How To Get Your Chickens to Like You
As a backyard chicken raiser, owning chickens you can’t catch easily can be problematic. There are many instances where you need to pick up your chickens, wing clipping if you don’t want them to fly over the garden fence, applying medication, dusting for mites, checking their weight, or maybe you just like to hold your chickens. What happens when your chickens aren’t friendly?
Worst case scenario, your chickens are out wandering around doing their ‘thang’, and you need to get them back into the coop. Normally, it’s fairly easy to lure them back into the coop with some tasty treat. But here’s what can happen if you have devious, smart chickens who know the jig is up and they don’t want to be caught.
You try luring them into the coop but they are wary. This is not part of their daily routine and they know it. You toss the treats into the coop and they aren’t buying it. A few run in, others hang back to watch what happens. They don’t trust you. In an effort to show good faith, you walk into the coop with the treats. They follow eagerly. You toss the treats to the back of the coop and run for the door.
Chickens are fast. As soon as you bolt, the chickens closest to the door sprint out in front of you. You scream in frustration which exacerbates the situation. Now the hens know something is up. Once they have the advantage of being outside, chasing them down will take superhuman abilities.
Answer to this problem? Tame your chickens, get them to like you and trust you.
Chose A Friendly Chicken Breed
If you intending to make pets out of your chickens, or you just want a breed that will not fray every last nerve when you need to pick them up, consider raising a breed or mix of breeds that have a ‘friendly’ gene.
There are many choices of friendly breeds to help you build a fun-loving flock for your backyard. Chicken breeds have distinct personality traits. Some are notoriously flighty so you want to stay away from them. Some are broody and moody, and others are ‘happy go clucky’. A friendly breed will be much easier to train.
You don’t have to compromise your wish list of chicken qualities. Some of the smarter breeds are also friendly which makes them easy to train to be a lap chicken. Others are great egg layers and meat producers.
Let’s take a look at 6 of the top recommendations from Know Your Chickens for the most friendly and easy-to-train breeds.
1. Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rocks are not only one of the most popular dual-purpose breeds of chickens, this heritage breed comes in 9 color variations.
These calm and easily trainable birds will produce 280 eggs a year. They are hardy and do well in captivity or free-ranging. They easily top the list of popular and friendly breeds of chickens.
2. Buff Orpington
Another dual-purpose breed that is also a great egg producer at 200 eggs per year, is the Buff Orpington.
These low-maintenance, big fluffy birds, come in 5 color varieties and make great pets.
The dual-purpose Australorp, hailing from Australia, is another friendly breed of chicken that is hardy and lays around 250 eggs a year. They come in black, blue, or white and make great foragers. You won’t find a friendlier breed or one more suited to be a ‘lap chicken’.
If you like fluffy and cuddly, you will love the Cochin. Cochins are high on the list of being easy to tame. They are quiet, docile, and make great moms. They are not high on the list of egg producers though, and will only lay about 3 eggs a week. They also don’t do well in hot climates.
This breed probably got the name because of the size (huge like Brahma bulls) but certainly not for their disposition. Brahmas are one of the larger breeds. They have heavily feathered feet and do well in cold climates. They aren’t great for egg production, around 150 a year, but they are popular because they are easy to train as pets.
6. Bantam Silkie
If you are looking for an adorably fuzzy smaller breed of chicken, you can’t go wrong with a silkie. They weigh less than two pounds and come in a variety of colors and plumage options.
Silkies are really more like puffballs than feathered poultry. These birds need a bit more care and protection but win them over and they are calm, sweet, docile, and love to cuddle.
Tips For Taming and Training Your Chickens (and Getting Them To Like You)
You don’t always have the option of hatching or buying chicks and training them from the start. That’s by far the best way to tame a flock. If you are starting with young chicks, here are some tips from Morning Chores on how to properly socialize them.
1. Don’t Overly Mother New Chicks
Chicks don’t imprint like other birds. They work off of more of a hierarchy. You will notice certain chicks rise to the top of the pecking order within the first week. Let them establish their flock identity as they will be living together. Handle them when needed, but don’t be overly aggressive.
2. Use Treats for Taming
Find a tasty treat for chicks like scrambled egg bits or tiny pieces of fruit or soft veggies. Hold out your hand and let them get comfortable with you reaching into their midst. They will learn to accept the food from your hand and eventually, they will jump onto your hand to get the treats.
3. Begin Handling
Start to familiarize the chicks with your touch. Even the most skittish chicks will respond more positively to your handling with daily repetition. After the chicks are a few weeks old, do lots of touching.
Place your hand in their area and leave it still for a minute or two before trying to pick them up. This will help them be less frightened and acclimate more quickly to the idea of being picked up.
- Hold the babies softly and securely in your hands until they are calm
- Spread out the wings and touch the tails
- Scratch and pet necks
- Touch legs and toes
Fun chick fact: cupcake liners make great chick tutus!
4. Be Consistent
Depending on the level of interaction you want to have with your chickens will dictate how much time you spend socializing and taming. You do need to be consistent even if it means a few quick visits a day.
5. Add Variety
You want your chickens to like you, even if you don’t have treats. You want them to feel comfortable approaching you if you don’t have food. To create balance, alternate the interactions with your chicks. Feed them treats some visits and alternate with spend time just holding and petting them.
6. Creating a Pet
If your goal is to have a lap chicken, you will need to spend more time socializing. Take the chicks away from the flock one at a time for interaction. They may be nervous at first, but you know you have reached your mark when the chick relaxes when it is away from the flock and trusts you implicitly.
7. Use Verbal Cues
Chickens use sounds and visual cues to communicate. Always announce your presence when you approach the chicks so they learn the sound of your voice. This also prevents them from being startled by your presence.
Talk to them with a soft, calm, and soothing voice. They also pick up on your state-of-mind. Be relaxed, move slowly, be calm, and your chicks will respond more positively. Nervous and quick movements will cause them to panic.
Getting an Established Flock to Like You
If you purchased a new flock of grown chickens, they will most likely be wary of you. Getting them to trust you will take time, patience, and treats. Food is the way to a chicken’s heart.
Announce your presence with sounds or words they will eventually recognize. This will help them to not panic when you suddenly appear.
Here are the steps to make friends with your flock.
- Call to them when you go to the coop for their morning and evening feeding. They will learn to associate you with food.
- Pick a time of day other than feeding time and enter the coop and sit with them. Sit at their level and be still but talk to them softly. They will be curious.
- Have treats with you. Reward those who come close to you by tossing a treat. Eventually, they will be confident enough to take treats out of your hand.
- Repeat this process daily. Depending on the breed and their level of handling, you may need a couple of weeks. Tougher birds may need up to 8 weeks before they respond.
- Once you have their trust, you can try picking up a hen and placing her in your lap. Always reward her with a treat. Before you know it, you will have multiple hens trying to jump into your lap to get a treat.