be the sweetest.

    It's nothing you did. But you can start spending way more time with them, and that will help. I walk in the run, and walk around with them while they're foraging in the backyard...gets them used to legs and feet and they realize they're not such scary things. Even take a chair and sit in the coop/run with them for 10-15 minutes. I had a friend who said her chickens laid eggs in her lap! Yeah, sadly that won't ever be my birds...but there's still hope if you persevere!
  3. Knock Kneed Hen

    Knock Kneed Hen California Dream'in Chickens

    Feb 15, 2010
    So. Cal.
    I think most of it depends on the individual birds personality. We handled most of my birds. The last few I didn't hold at all. Go figure, the sweetest of the bunch came from that last batch. She comes to me and wants to sit in my lap. She loves being held and pet. The others all act like I have a giant eye in the middle of my she comes!!!.....AAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!
  4. KandJsmama

    KandJsmama Chirping

    How old are they? Mine were much friendlier once they started laying. My newest batch are terribly flighty but they are only 16 weeks so I am hoping that will change soon. [​IMG]
  5. MakNugget

    MakNugget Songster

    May 31, 2010
    Portland, OR
    It's normal.

    I got mine when they were a week old and have interacted with them at least once a day. First they had to get used to The Great Hand From The Sky while they were in the brooder. Didn't take long for em to figure out that it brings food and water. They were less afraid but still wouldn't "volunteer" their time to be caught. Once in hand, they would perch, snooze, and poop in my lap, leg, arm, wherever.

    That continued for most of their young weeks. Didn't care to be caught but wouldn't mind perching on me. Now in the coop and run for a little over a month they don't quite fit on one arm or lap, so it's just 1:1 time where I talk to them about their day (I have one that likes to rant). I have a patio chair in the run where I sit with them and watch their behavior. I make a point to brush my hand against them (on the sides, not top) to keep them familiar. They usually ease aside but they aren't running. They still prefer I don't catch them, but I find it's all in the technique. I tried several, some work, some don't, but you find one that does quick. They each "settle" in my lap differently and once they are sitting, I can keep them there with one hand gently stroking their feathers or not at all depending on their mood.

    Treats help. I give treats as an equal opportunity grab, but before I release a hen off the lap, I'll let them have a go on something yummy at their own pace. I try not to let the alpha hen see it or else I end up with two big birds on my lap.
  6. Tala

    Tala Flock Mistress

    I also find that they get friendlier after they start laying.
    In my experience, all animals (including humans) go through that "teenage" stage where they don't want to have anything to do with their "parents" that they loved in their youth, but they'll come around after they get over that awkward stage.
  7. Agnella

    Agnella Chirping

    Jul 20, 2010
    N. Georgia
    My chickens don't like to be picked up either but when I go in and just sit down with them, they will get up on my lap and sit with me.

    We have two roosts in the run that are the perfect height for me to sit on so I'll sit with them as often as I can. They seem to be more 'pecky' in the morning but in the evening they sure are sweet! I'll sometimes have four girls on my lap and the rest will perch on the roost next to me. It's my fave time of day!

    Maybe set up something like that so you can just sit with them and let them come to you?
  8. crj

    crj Songster

    Dec 17, 2009
    Rocky Point, NC
    One thing I noticed most with my chickens is that they do not like there backs being pet. They don't seem to mind me petting there chest. As a matter of fact they seem to relax. Pettting there backs is a reminder that the rooster jumps on them. I don't want the chickens to think I'm anything like the rooster. So, talking to them helps and when petting pet there chest/breast and under there beaks. It all seems more soothing to them.

    The birds will come around. All animals have trust issues. It's all about time and patience.
  9. beachchickie

    beachchickie Songster

    Dec 6, 2009
    It is a personality issue and a roo issue. None of mine volunteer being held but some tolerate it better than others. I have two that "no way" is that happening lady when I come close. If I do manage to grab one while eating she fusses loudly. I only stroke her around her neck and handle gently.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2010
  10. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick 8 Years

    Mar 22, 2010
    Saratoga County, NY
    I think a lot of it depends on the chicken. I was a doting chick mama for my first eight, which happened to be RIR and leghorn - they will run to me and start squawking when I have food but if I have to catch em for something, I'm going to have to use a net! My second batch I haven't had anywhere near as much time for PLUS they are housed with CRAZY guinea keets but they will climb all over me - they being australorps, EE's etc.. So I dunno. Might be like my cats - some are people kitties, some aren't.

    It's ok with me either way - I expected them to be aloof and that's ok. I would like them to be easier to catch, but I have cats to snuggle with if needed. [​IMG] (and the cats won't poop on my lap.. usually.. [​IMG]).

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