What's Been Your Experience In Getting Chicks To Imprint On You?


9 Years
Jan 27, 2010
I've read several threads here about getting baby ducklings to imprint on a human, but not so much about getting baby chicks to do the same.

Once you've received your day-old chicks from the hatchery and set them up in the brooder, what exactly do you do to accustom them to your presence without scaring them? How much holding and petting is optimum for imprinting, as opposed to just taming them?

My experience with annual batches of day-old chicks for many years was to rattle a can of scratch gently as I approached the brooder box, move slowly and speak softly, and handle each chick a few moments during each visit. It was interesting to see that SOME of them responded to this treatment by IMPRINTING on me as Mom and following me around the yard as adults when I rattled that same can of scratch, while others treated the same way from the same batch would remain standoffish and skittish, never even taming down enough to feel comfortable around me as adults.

So please tell me your success tips about Taming The Wild Chick!
Some are naturally just more trusting than others. As far as imprinting goes, none of mine have ever imprinted on me in the mother/chick capacity.

Even with the same amount of exposure some of my chicks freak when I approach the cage while others make a B-line to come and greet me. I generally allow them to take it all on their pace and dont try to pick them up and force it on them.

Every day I will bring them some kind of treat (string cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, lettuce and of course, WORMS) and even the skittish ones cant resist the temptation for yummy food. By the time they are young adults they come running for me when I am in the yard...especially if I am eating something LOL!

A couple of my older girls will fly up on me for a piece of whatever it is I have, the others circle around just in case the ones on me cause me to drop anything. If I didnt know better I'd think they have a system worked out

Some of your chicks will grow to like being fawned over and petted while others may just tolerate your presence.

Best of luck with your birds!
As 1st time peep owners last April, we weren't sure how to get the baby girls to trust us. We handled them a lot and some didn't seem to mind, while others squirmed the entire time. As they got older, they enjoyed eating out of our hands and jumping up on us but still didn't seem to like being held very much. Once we moved them outside and started giving them more treats like scratch, bugs, etc - they became tamer and would run to us. Now at 10 mo old, they all run to us and will come when called. We have one EE that doesn't like to be picked up at all, but the others are pretty easy to grab since they ususally squat when we reach out to them. They tolerate us holding and petting them, but I wouldn't say they really "like" it. However, they do seem to get a kick out of untieing our shoes and pecking at our clothing when we are with them. The Australorps like to come to us and start chatting - I swear it sounds like they are trying to tell us a story. Sometimes while they are free ranging in the evening, we even find ourselves trying to sneak away from them - usually unsuccessfully. We are getting another batch of 6 in April and now that we are "experienced"
, we will see if we can get them to be a bit tamer at an earlier age. I would love to have a chicken jump into my lap to be petted!
I got Chicken D, my Rooster when he was about a week and a half old. We kept him in the house in a brooder for 6 to 8 weeks.
He was very afraid of me at first, but I kept getting him out and holding him and letting him sit on my lap, and on my desk while I was working. He grew to love being with me. He used to sit on my shoulder and fall asleep against my neck. I heard that "handling" baby chicks can be harmful if you do it too much, so I would just let him "crawl" all over me! (making sure he stayed warm of course.)

Now, he's out in the chicken yard, but he lets me pet him, and will follow me all over and is very friendly and gentle.

I'd say he definately imprinted on me.
A week ago I was in the local feed store to buy a coop. I walked over to check out their current stock and as I neared the cage of 3 day old Sebright bantams, one roared up to me and insistently nibbled on my nail. Being a big softy, I took her home.

Although Maisey has a comfy cage with a nice heat lamp, she most definitely prefers being in my housecoat. During the day she sleeps inside near my chest, only coming out to eat and drink or to exercise. At night she has to go back to her cage and will cry for 20 minutes. In the morning I'm greeted with happy trills and hand bumping!

She loves being rubbed and cuddled. God forbid if I'm out of her sight for even 10 seconds or the crying starts again.

At almost two weeks, it's fun to watch her grow. She started doing the scratching behavior two days ago - on my lap - for some mystery bit. It's SOOO darn cute.

I've raised quite a few baby animals over the years - from reptiles to birds to mammals, but this little sweetie is as good and bonded as I've ever seen. Maybe I just lucked out - she did pick me after all.
I've been questioning the fact whether baby chickens can imprint on you at all. I view imprinting as a whole other thing, then there's just tame. My chicks are tame, friendly, but none follow me around or actually view me as their "mom", at least I don't think so. When something scares them they usually huddle together and drop down. But I agree, it really depends on the individual...but I think chickens are just less prone to actually imprinting. When my duck was a baby, she relied on me, just me...no one else, she would let others pet her but when I was out of sight, she would peep and peep for hours if I was gone long enough. Eventually she learned that a dog carrier was a safe haven, she could stay in there without any worry. But when outside, she would follow me everywhere...and when she couldn't get to me she panicked. Personally, if you want something that can imprint on you and be the tamest pet of all regarding chickens and other poultry/foul...get a duck. I can hold mine upside down, cuddle, and just about everything else. But unless you have tons of time on your hands, get 2 ducks. Regarding chicks imprinting on you, I never really had that problem. The answer was treats, slow movement, and being gentle. That's just my 0.02$.
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After 18 years I have accepted that chickens are not like cats or dogs. Ducks will imprint somewhat, even moreso if raised alone. Chickens will gladly come for food and treats, but they don't really imprint like some pets do.
When it's cold outside I wrap a blanket over myself and it always seems that one of them manages to snuggle their way under it. I wouldn't say we can imprint on them like Mom does. It just doesn't happen. So to put it plainly...I am just a giant warm treat carting slave who occasionally is blessed with thou greater chickens from roost of the high. And if do something wrong...STINK EYE!
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The chicks I have bought act like "normal" chickens, they learn to come to me for treats, but they freak out if I reach for them.

The chicks I just hatched aren't exactly spoiled, but I talked to them when they were pipping and hatching.
They don't run away from me when I come up to the brooder, like my purchased-at-3-days chicks do. They aren't afraid of my voice or me coming to see them. You'd think I looked like a coyote or somehthing the way my BCM chicks act all piling up on the wall of the opposite end of the brooder. I'm afraid they'll hurt someone trying to get away from big freaky me!!! I bought them at barely 3 days old, they weren't even really eating yet, but they are not at all bonded to me like the ones that I talked out of their shells.

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