skittish pullets: what to do? should I be worried?

wickstopher

In the Brooder
Jun 9, 2011
20
0
22
Hello from Rochester, NY! This is my first time posting, as I'm extremely new to raising chickens. About 2.5 months ago, we got three two-week-old Barred Rock chicks from a friend, and they were super-friendly. We would bring them out into the yard and they would walk all over us and let us hold them with very little fuss. Unfortunately, the chicks ended up dying in their coop from heat stress while we were away at work. The run was unfinished so they didn't have access, and we had a freakishly and unexpectedly hot day. It was very sad, but I've chalked it up to experience and finished and improved the coop and run design.

Saddened by the loss of our new favorite pets, I bought some pullets, all females, right around 2.5 months old, from a breeder. 4 birds in all: 1 Silver Laced Wyandotte, 1 Black Australorp, 1 Cuckoo Marans, and 1 Red Star (I believe it's a White Leghorn/RI Red cross). I'm very happy to say that in their new and improved coop they managed to survive our first 95 degree day here! They have adjusted to the coop, although they hilariously all squeeze into the nesting box at night to sleep, practically on top of each other. They have also really taken to grazing in the yard...I don't think that they had ever seen grass before, and they didn't know what to do at first! Our B.R. chicks would fight over the grass clippings I'd give to them in the brooder....these girls simply ignored it the first time I gave it to them.

These birds, however, are very fearful of humans. They run from me whenever I approach them, and struggle to escape when I do manage to catch them. We've had them for less than a week, so perhaps they still need time to get used to us...their living situation where they were raised suggests to me that they had little human contact apart from the breeders coming out to feed them. There were so many birds that they more than likely didn't get handled at all, let alone regularly. I've been handling them a little bit every day, one at a time, but they definitely don't like it, and I don't want to stress them out and exacerbate their fear of humans. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions in regards to making them a bit more personable, or if this is just a phase that they go through. I was thinking about maybe buying some mealworms to use as treats or something along those lines, as well. Thanks for any advice!
 

ChicKat

Crowing
Premium member
Hi Wickstopher

Besides seconding what Ladyride said---- I will add a welcome to the wonderful world of chickens~

I think that in your OP you basically answered your questions---- (although I am also new to chickens)

1. The handling of your second batch prior to the time you obtained them was different---and the new chickens had less human contact -- so they will need more time to get more used to you
2. Treats will make them associate you with pleasureable expereinces----and mealworms are magical

I had a pullet that was "wilder" or "shyer" than my others---- and it took a concentraited effort...to get her to come around. She is calmer now. Here is a trick that they and you may like...(although it seems strange my chickens seem to really like this) Get some Vet Rx -- or another similar aromatic soothing product and rub the ckickens 'shanks" (the scaley part of their legs) with it. My chickens kind of go 'what's going on'? and then they settle in and relax and seem to be cogitating on how good it feels and smells. It is a preventive of scaley mites on the legs....so I am planning this as a once a month chicken procedure...but I think this to a chicken is equal to a massage to a human.

Once your chickens begin to associate your presence with pleasurable experiences (treats etc.) They will come running to you each time they see you. As you handle them more they will settle in.

Differnt breeds have different frendliness quotients. Barred Rocks and the hybrids (your Red Star) seem to be particularly friendly to humans. While chickens such as White Leghorns are reputed to be more high strung. I think that your idea about mealworms has a lot of merit.

good luck with getting them to be have like pets.
 
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BrattishTaz

Roo Magnet
Jan 8, 2011
4,445
31
213
Tampa Area, Florida


Keep working with them. Once they realize you are the "treat fairy", they will love you. Just keep in mind that some chickens, no matter how people friendly, will never like being held. Others will demand you carry them around.
 

wickstopher

In the Brooder
Jun 9, 2011
20
0
22
So mealworms are good treats, eh? Any other recommendations on that front? Thanks for the welcome and quick replies.
 
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ChicKat

Crowing
Premium member
I buy freeze dried mealworms at Tractor Supply. It could be that pet stores carry them too. (Live meal worms would be too icky for me....and too squirmey...and could they die, smell spoil etc?)
I think the package is called hen frenzy or something like that.


I use them as chicken money to pay the chickens for producing eggs. ;O)
 

JulieNKC

Crowing
Sep 25, 2010
6,636
60
258
Kansas City
Treats. Mine also calmed down and became a lot more friendly once they started laying, so hang in there a few more months.
 

BrattishTaz

Roo Magnet
Jan 8, 2011
4,445
31
213
Tampa Area, Florida
Quote:I am sure they would love mealworms. I personally just feed whatever is left over from meals. Mine eat a lot of veggies but occasionally get wheat bread, rice, pasta, etc... I won't mention my favorite roo who gets his own spoon of ice cream every now and then (it is not nice to play favorites but he is the only one that doesn't poop in the house).
 

Patricia Jane

Songster
Oct 28, 2010
751
7
119
Petaluma CA
Hang in there. They may come around. Some just dont like to be handled. I have a couple that scream as if I'm killing them when picked up and others love to be held. My 2 barred rocks scratch at the gate with their feet when they hear me coming.
 

DingleBay

Chirping
Apr 19, 2011
56
3
86
I am trying to work with treats and when they come around I try and "snatch" one up. They know this and are skittish. If I try and corner them I usually get one and they calm down right away. The rooster is the hardest to catch but I think I need to be persistent. They now will eat out of my hand when I am holding them. My question, does it make it worse to try and catch them or chase them into the corner?
 
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